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How to Make Money off of Current Pet Food Trends

At the beginning of every year, pet professionals usually want to know two things:

  • What happened last year? How is the pet industry doing? Are we growing in sales? Did we hit our goals? 
  • What's going to happen this year? What are the latest trends? What can we do better from last year? How can we raise our goals? 

We recently summarized the pet industry's top events, trends, and happenings. The article covered everything from trends in pet food, the humanization of pets, and the struggle that independent pet stores face. Although 2016 may have been a difficult year for much of our country, it was fortunately another year of growth for the pet industry. 

As we go into the second month of 2017, one of the questions we've noticed is: What are the biggest trends of 2017 and how can we capitalize on them? Pet industry publications have been working hard to disclose pet industry trends that are crucial for both retailers and manufacturers to know to be successful this year. However, even though these publications are keeping everyone up to date, they aren't telling you the next steps in making these trends a reality. 

Here's a summary of the top trends in pet food and what actions you can take to make money on them as soon as possible.
US Pet Food Trends 2016 2017 Screenshot of our free eBook on US pet food trends - Download it here

Natural Pet Food

You can't turn anywhere without seeing a headline mentioning natural pet food, and for good reason. This trend is currently making the pet food industry the most money, as it currently has a 70% market share and was valued at $5.6B in 2016. One thing to note is that it's difficult these days to have natural pet food without it being grain-free. The grain-free category owns 37% of the market share at $3B and a 20.2% growth rate year over year (GFK).

Related Article: 6 Pet Food Trends Every Pet Professional Needs to Know

As this trend continues to grow at a steady pace, it's easy to see that it's not going anywhere. To start capitalizing on this popular category of pet food, you can implement any or all of the following strategies:

  • Change your dog, cat, and even small animal food sections into aisles that focus on themes such as  "all-natural, always"
    • Using all-natural as your primary theme, use colors like green and brown in your merchandising
    • Include messaging that points out which brands are all-natural versus those that are not
    • Even though packaging makes these statements, use your best judgement as to which products you believe best embody these ideals and put special focus on them
  • During category reviews, make "all-natural" criteria to check your products against. 
    • If you are using a good, better, best merchandising scheme, you may want to place products that do not contain 100% natural ingredients in the good or better categories, depending on the quality of ingredients
  • When bringing in new products, make sure the manufacturer can explicitly tell you where their ingredients are sourced and how their food is made. Unfortunately, it's very easy for low-quality foods to "hide" behind natural-looking packaging
  • Host events in your store that teaches consumers how to identify ingredients that are natural, versus those that aren't. These can either be free or you can charge a few dollars and market them as classes . Either way, it will not only help bring in additional revenue, but also increase engagement and education in your community. 
  • Download our guide to see which of our brands fall into the natural pet food category so you can keep an eye out for them or compare them against products you currently stock
Pet Product News recently published a guide on making a pet food plan for optimal in-store merchandising and sales. Click here to read more about merchandising your pet supply store for success.

Limited Ingredient Food

According to Pet Food Industry and GFK, limited ingredients in pet foods is also on the rise. This category owns 8.6% of the market at $683M and has a 12.5% growth rate year over year. Much of this category is currently made up of dry dog food (82.5%) but the second biggest growth factor is within the wet cat category.

This category started out as a solution for pets with food allergies, but it certainly doesn't end there. Keep in mind that a diet with fewer ingredients is an excellent way for pets to live happy, healthy lives and even fight the growing pet obesity epidemic. We recently wrote an article explaining that the benefits of limited ingredients in pet food include an easy to understand ingredient panel, a boost in natural nutrition versus added ingredients, and an easy to customize diet for pets. 

Related Article: The Benefits of Having Limited Ingredients in Pet Food

How can you take advantage of this newly popular segment of food? 

  • Merchandise aisles in a way which clearly dictates which brands include the most limited ingredients.
    • Bonus points if these ingredients are also all-natural
    • End caps are an easy way to merchandise products in a way that stands out to the consumer
  • Use very simple, clean, and minimalistic store signage to explain limited ingredients
    • Keeping it clean and simple will emulate the simplicity of the trend itself: Just the ingredients listed, that's it. 
  • During category reviews, make sure you're stocking products that fit in with this trend. We don't recommend letting all of your products be limited ingredients so that your customers still have a variety of options to choose from. However, ensuring it's a part of your buy plan will ensure success as a pet retailer.
  • You may want to keep in mind which foods are "complete and balanced" and which are not. Stocking both options will allow your customer to choose for themselves, but only as long as they are properly educated.
    • If you're concerned about stocking food that isn't labeled as "complete and balanced" due to the possibility of employees not being trained correctly, you might want to talk to your manufacturer about offering training programs with your order. 
    • For example, Applaws has partnered with All Points Marketing to offer training solutions for anyone concerned about employee training within the retail store. Click here if you're interested in learning more about our training programs.
  • Download our guide to see which of our brands fall into the limited ingredient category so you can keep an eye out for them or compare them against products you currently stock

Frozen Pet Food

As recently as a couple of years ago, you could walk into an independent pet store and not see a freezer in sight. What was the point of taking up the space when most pet owners are more likely to purchase wet or dry food? If you're still asking yourself that question, you might want to check the facts.

While this category currently only owns 1.2% of the market at $97M, it does boast a high growth rate of 26.9% year over year. Sales in this category have increased from $43.1 in 2012 to the $97.3 it was as of June of 2016. This means if your pet shop is still lacking a freezer, you could be losing out on potential sales.

Don't miss out anymore. Instead, consider incorporating these options:

  • If you're not sure whether adding frozen pet food give you the right return on investment, find out whether your customers and those near your location(s) are looking, and finding elsewhere, frozen pet food.
    • Ask your customers as they come in whether they have tried feeding frozen/raw food to their pets. Record their answers and follow-up with questions to determine interest.
    • Distribute a survey online via Facebook's highly targeted ads or even via direct mail. Remember that including an incentive for participants to fill out the survey is the best way to get results. Consider anything from a 25% off coupon for any one item in your store, or even a $100 gift card.
    • Search online for Yelp and Google reviews of your store and your competitors to see whether consumers are complaining about a lack of frozen food offerings. 
  • You may need to re-plan a portion of your store to fit a freezer or two. If you have a small footprint, it can be much easier said than done. Look at your sales and eliminate products that aren't making you any money. 
  • Study up on best practices for storing and selling by reading articles online and requesting safety information from your suppliers. Employee training will be a crucial step at this point, as you don't want your customers to end up with sick pets due to lack of product knowledge.

Food Made in USA

As recalls continue, it is becoming more important than ever to ensure ingredients for pet food are being sourced and manufactured safely and with precaution. Some countries have really come under wrap lately, and stocking products that have anything to do with them may give your store a negative image in the eyes of the public.

Although recalls may still occur with food made in the USA, they are few and far between, especially when compared to products made from countries with lower standards. Because of this, the three words "Made in USA" are those that American consumers have come to learn to trust. If you aren't already, it's a good idea to promote these products as they encourage feelings of trust, safety, and patriotism. You can do this by:

  • Ensuring a large portion of the products you stock are sourced and manufactured in the United States
  • Placing all products that are made in North America within a category near each other, with labels to let your customers know that these are from the U.S.
  • Amp up the idea of "locally produced" as it matches well with "all-natural" ingredients. With these combos, you're sure to have a home run as these topics are steadily on the rise with pet owners
  • Make sure your suppliers are as transparent as possible about the sourcing of their ingredients. Getting all of the necessary ingredients from the USA largely depends on availability and may result in product shortages or temporary ingredient changes that may cause your customers surprise and resentment. 
  • Put a special emphasis on these products during times of increased patriotism including the Fourth of July and during election season (local elections count!)

Related Article: "Made in USA" - What Does it Mean for Pet Food?

Fruitables is a popular pet treat and pet food suppement company with products made in the US. They specify in their sourcing directions to their partners to purchase US origin ingredients where practical and reasonable. Consistent availability and quality are two criteria within this sourcing strategy, and where they must import, they disclose it on the label to be as transparent as possible to the consumer.

Another dog treat company with many of their products made in the US is Smokehouse, whose manufacturing plant is in California. Their meat is sourced throughout the country and sent to Smokehouse in Southern California for processing which includes independent testing for quality to meet USDA standards.

The Next Steps

Taking some or all of these actions will ensure your success with incorporating top trends in the pet food market. The likelihood is that you may have eliminated products and brands that don't quite fit in with your new strategy.

Fortunately, we represent many brands that have built their success on closely following and anticipating these trends. Download the free eBook below to find out how our brands match up to many of the trends listed in this article. 


You'll also want to keep an eye out for products that fit your new standards at popular pet trade shows and events such as Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo.


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Ashley Hoffman – E-Commerce & Digital Marketing Manager joined the All Points family in April of 2015. Ashley brings a fresh outlook to the marketing industry as well as a constant desire for learning something new. She is dedicated to consistently improving her skills and efficiency in the marketing industry and using those skills to promote APM and all brands we represent. Ashley has grown up with many animals throughout her life and is currently the loving owner of two cats.

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Global Pet Expo All Points Marketing Booth Finder GPE17
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