It looks like good news for pet retailers this holiday season. An annual AP-Petside poll conducted by GfK found that pet owners are planning on spending more on their pets’ Christmas gifts in 2011 than in 2010. About half (51%) of pet owners plan to buy their pets a Christmas gift, a percentage which has held steady for the past 3 years. The average expenditure planned is $46, up from $41 last year, with as you might expect, more affluent households planning to spend more.
Toys are the most popular Christmas present for dogs, followed by food or treats. Bedding, clothes and grooming supplies round out the top five gift categories for dogs, although one might wonder if those last two are gifts dogs would choose for themselves!
Home Furnishings Business reports on the launch of Arf Van home furnishings for dogs from Art Van Furniture. This is the first human furniture player I’ve seen enter this area; the products range from modestly priced dog beds which are similar to those sold in pet stores to hard goods which resemble traditional furniture. Prices seem in line with Art Van’s moderately priced home furnishings for people.
With dogs considered an integral member of many families, there is definitely a market for dog furnishings designed to blend in with the overall home decor. Art Van’s entry into this market is reminds me of Bed Head’s introduction of the Pet Head line of hair and skin care products for pets. The furniture is currently on display in select Art Van stores, but must be ordered either in-store or online. Arf Van items can be shipped to any Art Van retail store at no charge.
PetsMart and GNC recently announced a partnership to create a line of pet supplements available exclusively through PetsMart retailers and website. The supplement line launches in fall, 2010 according to an article on financial news site CDTV.
This is interesting development marks the convergence of several trends. Vitamin and supplement usage is increasing for humans, pet care is becoming more humanized, and people are becoming more interested in premium nutrition for their pets. This is a great opportunity for both partners; joining two strong brands in an area where there are few well-known competitors.
My concern is that pets may end up being over-supplemented as many of them already eat a nutrionally balanced commercial diet. If the worst that happens is that some dogs produce expensive urine when they excrete excess vitamins, that’s not a terrible thing. But dogs as well as people are harmed by overuse of some supplements. Owners should make sure their veterinarians are aware of the supplements as well as the food that their animals consume.
Proctor and Gamble recently announced that they had purchased holistic pet food manufacturer Natura Pet Products which describes its products as “The Healthiest Pet Food in the World.” This action gives P&G entry into the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry with a portfolio of well-respected, selectively distributed brands in that space. These brands join P&G’s mass market Iams and premium Eukanuba brands and allows the company to leverage Natura’s credibility in holistic and natural pet foods. Eukanuba has dabbled in this sector with its Naturally Wild products, but the brand does not have strong credibility in this market space.
Natura now sells six brands of pet food and treats. Their EVO brand was one of the first to offer grain-free pet food; other brands focus on simple, organic, and premium quality ingredients. One thing I appreciate about Natura is a fearless approach to their competition as they offer an online comparison tool where consumers can match their products with competitive pet foods; including other premium and holistic foods.
Some in the “good food” movement for pets seem nervous about one of the world’s biggest consumer packaged good firms acquiring Natura. I see it as a savvy business move by P&G and I suspect they fully realize the power of these vigilant consumers both to build and destroy brand equity. It will be interesting to see how branding, distribution and promotion develop after this ownership change, which is still undergoing regulatory review.
MediaPost writes about the ASPCA’s promotional efforts including the Facebook page and partnerships with multiple pet product companies to promote April as National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Walmart’s move to associate itself with this well-known animal charity shows that the company takes the pet market seriously and is trying hard to position itself as a caring, pet-friendly company. This reminds me a bit of Warren G Harding’s promotion of his Airedale, Laddie Boy, as the First Dog, which helped deflect public attention from some of the more colorful aspects of his family life.
Brandweek featured an article discussing Iam’s integrated campaign for its ProActive pet foods containing prebiotics. The food has specific ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and should be distinguished from probiotic compounds like yogurt which contain beneficial bacteria, which would not live through the processing required to manufacture dry dog food.
Iams enlisted two spokes animals, one canine, one feline to promote their prebiotic foods. The dog, a Bulldog named Munch, has a Facebook page which has attracted over 1200 fans. All of the ProActive health products carry a distinctive swirled symbol on the packaging, which is carried over into point of purchase and print displays. ProActive’s marketing uses he theme line “I am beautiful inside” which was used across online, point of purchase, and television advertising.
These products show the increasing interest in nutraceuticals in human nutrition, which has spilled over into the nutritional interests for our pets. I found the Iams website very carefully worded in its description of the benefits of these products, avoiding any outright health claims.
Marx Promotion Intelligence reported that overall Free Standing Insert (FSI) activity rose by 8% in 2009 to more than 272 billion coupons dropped. Pet retailers and pet products were important contributors to this increase.
PetSmart rose from 4th in 2008 to 2nd in 2009 in terms of overall FSI pages; Target continues as the #1 retailer on this measure.
Pet food and treats were in a three-way tie for sixth for the number of new products introduced via FSI in 2009 with 11, pet products rounded out the top ten with 8 new product introductions.
Pet food and treats edged out household cleaning products to claim the #2 spot in number of coupons dropped in 2009; this was a 4% increase over 2008 levels.
The decline in the number of newspapers provides a challenge to the most traditional means of FSI distribution. Retailers and manufacturers are evolving to use targeted direct marketing to keep delivering coupons to their customers.
Petfood Industry reports news from Tyson Foods fourth quarter earnings report regarding its Freshpet line of refrigerated pet foods. Freshpet is currently in test rollout with national retailers and is reportedly finding high consumer acceptance; club stores are next in their distribution plans. The Freshpet website describes the product as lightly cooked and emphasizes that it remains refrigerated from production through sale and use. Freshpet foods combine the real food appeal of raw feeding while minimizing concerns about bacteria and the yuck factor some people experience when their pets devour raw meat. The earnings report also mentions Tyson participation in the refrigerated pet treats market, but gives few details.
I’m a bit confused on the evolution and marketing of Tyson’s refrigerated dog treats. Doing a Google search, I found a section on the Freshpet website which references the Loved Dog brand treats. The treats tie in to dog trainer Tamar Geller’s dog coaching brand of the same name and they are mentioned as being introduced by Geller rather than by Tyson on the site. There are no evident links from the Freshpet homepage to the Loved Dog treats. I found a blog post referring to the Loved Dog treats being available in the summer of 2008. The only links on the Freshpet homepage that lead to treats are for products branded as dognation treats, and a reference is made that this is a new name. If any readers have insight into what’s going on with the production and marketing of these Tyson-manufactured refrigerated treats, please leave a comment.
DMNews reported on Petco‘s use of email marketing, including the recent addition of content promoting organic pet foods. These emails are supported by in-store seminars about organic foods as well as the Petco-sponsored Facebook page, Generation Natural Pet. The article goes on to describe more details of the Petco e-communications strategy including species targeting, pet birthday greetings, and product reviews.
Pet Style News reports on pet clothing and encourages pet retailers to prepare for Halloween by stocking pet costumes. Some pet owners like to dress their pets all year around while others will purchase pet clothing only for Halloween. Shop owners interviewed for the article note that dressing pets is increasing in popularity and that the clothes available have improved dramatically in both quality and fit over the years. This trend is one that sometimes hits a nerve among people supporting animal rights; but many pets seem to enjoy the attention that wearing a costume attracts.