Tomorrow’s Trends Come to Life at Global Pet Expo

What will make pet store cash registers ring in 2016 and beyond?



At Global Pet Expo, the newest trends in the pet industry are literally on display—and this year was no exception. Walking the show floor, I saw dozens of clever innovations firsthand, caught wind of growing changes in the market, and confirmed suspicions about key categories. 
Here are five of my top takeaways from this year’s Global Pet Expo—recurring themes and fascinating developments that may suggest the future of the pet retail industry. 

“No e-commerce”
In the face of an imminent threat from Internet-based sellers, independent pet specialty stores are feeling mounting pressure from online discount pricing, and some up-and-coming brands are showing their solidarity. I saw many displays and items proudly touting “No e-commerce,” meaning that these products could only be purchased in brick-and-mortar stores. For emerging brands, the “no e-commerce” pledge could be a ticket to instant shelf space, especially in smaller shops. But can these products sustain this pledge and still grow, given the increasing importance of online sales? Millennials are known, for example, to seek out online reviews more than most; but what if there are no reviews to be found for a given dog or cat food on the most popular online pet sites? 

Fewer Cans, More Pouches
In GfK’s recent global study, we reported on the popularity of pouches for wet pet food in Europe and Asia; but in the U.S., cans still dominate the marketplace. At Global Pet Expo, I saw clear evidence that pouches are gaining ground stateside. Pouches are easier for pet owners—cleaner, single serve and hygienic. They also may offer manufacturers a nicer way to highlight their brand imagery and messaging; how much can you say on a one-inch-tall can? And while retailers may not find them terribly shelf-efficient, their growth potential is impressive. According to GfK’s POS pet specialty panel, pouch sales are growing 28 percent year over year, compared to just three percent for cans. In addition, the average price per pound for pouches is higher ($5.13 versus $2.92 for cans), so the extra shelf space should pay off. 

Freeze Dried Walking the Walk
GfK has been saying for months that freeze dried is the category to beat in pet food, and Global Pet Expo proved this out. I saw lots of new freeze-dried products on the show floor, offered as full meals and treats, as food toppers, or as part of an enhanced/infused kibble. I also saw many new brands, as well as extensions from existing product lines, suggesting that this category is not just a fad. Expect retailers to dedicate more shelf space to the rapidly growing freeze-dried category. 

Limited Ingredient Going Mainstream?
Limited-ingredient diets used to be primarily for treating food sensitivities, but in this natural, premium pet food era—in which the marketplace is often driven by humanization—some mainstream pet brands are latching onto the trust and simplicity of knowing that food contains just three or four components. Multiple booths were offering humans a taste of their pet foods and treats—a remarkable sight, for sure. In the realm of pet pampering, what could be better than feeding your furry friend food that you yourself might eat?

Cat Litter Gets “Light as a Feather”
In another development that speaks to harried pet owners seeking added convenience, the latest litters are lightweight and usually flushable. We know from our data that this trend is mainly taking hold in pet superstores, where people buy in bulk and would rather not carry 50-pound containers. I even saw some litters that offered instant “analyses” of the cat’s urine, pointing to potential illnesses through a health indicator. Again, the drive to differentiate and make owners’ lives easier in addition to helping pets get healthier is driving smart innovation.
What trends have you been seeing in the pet retail industry? Drop me a line and let me know.

All of the data in this story comes from GfK’s point-of-sale (POS) panel representing over 11,000 US pet retailers. Participating stores get free reports on the marketplace, and clients can use the data to learn about their brands and competitors. Find out more by writing to Maria at

Maria Lange is Business Group Director for GfK’s POS Tracking (Pet) team. 


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