Pampered pets mean big profits

While many shoppers stock up on food for their pets at supermarkets in the same way as they do for the rest of their family, c-stores still account for one in every pound;6 spent in the pound;1.7bn petfood market.

Petfood shoppers are also lucrative customers for c-stores, according to HIM’s Retailer Tracking Programme. Its Convenience Tracking Programme 2007 found that the average petfood shopper shops in convenience outlets 4.7 times a week and spends a lot more than the average of all shoppers.

Mike Dickson, Mars Petcare trade marketing manager, says: “The Petcare market offers huge sales opportunities for wholesalers. Mars has led the way in spearheading this growth by investing in its leading Petfood brands and tailoring them to changing consumer trends. The market is in strong growth and if wholesalers make sure they offer a well stocked range of the best selling brands, they can take advantage of the lucrative sales opportunities this category offers.”

As with many other grocery categories premiumisation is one of the key trends driving the market with all the main companies catering for this demand with products such as Mars’ Sheba and Whiskas Oh so…, Butcher’s Superior and Nestl eacute; Purina’s Gourmet.

Convenience is also important meaning the easy serve quality of pouches makes them the most popular option, and Mars also identifies snacks and treats as a growing area, particularly in functional treats such as Pedigree Jointcare and Pedigree Dentastix.

Emelyne Robin, commercial development manager at Butchers, says: “The wholesale channel represents 15% of Butcher’s Pet Care’s sales, making it an important route to independent retailers.” She adds: “As you would expect, wholesalers’ main focus is on margin and price, however it certainly would be beneficial if they were more POS, picture and USP oriented, in order to educate the retailer. Wholesalers may benefit from better category advice, such as which listings are preferred and what would perform best in the market.

Cats

The cat category is the biggest in the convenience petcare channel, with a 52% share of the market. Nationally it is worth pound;774m and grew 4.8% to August 11, 2007, according to IRI. The wet catfood market has grown by 5.1% and, with sales of pound;563m, has a 73% share of the market.

According to IRI, Whiskas continues to maintain its position as the number cat food brand in the UK, with sales of pound;233m and a market share of 39%.

Dickson says: “Driving this growth is cat single serve, catering for shoppers who want an easy to prepare but nutritionally sound meal for their pets. Cat single serve has seen a 15% growth in the last 12 months, demonstrating shoppers’ demand for quick, tasty meals, for their pets which are easy to carry home.”

The most recent introduction to the category from Mars is Whiskas Oh So… Senior, which is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of older cats. Dickson says: “The launch of the new Whiskas Oh So… Senior range is a response to the continued growth of the senior life stage cat food market, which currently has a 36% share of the cat food market overall.”

The Whiskas Oh So… Senior range is supported by a combination of a pound;7m integrated marketing campaign for Whiskas Oh So… and by a pound;1m Whiskas Senior marketing spend.

Butcher’s is best known for its dog products, but Robin says its new Classic products should perform well in wholesalers providing shoppers with a trusted brand and competitive prices.

Complete dry foods continue to grow in importance with 80% of all cat owners buying them, according to TNS. Nestl eacute; Purina says IRI data shows Go Cat is the number one complete dry cat food brand, selling more volume than all other mainstream brands combined.

Mars Petcare is also seeking to tap into the growth area of cat litter, which had sales up by 6.1% last year. To help generate further awareness of its Catsan brand it will be spending pound;1m on an advertising and marketing support programme, consisting of TV advertising, in-store features and coupons for trial purchase.

Another brand of cat litter that is being promoted is Pura. Vijay Chaudhari, president of marketing, insists that cat owners should not buy low grade cat litter because it is potentially harmful to cats, and has introduced demo kits to show the difference.

He says: “Wholesale distribution is our most important channel to reach retailers and specialist pet shops – and ultimately to cat owners. We have explained to our all wholesalers how to demonstrate Pura cat litter to the pet shops by using our free demo kits. Every pet shop is offered a demo kit free of charge. Today all our wholesalers are doing well and in every container we are supplying up to 100 demo kits free to all dealers.”

He adds: “We are actively seeking to increase market penetration into UK wholesalers and cash and carry outlets, who can help to spread the word about Pura premium quality cat litter to the British cat-owning public. All our wholesalers are happy with our products quality, pricing, marketing support and margins offered.”

Dogs

The dog category is showing strong growth of 4.6% to August 11, 2007, and is worth pound;636m a year, according to IRI. Sub categories driving this growth are the dry complete sub-category, which grew by 20%, and is the second fastest growing sub category, and snacks and treats have grown by 14%.

Robin at Butchers says: “Our main products are wet, canned dog food and Alu-trays, but the largest volume lines are mainly price-marked packs and single cans in wholesale and cash and carry sectors. This is due to an increased demand from smaller retailers. Butcher’s Pet Care cans now occupies a 24.2% market share of the independent sector and Butcher’s Choice Alu-trays are continuing to grow at 9.8% in that sector.”

Mars Petcare has just extended its snacks and treats portfolio with the launch in March of Pedigree Training Treats, endorsed by dog trainer Mary Ray. The launch is supported by a marketing spend of over pound;300,000 to promote training treats via in-store activity, online and through targeted sampling campaigns.

In January Mars also launched The Pedigree Adoption Drive, a pound;4.5m nationwide campaign to help raise money and awareness for dogs in rescue centres. Dickson says: “It is the biggest ever brand initiative for Pedigree and has already proved a huge success in the US and Australia. This is the first campaign where Pedigree in the UK is using packaging that carries the campaign messaging across the majority of the range. For every product sold during the campaign the brand will make a donation, raising up to pound;500,000 in the first three months to support the work of dog re-homing centres.”

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