Little Dogs with a Mighty Bark

Small and toy dog breeds are digging up big sales in pet specialty retail.



For some time now, small dog breeds have held five spots on the American Kennel Club’s “Top 10 Breeds” list. In 2010, the Yorkshire Terrier famously grabbed the No. 2 slot from the all-American Golden Retriever—surely a sign of some kind of revolution.

That revolution is not just for show. We are seeing it in nationwide pet retail sales tallies. GfK’s point-of-sale database, representing over 11,000 pet retail outlets, shows that sales of small and toy breed dog food products have grown by 51 percent in just the past four years—from $390 million to $588 million annually.

By contrast, sales of large-breed dog foods have only grown one percent since 2011 and declined by three percent in 2014. (Large breeds still generate the most dollars, though, tallying $739 million annually at pet specialty retail.)

Between small- and toy-breed product sales, we see the latter driving success at the register. Growth rates for toy-breed products continue to climb, from 8.4 percent in 2012 to 11.1 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, growth for small-breed SKUs has slowed, from 18.4 percent in 2012 to 12.4 percent in 2014. Nevertheless, sales that accelerate at over 10 percent per year—which both small- and toy-breed products continue to achieve—are nothing to bark at.

One sales advantage for small/toy food products: they are considerably more expensive, pound for pound, than comparable SKUs for average or large/extra large breeds. Small/toy foods weigh in at $2.87 per pound versus $1.77 for average and $1.48 for large/extra large.

An area of particular interest for small- and toy-dog owners are treats, which account for 22 percent of total food sales for these breeds, compared to 13 percent for all dogs. This could indicate any number of causes. Are the smallest dogs pampered more? Do they need extra training, and thus more rewards? Or do their smaller jaws simply require special-sized treats?

Whatever the reasons, retailers have responded to the growing demand for small/toy food products. The average number of items per shop has grown by 38 percent since 2011. On average, each shop now carries about 15 products specific for small- and toy-breed dogs. Overall, distribution for small/toy food products is up by 6 points—small/toy breed food and treats are offered in 86 percent of retail locations.

Take a look at your shelves; are you offering small/toy products yet? The result of carrying these items could be super-sized sales. Remember, good things do come in small packages.

Maria Lange is business group director for GfK’s Retail & Technology team; she can be reached at

Want to learn more about pet owners and shoppers? Write to GfK about becoming a member of its POS database, and receive regular reports on retail trends in the pet space. Contact Dave Stevens at

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