Pack leaders struggle for petfood power

Nestlé Purina finally clawed its way to the top of the petfood tree this year. Its Felix pouches pipped Mars rival Whiskas pouches to number one by a whisker after years of stalking.

Concentrating the brand’s marketing and advertising support on the pouches helped Nestlé push sales of the format up to £137.8m, reflecting a year-on-year rise of 14.1%. However, much of this was at the expense of the brand’s cans and trays, which plummeted 13.5% and 15.5% respectively.

Whiskas pouches fell back to second place with a drop of 2.9% in value to £137.2m, and its can format fell even more heavily. But the brand rallied in dry food, its Whiskas Complete enjoying a 17.3% rise in value, pushing the line up two places in the rankings.

In dogfood, the power struggle between the two would-be pack leaders continued and Nestlé came out on top, with Bakers jumping 13.2% in third place to £86.5m. Mars however, saw its Pedigree brand fall 14.2% in value in pouches and 8.6% in cans.

Procter & Gamble’s fortunes went walkies, too, as combined sales of its Iams brand fell 5.3% - and a ranking place - to £39.4m.

Top Launch - Bakers Happy Walks (Néstle Purina) 

If the best way to have a market to yourself is to invent a new one, Nestlé Purina’s Bakers Happy Walks is a stroke of genius. The refillable tubs are designed to fit snugly into the a pet

owner’s pocket while they escort their canine friend on their

regular constitutionals. At an rsp of £1.88 for 60g, the snacks don’t break the budget and may make it easier to keep Fido or Rover to heel.

The petfood market as a whole rose 2.6% in value - below the rate of inflation - and brand owners should be paying heed to the increasing strength of own-label lines. This (albeit much smaller) side of the market was up 14.7% and, in the current economic situation where consumers perceive own label as offering better value than brands, is an area to watch.

The market is still huge at £1.25bn though, and the nation’s pampered pooches and mollycoddled moggies are in little danger of malnutrition. Pet owners are still heading for premium lines and indulgence in increasing numbers, and areas driving growth include dog and cat treats. Products that offer an extra functional benefit are poised to do best, though, as owners seek to justify the supplementary spend. Cat owners in particular are favouring the fresher, more convenient - and more expensive - pouch formats, although the 13.5% rise of Butchers cans shows that dog owners don’t find opening a can too much of a chore.

Dog owners are veering towards dry dogfood, though, with Bakers’ success a prime example. Dry catfood is holding its own, too. Besides Whiskas, Nestlé’s Go Cat and premium range Purina One brands were also up. Tray formats, however, had mixed fortunes, with Felix and Cesar dogfood falling, while Sheba catfood rose 8.2%.
View The Grocer’s definitive Top Products 2008 survey