The Grocer’s 2017 Top Products Survey, THE definitive guide to the current state of the UK’s grocery industry

A new phrase was coined in 2017: ‘pet parents’ - those who treat their ‘fur babies’ (their phrase; not ours) as if they were human, often spending as much on feeding and treating their pets as they do on themselves.

And so the average price paid for petfood in the supermarkets has risen by 2.7%. “The price jump doesn’t appear to be Brexit-triggered but rather the outcome of premiumisation,” says Nielsen senior client manager Maya Sherry. “The category is also seeing lower promotional support as retailers prefer to use the promotional space to support more impulsive categories. This has also contributed to higher prices this year.”

There are two clear trends influencing the sector: health and indulgence. In reflection of the former, Harringtons Complete has seen sales surge by a whopping £13.8m (55.2%), thanks chiefly to distribution gains. Evidence of the indulgence trend is the £10.6m growth of Good Boy dog treats (the sector’s second-greatest gain after Harringtons) and super-premium catfood brands Gourmet, which brought out a range of soups in 2016, and Sheba’s respective gains of £9.9m and £5.3m.

“Shoppers across the board are increasingly willing to pay a premium for quality, plus they’re more and more health-conscious in all aspects of their lives, which affects their purchasing decisions in the petcare category,” says Mars Petcare’s strategic demand director Roberto de Felice. “Our own data shows that by 2020 the value of natural brands could increase by £300m.”

Mars wants a slice of that pie with two new super-premium brands launched in 2017: Perfect Fit ‘superfood’ for cats and dogs and Nature’s Table grain-free dogfood. The giants certainly need to innovate, as a new pack of challengers continue to gnaw away at their sales. Only three of the nine Mars brands in the top 50 are in growth (Sheba, Chappie and Perfect Fit) and in total they are down £31.2m (5.5%) on volumes down 10.6%. Nestlé Purina has 10 brands in the top 50 and they’ve lost £8.6m (1%) combined; volumes fell 7.1%.

The top dogs’ declines come despite a steady stream of innovation (Whiskas has launched pouched ‘cat casseroles’, for example). But Sherry says one NPD stands head and shoulders over the rest: chilled natural petfood brand Freshpet, which has added £1.6m since Tesco installed chillers in 300 stores to house the brand earlier this year.

“The product is fresh and natural and therefore offers pets high-quality food in a convenient format,” says Sherry. “This capitalises on the growing preference among pet owners to feed their pets food that reflects their own shifting lifestyles. As owners treat their pets as members of the family, they want to ensure their pets have the best quality in line with what they feed themselves.”


freshpet turkey bacon

Turkey Bacon for Dogs by Freshpet

After pioneering chiller cabinets in the pet aisle in a market-first collaboration with Tesco, US natural petfood brand Freshpet is blazing a trail in the UK petcare market with the first fresh refrigerated turkey bacon treats for dogs (rsp: £3.99/85g). Launched for this Christmas, this is the brand’s first foray into dog treats and has been developed by vets, scientists and nutritionists. It is made from wood-smoked turkey and free from corn, wheat, soy byproducts, fillers and rendered meats.

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The Grocer Top Products Survey 2017: Up!