How did pet food brands perform in 2023?

Pet food sales in 2023 saw trading down as more consumers sought to save and bought own label

Petfood prices are hitting hard-up Brits. As the average unit price has soared 17.2%, volumes have fallen 2.3%.

But there are two sides to this tale. Brands are up 16.3% in price to an average of £3 per pack, and have suffered a 2.6% hit to volumes. Own label, on the other hand, has maintained steady unit sales and has grown value by 21.8%.

The key reason for this dichotomy is price: own label is 17.2% cheaper on average than brands. “Private label continues to gain share as it remains the cheapest option,” says Adam Paulson, senior insights analyst at NIQ.

In response, brands have been innovating. Take Bakers, which has focused on functional and healthier food for dogs. In August, the brand “expanded its offering to cater to small dogs prone to digestive upsets”, explains Ben Duncan, market development organisation director at owner Nestlé Purina.

Plus, the brand’s range “now includes selected natural ingredients and added superfoods”, he adds.

Pet food prices increased in 2023

This approach helped the brand grow volumes 15.1%. Relatively small price increases also played a part. “Bakers had a much lower price increase (6.4%) compared to total category,” notes NIQ’s Paulson.

For Bakers’ posh stablemate Lily’s Kitchen, growing enthusiasm for natural premium petfood has helped keep volume losses down to 0.5%, says marketing director Samantha Crossley. “We are seeing UK retailers give more space to natural petfood products to meet this increasing consumer demand.”

Those minimal volume declines, along with price increases, mean Lily’s is worth an extra £7.8m in grocery. It’s one of 17 top 20 brands to have added value.

The three that haven’t all belong to Mars Petcare. Pedigree, Catsan and Cesar have lost £9.1m between them – while shedding units by 20.2%, 14.9% and 27.9% respectively.

Some cat food brands see volumes down

Pedigree’s decline was partially driven by difficulties in securing distribution, particularly in Tesco, according to Paulson. A 21.3% rise in average price won’t have helped win over shoppers, either.

Price pressures have also hit stablemate Whiskas, which was caught shrinkflating its pouches in January. Although it’s up 14.9% in value, volumes are down 13.1%.

Mars is determined to reverse that trend. Whiskas relaunched in February with the promise of a “new look, new recipes, more variety and more sustainable.”

For now, the only Mars brand in the top 20 to increase volumes is Dreamies. It’s shifted an extra 756.7 thousand units, which Mars attributes partially to the Creamy and Meaty Sticks ranges added in summer 2022.

It seems the snack brand for cats is one of the category’s big dogs.

Top Launch 2023

KatKin retail range | KatKin

KatKin retail range  KatKin

KatKin began life as a DTC brand offering subscriptions of fresh catfood “made using 100% human-quality meats”. Founded in 2019, it last year raised $22m (£18m) in a funding round to expand its offer. And expand it has, with the rollout of a retail range to Ocado in October. It includes freeze-dried, all-meat treats and health-monitoring  litter with colour-changing silica crystals to detect urinary and renal issues. The move marked “the next leap in Katkin’s expansion”, the brand said at the time.

Face off: Top Products Survey 2023 pits brands vs own-label