As a nation we’re spoiling our pets, providing independent retailers with a chance to grow sales in the pet care category.

Once overlooked in the convenience channel, it’s now a lucrative category that can increase basket spend. According to Mars Petcare convenience high street segment director Dave Minton, the category is doing very well. “The petcare category is experiencing an estimated growth of 2.7%,” he says.

“This growth is primarily being driven by demand for premium products as owners look to treat and reward their pets with ‘extra- special’ food and treats. The popularity of super-premium cat food, as well as the demand for dog single-serve items and care and treats products are set to fuel this growth further in 2015.”

Richard Shonn, managing director of 151 Products, agrees and says the trend is here to stay. “Brits’ desire to indulge their pets in quality food and treats shows no sign of abating. As with their own grocery consumption, they’re making healthier choices. Understanding that cat and dog owners are reading ingredients labels, checking protein content and looking for human-inspired labelling has contributed to the way pet food manufacturers are developing and marketing new products.

Top 10 pets in 2014

Fish kept in tanks: 20-25 million (9% of households)

Fish kept in ponds: 20 million (5% of households)

Dogs: 9 million (24% of households)

Cats: 8 million (17% of households)

Rabbits: 1 million (2.4% of households)

Domestic fowl: 1 million (0.8% of households)

Caged birds: 1 million (1.4% of households)

Guinea pigs: Half a million (1.1% of households)

Hamsters: 400,000 (1.4% of households)

Lizards: 400,000 (0.7% of households)

Source: PFMA

“Premium brands, found in vets’ surgeries and specialist outlets, have inspired the more widely- known brands to include higher- quality ingredients and shout about them from the rooftops. This has filtered down to the convenience sector, which is now looking to stock healthy pet snacks and treats.”

Bestway Wholesale category controller for pets Peter Brame says the category holds its own against others in convenience. “Long gone are the days when pet food was a distress purchase for the convenience channel,” he says. “More shoppers are shopping locally more often for immediate and the short-term future, rather than stockpiling from multiple retailers. This means that they are actively using this sector to fulfil their pet care needs. There has been a good growth over this period, and the category is now as big as beer and larger than categories such as bread, breakfast cereals and hot beverages. A growth of 2-4% has been seen continually over the past four to five years.”

It’s not only the premium end of pet care that is performing well, though. Brame advises retailers not to overlook the other end of the price spectrum. “Good value brands have also seen a big rise in sales and volume,” he says. “It is important to cover both these areas. A key to this is pricemarked packs; a lot of suppliers now offer pricemarked packs, which retailers can sell at good margins and which in turn give consumers the confidence in the price the retailer is selling the product for.”

What a treat

Joanne Ellis, trading manager for pet care at Budgens and Londis, sees the treats category as one for small stores to exploit. “There’s a real trend towards pet gifting and treating. Pets are being treated like any other member of the family,” says Ellis. “It’s now quite common for pets to be given treats on celebratory days and they are also starting to be given as gifts when people visit.”

She adds: “Another trend is single-serve pouches for cats and dogs. The convenience angle comes in with busy professionals and families needing no-mess alternatives when time is tight.”

But with all the different formats and sub-categories to cover, ensuring retailers devote the right amount of space to pet care can be tricky. “Retailers need to give this range the space it requires and stock products across the categories and price bands,” Brame says. “The minimum a shop should have is a 2m offering. Dog and cat will make up 99% of sales within this sector, so it is important to concentrate on these areas. Consumers are also now looking for larger formats, particularly in cat pouches, so the range has to include multi-serve products in addition to singles.

“Many retailers also forget about cat litter, which is a fantastic opportunity and often bought as a distress purchase. All retailers should make room for at least one SKU, whether branded or own label.”

Minton agrees that 2m is probably the best fit for most convenience stores. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to space as this varies depending on a number of factors, including the location of the store, the type of customers, store size and regionality,” he says. “However, the 2m fixture is a popular choice for many. This fixture holds only about 65 products out of a staggering 28,000 that are available so it’s vital that only the best-sellers are stocked, which this size fixture can accommodate.”

Ellis advises retailers to be clever with their range and not be afraid to mimic mechanics used in grocery. “Retailers can make the most of this category by ensuring they have a wide range of options both on food and accessories and by adding newness into ranges, particularly on items that may be gifted,” she says.

“If you’re looking to encourage bulk purchases special offers also help. We’re doing everything we can to offer comprehensive product ranges. For example, we’re currently even looking at a range of more artisan foods which includes wheat-free options.”

Brame says it is vital for a store to highlight that it stocks pet care products and impulse treats. “Some 22% of all pet owners coming into convenience stores do not know that the store stocks pet products,” he says. “Of those that do know, 55% do not purchase due to lack of choice.

“Visibility, range and availability are critical to increasing sales. Simple signage including hanging header boards, as well as shelf and bay POS, will attract consumers to the section. Several pet suppliers offer POS free of charge, and have websites to help keep retailers up to date with changes in the category.

“Dog treats are also bought heavily on impulse, so it is a good idea to feature some of these at till point. This will increase sales and showcase to consumers there are pet products available,” he adds.

Mars’ Minton suggests driving impulsive purchases by placing pet products throughout the store. “Retailers can do this by displaying pet products on clip-strips near high footfall areas where customers top up on essentials.”

Spar relaunches pet care portfolio

Spar has relaunched its own-label pet food range. The four-strong range is made up of: Spar Dog Mixer (rrp £2.75); Spar Cat Complete Chicken (rrp 89p); Spar Dog Complete Chicken & Veg; and Spar Dog Complete Beef & Veg (both rrp £2.99). Spar has reduced bag sizes slightly to make them easier to carry for customers shopping locally.

Best-in Complete Dry gets pricemark

Best-in has introduced 1kg packs of Complete Dry pet food for both dogs and cats in pricemarked packs to extend its range of own label to pet shoppers.

Treat time from 151

151 Products has developed a new six-strong line of Deli treats under its established Munch & Crunch brand. Each of the SKUs (rrp £1.49) has a high meat content and contains 100% natural ingredients. The range includes picnic-style items, including Cocktail Sausages and Beefy Burgers.

Grain-free for sensitive pooches

Vet’s Kitchen has created a range of dog food aimed at improving skin and digestive problems in dogs. Adult Sensitive Grain-Free dry dog food contains pork and sweet potato along with other natural ingredients. It is available in small (1.1kg, rrp £6.99) and medium resealable bags (2.2kg, rrp £12.99).

Healthy pets are appy pets

In an effort to tackle animal obesity, Pedigree has introduced the new Tracks app to offer exercise and nutrition advice to dog owners who may need a helping hand when it comes to their pet’s exercise and feeding.

According to research carried out by the University of Nottingham, 43% of the UK’s dog population is overweight. The Tracks app, which is available free to download on iPhone, Android and Windows devices via, features a combined personalised feeding guide tailored to a dog’s breed, age and weight.

Jo Ladbrook, dog portfolio director at Pedigree, says: “It’s often confusing to know when, what and how to care for your dog - especially for people who are new to dog ownership. This is why we’ve created the Pedigree Tracks app as it helps to eliminate the confusion surrounding dog ownership, including the lack of awareness around the length of time your dog needs to be active and, for some, the guilt associated with treating.


Cats vs dogs - which should get the greatest sales space?

Cats and dogs are among the most popular pets in the UK, but which should space-constrained retailers be focusing most on?

According to Bestway’s Peter Brame, dog food sales overall have always been bigger than cat food due to the volume of food they consume in comparison with their feline friends.

He adds, though, that the cat food market is evolving. “What is changing is the introduction of treats for cats,” he explains. “Historically, we tended mainly to treat dogs as they are the animal we feel we need to treat. However, we are now looking to reward our cats with treats as a sign of our affection for them.”

Musgrave’s Joanne Ellis, though, is definitely more of a cat person. “Pet ownership in general is on the rise so there have been increases across the category as a whole, but cat food sales are slightly above dog,” she says. “This is undoubtedly being driven by the fact that there are more cat owners than dog owners in the UK.”

Mars Petcare’s Dave Minton says location plays a part. “The biggest nuances come from regionality with, as an example, urban inner-city London having a much larger share of cat sales versus dog sales and Scotland seeing this trend reversed with an increase in dog food sales.”