Shoppers respond to convenience, brands

Mintel projects the pet products category will grow an average of 3.8% over the next five years to nearly $13.7 billion by 2017.

(For the full category review, including sales data, click here.)

While the category has remained solid, the drug channel has been losing sales. The channel saw a significant 16.6% dip in sales from 2010 to 2012 to $168 million, according to a recent Mintel study. The market research firm estimates that drug channel commands only a 1.5% of category sales, yet Mintel’s study indicates that convenience is a key driver when consumers shop the pet category.

Pet supplies could be a missed opportunity for the drug channel. “The value of convenience shouldn’t be underestimated, especially as the pet aisle is becoming an increasingly confusing space for pet owners,” according to Mintel’s study.

Impulse purchases play a big role in the category, according to Mintel’s research. Shoppers also respond to brand names and natural products. “Retailers need to evolve from a private-label minimalist category into a branded category with some private-label values,” said Shay Moeller, product manager for Wahl’s North America consumer pet division.

Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, sees a trend toward products that promote pet wellness and safety. “Safety awareness has become a bigger issue in the category, and we’ve seen a lot of advances in booster seats and harnesses, which have improved greatly,” he said. Car restraints and harnesses, airline-specific carriers, travel feeding bowls and other products that make traveling with a pet easier have contributed to an uptick in sales.

Pet grooming products are evolving as consumers look for products that are better for their pets and make grooming easier. Moeller said that grooming products are a big growth area for the category. Clippers, he said, are one of the largest dollar generating items in the pet category. Wahl has expanded its home pet products to meet the needs of the fast-growing home pet grooming market. “Signage is a great way to explain the benefits of grooming,” Moeller said. “It communicates that proper grooming — such as a clipping, bathing and brushing — is a way to keep your pet healthy, happy and smelling great.” The company makes a line of natural pet shampoos formulated using 100% plant-derived ingredients that are safe and gentle for pets.

The litter and deodorant segment, which generates 42% of pet category sales, has been outpacing overall category sales, due mostly to innovation. Lightweight litter is the latest product improvement sweeping the segment.

Cat’s Pride recently introduced Fresh & Light Premium Clumping Litter, a lightweight blend that boasts optimal clumping characteristics to ensure easy scooping and disposal. An innovative, lightweight formula makes the litter easy to lift, carry and pour. Purina’s Tidy Cat followed with LightWeight 24/7 Performance. Mintel sees further growth for the segment over the next few years as products touting premium positioning, high-efficacy and odor-neutralizing performance continue to enter the market.

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