The market for wild bird seed is booming, thanks to consumers’ growing interest in feeding the free-living birds in their gardens

It’s probably not what Bill Oddie intended, but TV shows such as Spring Watch and How To Watch Wildlife are creating a booming market in bird food as well as a nation of avid twitchers.
As ownership of budgies and other cage birds has fallen steeply - down from 1.6 million households in 1999 to 1.2 million today [TGI, June 2005] - interest in the free-living varieties is soaring. According to Cranswick Pet Products, 10 million people now regularly feed wild birds in their garden. It estimates the wild bird food market at £250m.
None of the major researchers currently tracks wild bird food sales in the multiples, but Cranswick believes grocery will account for 20-25% of value by 2010, up from a share of just 6% last year. Market growth is around 17% year-on-year, says marketing manager Sam Marriage, with some grocers achieving 50% growth by focusing on the category last year.
At Morrisons, senior buyer Linda Whittaker says: “Each year we bring in a seasonal range of wild bird foods and feeders, to which we give off-shelf space with free-standing wooden display units.”
And Marriage says merchandising and promotion are key in this emerging sector. Cranswick’s research suggests 90% of shoppers who enter the petfood aisle have a propensity to buy wild bird care products too.
There has been a shift to year-round feeding, backed by both the RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology. And with greater knowledge among shoppers, demand is already growing for premium food and accessories.
In September, Cranswick relaunched its Nature’s Feast wild bird food range, including a new High Energy Supreme product in a 12.75kg bag to focus on what its says are the particular requirements of the grocery and convenience channels.
A grocery-specific marketing campaign is expected later this year.