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    Unlocking pet power in convenience stores

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    Did you know that almost half of pet owners love their cat or dog more than their partners? We are not the ones making this claim (because we secretly think figures should be more!) but this startling revelation emerged in a recent survey done by Dr James Greenwood, practicing and resident vet on ITV’s The Pet Show, along with pet food producer Webbox. Well, keeping in mind the growing importance of pets in their owners’ lives, it would be a smart move to make more space in stores for pet food and care products to make the best of this comparatively untapped market.

    Pet households’ numbers in the UK have been on the rise, particularly post-pandemic and post Instagram. Today, there are approximately 13.5 million dogs as pets with 36 per cent of households owning a dog. There are approximately 12.5 million pet cats with 29 per cent of all households having a cat.

    With such affection towards pets also comes the need to care for them.

    Brits love their furry friends and go a long way in keeping them healthy and happy. According to Statista, this cost them £6.70 a week with £2.8 spent on pet food, £1.4 on pet purchase and accessories and a further £2.5 on veterinary and other services for pets.

    The UK dog food market alone is valued at £1.6 billion with cat food not far behind at £1.27bn, states recent data from Statista.

    There was a time when most pets once got by on little more than table scraps, and whatever extra they could hunt or scavenge. Today, things are quite different. The love humans have for their pet means some pets now eat better, sometime even better than their owners do.

    The verdict is clear- pet food and care section in convenience is a great way to grow sales. In fact, it holds a massive room for growth, considering that most pet owners still opt for supermarkets or specialist stores for this need.

    Noteworthy here is convenience is paramount for pet owners too who often balance work, family, and pet care responsibilities. Convenience stores positioned within neighborhoods can serve as accessible hubs for these busy individuals, providing a nearby destination to stock up on pet food alongside other essentials.

    By integrating pet food into their product offerings, convenience stores can elevate their role as indispensable community resources, meeting the diverse needs of residents in a single location.

    Good news here is that pet food represents a resilient category, with steady demand even during economic fluctuations. Mars Petcare is the leading name in this section with brands like Cesar, Whiskas, Sheba, James Wellbeloved, Pedigree, Eukanuba and more.

    For Pawfect pals

    In 2021, the leading dog food brand in the country by retail sales revenue in convenience stores was Pedigree. That year, Pedigree generated approximately £24.6m worth of sales. The leading competitor was Bakers, which generated approximately £11.3m that year in convenience stores.

    Pet owners today are spoilt for choices as there are several types of dog food available in the market.

    Dry dog food is the most popular type of dog food and is available in various formulas, including puppy food, adult food, and senior dog food. It comes in different sizes, shapes, and flavours. Some popular dog food brands include Royal Canin, Orijen, and Hill’s Science Diet.

    Wet dog food is another popular type of dog food that comes in a variety of flavours and textures. This type of dog food is typically made with higher moisture content and has a soft texture. Some popular brands of wet dog food include Pedigree, Almo Nature, and Lily’s Kitchen.

    Keeping in mind the caring nature of pet owners, it is wise to stock the range keeping in mind the common allergens and pets’ dietary requirements as well.

    Grain-free dog food is a popular choice for dog owners who want to feed their dogs a diet that is free from grains and other potential allergens. Some popular brands of grain-free dog food include Taste of the Wild, Canidae, and Wellness.

    Similarly, limited-ingredient dog food is designed for dogs that have food sensitivities or allergies. Limited ingredient dog food contains a limited number of ingredients, making it easier to identify potential allergens. Some popular brands of limited-ingredient dog food include Natural Balance, Blue Buffalo Basics, and Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet.

    Raw dog food is a relatively new type of dog food that is gaining popularity among dog owners who want to feed their dogs a natural, unprocessed diet. Raw dog food is made with raw meat, bones, and vegetables, and is often sold frozen or refrigerated. Some popular brands of raw dog food include Nature’s Variety, Primal Pet Foods, and Stella & Chewy’s.

    By offering a selection of dry dog food, wet dog food, grain-free dog food, limited-ingredient dog food, and raw dog food, c-stores can cater to the needs of different breeds, sizes, and dietary requirements, thus providing customers with the best possible options for their furry friends.

    Apart from regular leading wholesalers, Quayside Wholesale is also one of the names to look upon if a retailer wants to stock a perfect and updated range in this aisle.

    Retailers must also consider stocking Dr Veneta’s new four-strong portfolio of freeze-dried nuggets whose avant-garde nutritional makeup prioritise the ongoing health of dog’s microbiome, where 84 per cent of its all-important immune system resides.

    Unlocking pet power in convenience stores

    Freeze-dried thinking has in recent times has become the nutritious benchmark within premium tier K9 nutrition, a best-of-both-worlds proposition that combines the nutritional vitality of raw with the ‘everyday appeal’ of convenient, ambient stored kibbles.

    With Dr Veneta’s unflinching commitment to 80 per cent meat or fish supplemented with minimally-processed human-grade fruit, veg and herbs, this stylish looking portfolio seeks to go one step further than its incumbent freeze-dried peers by insisting upon the inclusion of a fermented yeast collagen and beneficial botanicals which further elevates support for dogs’ underlying gut health.

    Dr Veneta told Asian Trader, “As an active veterinary practitioner, my team and I see so many morbidly obese and nutritionally bereft dogs for whom a nutritionally well-rounded diet could make the world of difference.”

    Apart from dog food, dog treat is also a high-yielding product line which is usually bought on impulse.

    Lily’s Kitchen Beef Mini Burgers, Bonio Bitesize Meaty Chip, Skipper’s Salmon Skin Flatties Dog Treats, Bounce and Bella Grain Free Dog Training Treats, Pets Purest Nibbles Bundle, Pets Purest Natural Peanut Butter and Lords & Labradors Natural Graze Essential Box are some interesting brands to consider.

    For Feline friends

    The rate of cat ownership is increasing, leading to various companies providing more cat food options with custom-made dry and wet cat foods based on cat age and health. In 2022, cat food accounted for 35.8 per cent of the pet food market in the UK and experienced a 23.4 per cent increase between 2017 and 2022. This growth can be primarily attributed to the rising cat population and the increasing number of pet owners.

    The treats segment is the second largest in the UK cat food market. Treats are given to cats in addition to regular food to provide additional health benefits, such as aiding digestion and promoting healthy skin and coat.

    According to Statista, the leading cat food brand in the country by retail sales revenue in convenience stores was Felix in 2021 while the leading competitor was Whiskas.

    Some of the other well-known wet cat food brands to keep on the shelf are Felix, Iams Delights, Lily’s Kitchen, Scrumbles, Purina andBlink!.

    HiLife CAT Pouchesis also a popular and highly rated cat food brand in the UK. These pouches contain a range of meat chunks in a delicious gravy sauce that will appeal to even the pickiest of feline eaters.

    Cats are often regarded as low-effort pets. And one of the crucial parts of their diet is dry food. Some leading dry cat food brands to consider are Royal Canin, Scrumbles, Tippaws, Fat Cat Slim, Iams For Vitality and Hill’s Science Plan.

    Another must-stock brand to consider here is Tiana cat food, the world’s first halal-approved cat food range made with best-in-class human-grade ingredients using state-of-the-art, freeze-dried technology.

    Burns Pet Nutrition has branched out and launched a new range of dry food for cats. The four tasty new vet-developed foods are Kitten Chicken & Rice, Adult Cat Chicken & Brown Rice, Turkey & Brown Rice and Sensitive Duck & Potato.

    Unlocking pet power in convenience stores
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    Burns Kitten Chicken & Rice is a complete, hypoallergenic diet that has been created specifically for supporting healthy growth and development while for For adult and senior cats.

    Vet and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition, John Burns MBE, said at the time of the launch, “We are really delighted to be launching our new range of dry cat food, which has been developed to provide all the nutritional support needed to keep kittens and cats healthy.

    “We pride ourselves on making high-quality and healthy food for our furry family members and our new range does exactly that. The fussiest of feline food connoisseurs will be meowing for more!”

    Lancashire pet food manufacturer Pets Choice has invested £500,000 in a new multi-channel campaign to generate awareness for its growing cat and dog food brand, Webbox Naturals. The new campaign will see the product advertised on television for the first time, accompanied by the launch of refreshed packaging.

    Redesigned product packaging now includes a satisfaction guarantee, promising owners a 100 per cent refund if their pet isn’t satisfied with the food. All products within the range contain natural ingredients to promote health and joy for pets of all life stages.

    Did you know?

    Race is on to produce a new generation of pet food products that don’t rely on farmed animals. A British brand specialising in pet food made with lab-grown meat is launching what it claims to be the world’s very first cans of cat food using cultivated chicken as the protein source.

    Meatly – formerly known as Good Dog Food – is bringing to market what it claims to be the world’s first cans of cat food that use cultivated chicken as the protein source.

    More precisely, chicken eggs have been used as the “raw material” to reconstitute what looks like a chicken fillet. The can will also have seaweed and plant proteins, supplied by Omni, a brand already known in the UK for producing plant-based dog and cat food.

    But before retailers can stock them, there’s one final hurdle which is the approval by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

    Another important aspect to keep in mind is pet owners are finicky and tend to make responsible buying decisions. They are expected to stick to a particular brand too as they don’t want their pets’ eating habits to be disturbed.

    Unlocking pet power in convenience stores

    Health, obviously, is on top of their minds.

    One survey of UK pet owners by Mintel found that 60 per cent prioritize health benefits in selecting pet foods. Another UK dog owner survey’s results suggested that the quality of the dog food is their top criteria in selecting a product.

    One of the main trends in pet food is humanization or making pet food look and taste like human food. This includes using similar ingredients, names, and aromas. Another trend is premiumisation, which includes using premium ingredients and traceability.

    Like human food, a trend toward natural product values continues to be strong in dog and cat food, with a focus on no artificial ingredients.

    Did you also know that the cat and dog treat market is one of the fastest expanding areas in the pet food industry?

    Year-on-year, it increases in value and volume, so it’s a highly lucrative sphere for retailers to focus on. Unsurprisingly, the emphasis on humanisation and premiumisation has transmuted into pet treats as well. As a result, pet owners can now buy their cat a beer, or treat their dog to crisps, popcorn and even muffins!

    From Purrs to Profits

    Merchandising pet food in a convenience store requires strategic placement, attractive displays, and understanding the needs of pet owners.

    Place popular pet food brands and products at eye level, making them easily visible and accessible to customers. This increases the chances of impulse purchases. Organise pet food products by category (e.g., dry food, wet food, treats) and by pet type (e.g., dog, cat, small animals). Clear signage can help customers quickly find what they need.

    Pair pet food with related products such as pet accessories, toys, or grooming supplies. Offer samples or demos of new or popular pet food products. Implement special promotions, discounts, or loyalty programs for pet food purchases.

    Regularly solicit feedback from customers about their pet food needs and preferences. Use this information to adjust product selection and merchandising strategies accordingly. Providing informational materials about pet nutrition, health, and care near the pet food display can also help in generating the trust of owners towards the store.

    Studies have shown that pet shoppers are some of the highest spenders in convenience stores – spending 50 per cent more than the average customer, and yet 77 per cent of pet owners don’tpurchase their pet food in their local shops. This means the category is a huge untapped opportunity.

    The choices are endless. As a pet owner, the sheer level of consumer choice can be overwhelming. Terms like “complete” and “nutritionally balanced” shout out at them from brightly coloured packaging in the pet food aisle so use signage a lot.

    In a category as overwhelming as pet food and care, a little handholding can go a far way.

    The Retail Solutions division of Vital Pet stands at the forefront of this industry, providing a comprehensive selection of pet products from renowned brands, ensuring that retailers can offer their customers the best products available.

    Unlocking pet power in convenience stores
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    The insight from its experts can come in handy for retailers who want to take the lead and effectively drive sales year on year within the pet category.

    Sunny Sharma, director at Vital Pet, says, “The mission of our Retail Solutions division here at Vital Pet is to empower retailers by providing them with a wide range of high-quality pet foods, toys & accessories. We understand the importance of offering diverse options to meet the unique requirements and preferences of pets, and we are dedicated to supporting retailers in meeting the needs of their customers.”

    With purchasing agreements with over 200 manufacturers, the Retail Solutions team claims to deliver unmatched value, reliability and have access to the products retailers need, when they need them. Additionally, retailers who work with them can look forward to exclusive, innovative products from global category leaders, including new-to-the-UK ranges.

    Pet owners lead busy lives, juggling work, errands, and pet care responsibilities. They need a one-stop shop where they can quickly pick up everything they need, including food for their beloved pets. By offering pet food alongside their traditional lineup of products, convenience stores can become go-to destinations for pet owners seeking convenience and efficiency. No longer do they have to make a separate trip to a pet store or supermarket – they can simply swing by their local convenience store and grab everything they need in a flash.

    It’s not just about convenience; it’s also about community. In areas with a high concentration of pet-loving residents, stocking pet food can be a game-changer, fostering a sense of connection and loyalty within the community. Plus, it’s a smart business move. By diversifying the product offerings to include pet food, convenience stores can tap into this lucrative market segment thus attracting a whole new customer base and their loyal furry friends.

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