A growing number of feline consumers, coupled with their owners' increasing interest in premium products, have helped the petfood category generate strong value growth of 3.8% this year, taking it to almost £1.2bn.

Many pet lovers are more than happy to splash out on their charges, and in this market are swayed more strongly by brands than in most categories. By contrast, own-label pet products are struggling to keep up and grew only 1.4%.

The market has benefited from big catfood brands moving into higher-value pouch formats as owners opt for their convenience and portion control. Non-slip cans, led by the launch of Olli from Butcher's Petcare, also made a debut.

Whiskas single-serve pouch continues its reign as the bestselling petfood, with sales up 20% to £128.7m. Second in line is Felix

single-serve pouch, which achieved an even bigger rise of 28% to £101.5m.

Eager to grab a bigger slice of the higher value end of the market, Masterfoods entered super-premium catfood this year with Perfect Fit, its first new UK petcare brand in 23 years. It claimed the wet and dry ranges were the first catfood to offer a diet with a Macro Nutrient Profile, which indicates the amount of energy derived from protein, fats and carbohydrate. Specific products were aimed at both urban and rural cats. The company also added an upmarket Simply Select Cuts canned range under its Pedigree banner and introduced a premium layer to its catfood portfolio, in the form of Whiskas Oh So, backed by a £7m marketing push.

This campaign targeted the strong emotional bonds owners feel for their four-legged family members.

Canine idiosyncrasies were the inspiration for a £2.5m campaign for Pedigree, which encouraged owners to enter their pets as models via a website, while Whiskas' activity used poems to express owners' feelings for their cats.

Suppliers have also been extending their menus to include pudding options, while dogs also became the latest, if rather unlikely, target for functional foods, with a probiotic canine snack from Feelwell's, which the company claims offers similar health benefits to human equivalents.n