Every year, Americans are spending more on their pets. Despite troubling unemployment and tight budgets, owners spent $50 billion on their four-legged companions in 2011, up 23% over 2007. Retail sales of dog and cat food reached $19.5 billion.
Pet food companies have aided the spare-no-expense bond between owner and pet by promoting a menu of premium and super-premium lines. The niche encompasses natural, organic, and gourmet pet foods, and represents about 5% of the market. Profit margins for super-premium lines can approach 40%, compared to 20% for standard brands.
One of the world’s largest manufacturers, NestlÃ© Purina PetCare, extended its chef-inspired offerings in 2010 with Purina ONE shred and Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers. The company began by enticing cat owners in 2006 with Elegant Medleys, an upscale take on Fancy Feast. It next targeted dogs with Chef Michael’s Canine Creations in 2009.
Del Monte, a rival maker of pet food with such brand names as Milk-Bone, Kibbles ‘n Bits, 9Lives, and Meow Mix, has beefed up its brand association with “ingredient driven indulgence.” In 2011 Kibbles ‘n Bits rolled out Bistro meals for dogs. The brand that “cats ask for by name,” Meow Mix, introduced Market Selectline in 2009.
According to the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index, Colgate-Palmolive subsidiary Hill’s Pet Nutrition wins the pet food fight in terms of consumer satisfaction. Its “veterinary recommended” formulations address mobility, weight loss, and other health concerns.
Given America’s fascination with healthier, higher-quality specialty foods, perhaps it is no surprise many owners would want their furry family members to follow a similar course.