With people treating their pets as well as they treat themselves, independent retailers can make a tidy profit from the petcare sector.

The UK pet food market was worth £3.5 billion in 2018 and is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 2.5% until 2021 (Euromonitor).
This is being driven primarily through volume price premiumisation, which has offset the declining number of units and volume that has been sold.
With the humanisation trend continuing to influence the pet industry, there has been an increase in the millennial generation getting pets almost as a precursor to having children, while pets also play a key part in the lives of empty nesters, and even full-time workers, who are actually the most likely to own a pet (Mintel).
In fact, the UK pet cat population is at its highest for five years at 8 million, with 18% of households now owning a cat, representing an increase of 75,000 households in 2018 vs 2017 according to the PFMA Report.
Moreover, 2018 saw the UK pet dog population hit a new record at 9 million, with 26% of households now owning a dog, representing an increase of 300,000 households in 2018 vs 2017, the PFMA Report reveals.
However, there is a rising trend towards smaller breed ownership in dogs, which is contributing to volume decline across both Wet and Dry Dog Food.
But the love for pets doesn’t stop there, with over one quarter of owners admitting they pamper their pets (Mintel), spending on average £495 a year on activities and gifts for their dogs and cats.
“This in turn is driving demand for added-value products and premium nutrition with natural ingredients, such as fresh meat content and wheat-free recipes, so that pets can enjoy healthy vitality,” comments Ashleigh Foster, Senior Brand Manager, IAMS UK & Ireland.
Recognising this trend, the new IAMS for Vitality range features a wheat-free+ formula and uses fresh chicken to give pets a premium diet that’s packed full of flavour.
Rising consumer affluence, humanisation and growing health concerns continue to drive demand for premium and cleaner pet food as owners look for the same quality of products for their pets as they would buy for themselves (Euromonitor).
This has led to the rejection of artificial ingredients and an increased demand for quality, with manufacturers responding to these trends with products featuring higher meat content, simplified ingredient lists, and recipes designed to fulfil particular health needs.
As a result, consumers are increasingly aware of specific dietary products, such as hairball reduction and indoor.
Additional trends include those that very much mirror trends in human food, with grain free, high protein, low fat options continuing to drive premium options as consumers are more willing to pay for products their pet will enjoy eating, which also provide visible benefits such as a shiny coat and healthy skin, making indulgence and advanced nutrition brands a big investment for key grocery retailers.
Because of this, brands that have traditionally used a one-size-fits-all approach have declined in popularity, with successful manufacturers adapting to give pet owners the customisation and personalisation they seek when it comes to ensuring the health and happiness of their beloved pets.
“As a nation, we want the best for our pets and that means providing them with healthy and tasty nutrition that supports vitality and is also enjoyable to eat,” adds Foster. “In fact, 83% of dog owners claim visible health benefits are key when it comes to selecting a brand. That’s why, IAMS has introduced its new and improved range, IAMS for Vitality.”
The new recipe offers a range of nutritional benefits, including fresh chicken, high quality animal protein, and a combination of all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to support the 7 signs of healthy vitality.
Convenience is one of the main factors driving consumer purchasing decisions and as a result major multiples are becoming increasingly competitive on pricing and their offering by stocking multiple categories under one roof (Euromonitor). As a result, store-based retailing remains the biggest distribution channel.
However, the growth of online is also important to consider, with increased product variety, price visibility and convenience boosting retail value sales in this domain. In addition, subscribe and save models, delivery services and tailored nutritional plans are succeeding at winning over customers due to the rise in demand for customisation (Euromonitor).
To compete, independent stores are increasingly providing in-store experiences.
For example, the introduction of grooming parlours has become popular in offering a unique element to shoppers.
Exclusive product offerings and superior staff training also provide a unique selling point for independents, giving consumers more expert advice and niche product offerings against the major multiples.
However, the growing importance of online cannot be ignored, as retailers also refine their online sites, optimising pricing and promotions to remain competitive within this channel.
“Retailers typically follow a good, better, best merchandising principle to provide a clear trade up hierarchy for the customer to follow,” comments Foster. “From this, there are a number of ways that retailers can decide to categorise available products based on their strongest offering. This could be segregating Wet and Dry Food for customers seeking a particular format, or segregating products by species.”
The most dynamic area of growth in the dog food market has been in specialist products, including those with health specific benefits, the PFMA Report reveals. As competition intensifies and smaller players enter the market, a robust merchandising strategy is key to enable products to stand out in the cluttered market.
To support the retail launch of its new range, IAMS for Vitality, IAMS has created a range of eye-catching point-of-sale, including FSDUs and consumer leaflets, as well as introducing new bright, clear packaging to enable the product to stand out on shelf.
These clearly communicate the benefits of each product, such as healthy skin and coat and improved digestion and urinary health, as well as the wheat-free recipe, fresh chicken and high-quality animal protein.
By clearly educating the consumer on the benefits the product can deliver for their pet which insight shows is of key importance, this can be used to encourage shoppers to trade-up to the more premium nutrition.
At the end of 2018, IAMS introduced its new and improved range, IAMS for Vitality, the next evolution of the brand’s historic dry food range, IAMS ProActive Health.
Working alongside veterinarians, IAMS recognises that cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, depending on their size and life stage. As such, IAMS for Vitality provides a tailored life stage approach across its range to offer consumers affordable, premium nutrition they can trust and proven health benefits they can believe in, supporting pets from puppy and kitten through to their senior years.
With fresh chicken and a new, wheat-free recipe+, IAMS for Vitality offers a range of nutritional benefits, including high-quality animal protein, with up to 91% for cat and 85% for dog.
It also combines all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to support the 7 signs of healthy vitality, including strong bones and teeth, a shiny coat, good digestive health and a healthy heart, for a happy, playful pet that looks and feels great whatever their life stage.