Sales of Pet Treats Outpace Dog/​Cat Food During the Past 5 Years

BY Courtney Huckabay
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It seems interest in rewarding, and even spoiling, pets may be encouraging higher spending on treats among American pet owners. New research from Mintel reveals that sales of pet treats have outpaced both dog and cat food over the last five years, with treats sales increasing by 29 percent between 2012–17 to reach $4.39 billion. Meanwhile, dog food sales grew eight percent between 2012–17 to reach $11.8 billion, while cat food sales increased 11 percent to reach $6.83 billion during the same timeframe.

With snacking frequency on the rise among Americans, it seems the snacking trend may be extending to their pets as one in 11 (nine percent) pet owners say they feed their pets toppers (such as sauce and gravy) as a snack or treat. Seen as more than just a way to reward good behavior, three quarters (75 percent) of pet owners agree that treats are their way of showing their pet love. Treats are also popular for their health benefits as one quarter (24 percent) of owners give their pet treats designed to address specific health issues, such as dental care or hair balls.

If we're snacking, chances are the pets we love are snacking too. Pet stores can focus on this snack trend in ad campaigns geared toward kitty lovers. The new AudienceSCAN study found 30% of Americans own cats.

Quality ingredients is of the utmost importance for Americans’ furry friends as two in five (40 percent) U.S. pet owners say they check the ingredient list when purchasing new pet food or treats and 64 percent would be interested in treats made with premium ingredients, such as all-​natural or organic. However, there is still ample room for further growth in the pet treats category as less than half (47 percent) of pet owners say they give their pets treats on a daily basis.

While dog and cat food dominate the category, the continued growth of treats is a clear reflection of the increasingly prevalent view among pet owners that pets are members of the family and deserve a bit of pampering. Treats are a way that pet owners can show their pets some love and, for some, they’re also a way to address specific health and wellness issues. Despite the fact that treats and toppers have helped drive incremental sales in the category, usage remains relatively low, suggesting there is room for further gains,” said John Owen, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. “Retailers may be able to spur additional sales by promoting themed care and feeding regimens consisting of complementary foods, toppers and treats.”

And retailers can emphasize those themes and treats with newspaper (print, online, mobile or tablet) ad campaigns. The new AudienceSCAN research revealed 27% of Cat Owners took action after seeing newspaper (print, online, mobile or tablet) ads in the past month.

In addition to treats, it seems American pet owners are splurging on supplies for their four-​legged family members. Toys remain the top purchased type of pet supplies among pet owners in the U.S., with 64 percent saying they’ve purchased toys in 2017, up from 61 percent in 2016. However, it seems non-​essential supplies are falling behind with owners saying they are purchasing less clothing (14 percent vs 17 percent in 2016), costumes (12 percent vs 17 percent in 2016) and strollers (10 percent vs 5 percent in 2016) for their pets this year.

With more than four in five (82 percent) American pet owners agreeing that pets need preventative health care, improving pet’s health is a top priority (41 percent). Three in four (74 percent) pet owners say they are helping their pet get fit or are interested in doing so, while 67 percent say they give or are interested in giving their pet vitamins and supplements. Some owners are even worried about their pets making it through flu season as over two in five (41 percent) say they have given or are interested in giving pets a flu shot.

Progressive pet shops can promote flu shots and vitamins for cats. Cat Owners might not be aware of such options for their fur babies. The new AudienceSCAN survey data said 37% of Cat Owners took action after watching TV spots in the past month.

Treating pets like one of the family continues to be a popular trend among pet owners; however, today, their purchases are more and more functionally driven as health becomes a top priority. Highlighting the health or convenience benefits of pet supplies could encourage owners to increase spend in the category as they continue to look for ways to improve their pet’s health and happiness,” said Rebecca Cullen, Household Analyst at Mintel.

Pets have a special place in Americans’ hearts and homes as two in three (66 percent) pet owners say their pet is treated like a member of the family and 58 percent agree their pet makes their house feel like a home. When it comes to acquiring their furry family member, nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) Americans agree adopting a shelter animal is the best way to get a pet.

Treats could play a role in treating cats like family. The AudienceSCAN survey revealed 27% of Cat Owners set personal goals to spend more time with their families during the next 12 months.

When it comes to the dogs versus cats debate, dogs win out as more American households own dogs (52 percent) than cats. However, having one dog (67 percent) seems to be enough for most as only one third (33 percent) of dog owners have two or more dogs in the home. Owning multiple cats, however, is more common, with 43 percent of cat owners saying they have more than one.

Overall, America’s pet owners continue to indulge their four-​legged friends as the total market for pet food, pet supplies and pet services in 2017 is estimated to reach $70.6 billion, an increase of 2.9 percent from 2016.

Pets play a valuable role in the household with most owners finding that the benefits of pet ownership far outweigh the costs. The pet market is driven by an increase in pet ownership, as well as rising costs of pet health care and pet owners’ penchant for indulging their animal companions. Future growth in the category will continue to be fueled by positive demographic factors such as Millennials getting married and starting families, as well as pet owners’ continued interest in spoiling their pets,” concluded Owen.