Five Trends to Watch in 2015
Now that we have the full story about 2014, what can pet specialty retailers expect from the year ahead?
It is official: 2014 now belongs in the history books. What happened in 2014 stays in 2014—unless, of course, it spills over into 2015. The past year saw some pet industry trends plateau (like natural), while others kept picking up steam (refrigerated and frozen foods, to name just two).
So, based on the recent past, what should we be looking for in the future? We cannot tell exactly what 2015 will bring; there are just too many x-factors involved—from the economy to trade agreements to good or bad PR. But, knowing what we know, here are five barometers of the pet industry that I will be keeping my eye on as 2015 progresses. Some are not much more than hunches, while others are pretty safe bets.
1. Cats Acting Natural
So far, the natural food craze in all its manifestations—from gluten-free to raw diets—has revolved primarily around dogs. Are cat owners not responding to the pervasive messages about the benefits of natural pet food? The cat owners I know are just as doting as the canine fanciers, and the potential exists for them to decide that their little ones deserve to be pampered like the dogs next door. Maybe 2015 will be the year when industry marketers and feline owners alike catch the natural cat food bug.
2. Raw Hitting a Wall
Raw may seem like the ultimate pet indulgence—food so fresh, it needs to be refrigerated. But sometimes a good thing can go too far, as a series of negative stories about potentially tainted or dangerous raw pet foods have proven. If raw fails to keep growing in 2015, it won’t be because retailers would rather not install refrigerators; the issue will be consumer and therefore manufacturer reluctance to invest in something that may seem more risky than it is healthy. In the end, raw SKUs might remain a niche market, and not the next big thing in pet food.
3. Pet Owners Indulging Themselves, For a Change
We have all heard of humanization, whereby pet owners try to give their four-legged friends all of the comforts that we bipeds covet. But 2015 may bring something different—a trend in which we humans cater to ourselves. We have seen it in lightweight cat litter, which saves strain on aching muscles. Can lightweight bags of cat and dog food be far behind? Will resealable cans of food and flushable cat litter become more prevalent, aiding both the environment and pet owners? The possibilities are almost endless, and may well bear fruit in 2015 for smart manufacturers.
4. Bargain Hunters Seizing the Day
We may think that online shopping has already transformed the pet food business, but digital technology is only just beginning to flex its muscles. Recent GfK data from the FutureBuy study shows that consumers are using the mobile web and apps on-the-go, in addition to traditional online tools, to find the best deals on even lower-cost items. As digital shopping gets easier, competing on price will become more common and fiercer. It is not about buying cheap food; it is about getting the best food for the best price.
Consumers have long had the ability to mix their own soda combinations at restaurants, and use websites to create their own clothing or room colors. We are now seeing this trend coming to the pet space, with owners creating custom dog and cat food mixes. Look for demand to grow in this area, with the potential for custom order sizes and more. If retailers can claim some of this territory—and not cede it completely to online merchants—this will be an important way to connect with and satisfy customers.
Maria Lange is Senior Product Manager on GfK’s Retail and Technology team, helping clients make the most of GfK’s pet specialty data and insights.
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