During the last decade, the number of European households with one or more pets has increased by approximately 20m to 91m, according to the European Pet Food Organisation.
During 2022, European retailers (UK, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands) increased their share of the €10.8bn category by 18%, with the last quarter seeing particular growth (of 25%) as pet owners opted for private label brands. Within the UK, value sales of pet food rose by 12.7%.
At the same, innovation in pet food witnessed a 39% climb between 2021 and 2022. Driven by this boost in innovation, new product launches in pet food accounted for 9% of total pet food sales (for private labels and national brands).
In the Netherlands and Germany, new products contributed to overall sales substantially higher than other European countries, by 11% and 28% respectively.
New products have seen a big focus on specific breeds and age, Ananda Roy, global SVP, strategic growth insights at Circana said. “Led by manufacturers and retailers in the UK and Italy, there has been a lot of innovation around breed and age-based nutrition. This health and wellness focus taps into the boom in new pet ownership that started during the pandemic and allows manufacturers to follow the life of these pets as they grow.”
Other new product innovation includes high protein and low-fat claims, with the use of human ingredients such as vegetables and pulses in pet food.
Higher priced pet food didn’t deter customers
Whilst the pet food category saw inflationary price increases (around 12% - with the steepest hikes in the UK and Spain), it did not lead to the same declines in volume sales as seen across total FMCG (-1.1% in 2022). Instead, pet food experienced a small uplift in unit sales of 0.4% (and 1.6% for private labels).
Private labels generally are notably higher in Germany and Spain, where a wider range is available in discounter channels; and across total FMCG, private labels now make up 38% of value sales in Europe (€229bn).
“Pet food has traditionally been dominated by trusted national brands, so the strides retailers have made developing as good as quality alternatives that appeal to consumers’ very real need to lower the cost of their shopping basket are remarkable,” added Roy. “It highlights, once again, the growing regard for private labels; more consumers perceive them as being innovative and as good or better than many of the national brands that they compete with. The quality of private label pet food in particular, with specialised nutrition or the inclusion of high-quality human food ingredients, differentiates private label significantly.”