Pet food trends reflect a growing market


Researchers expect industry to hit $33 billion by 2018 thanks in part to treat and 'premium' pet food sales.

Getty ImagesDespite common recalls and regular Internet bashing from consumers, things are pretty good for the pet food industry right now. U.S. pet ownership is at an all-time high, according to the American Pet Products Association, whose 2015 National Pet Owners Survey reveals that 65 percent of U.S. households contain a pet. With that in mind, Packaged Facts' 2014 Pet Food in the U.S. Report projects that domestic pet food sales will gain 16 percent from 2015 to 2018 to make it a $33 billion industry.

According to the Packaged Facts, a division of market research firm, in 2014 "premium" pet food led sales with 42 percent, followed by "regular" pet food at 30 percent and "value" pet food at 12 percent. Treats rounded out the remaining 16 percent of sales. A "Form and Function Trends in Pet Treats" presentation by Packaged Facts this year claims that sales for frozen or refrigerated cat food is up 25 percent; 24 percent for dogs. Cat treats are up 10 percent and led volume sales gains in 2014.

A release from Package Facts suggests that the cat treat market is an area for market expansion. “Looking ahead, the trick will be to find ways to grow this mature market, since at its current pace pet population growth is not sufficient to drive higher levels of market growth,” Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle says in the release.

Don't be surprised to see pet food companies marketing more new flavors, exotic meats and foods that boast gravies, juices, cheese and bacon. Not to mention food that reflects trends in the human market such as those that eliminate grains, gluten, hormones and antibiotics, and artificial colors. Packaged Facts claims that 52 percent of pet owners said they are looking for pet food with no byproducts, 50 percent wanted "all natural" and 47 percent wanted real meat as the number-one ingredient. One in five pet owners buys organic treats.

Pet foods sold by prescription reached $1.6 billion in sales in 2014, according to Packaged Facts-a drop in the $33 billion bucket.