BY SANDY CHEBAT
Sales of canned cat foods are up across the nation, insid- ers reported, because more
owners understand the importance of moisture for cats.
“Demand for cat cans contin-
ues to grow,” said Brad Gruber,
COO of Health Extension Pet
Care in Deer Park, N. Y. “Years
ago, dry cat food was the most
popular way to feed a cat. Today
the trend has moved to canned
cat food, which is more beneficial
from a moisture standpoint; cats
need a lot of moisture in their diet
And most owners purchase
premium cat foods—in 2014, 42
percent of surveyed owners re-
ported purchasing it in the previ-
ous 12 months, according to the
American Pet Product Associa-
tion’s (APPA) 2015-2016 National
Pet Owners Survey.
Also popular are dry and
canned diets containing high
meat/protein content, low carbohydrate levels and no grain.
In particular, APPA’s survey
showed that “the percentage of
owners purchasing fortified cat
food is up slightly, from 25 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2014,”
and use of grain-free/gluten-free
cat food has more than doubled
(from 4 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2014).
“In general, I see a lot of cus-
tomers more educated about
their cats, and more toward wet
than dry foods, higher protein
and meat content in dry [diets],
and staying away from fillers
like rice and grains,” said Tracy
Alford, owner of Animal Nutri-
tion & Grooming Center in Ros-
They also look for meat-based
protein instead of plant-based
protein, said Amanda Morton,
manager of Bon Pet Supply in
Colorado Springs, Colo.
With owners seeking
benefits provided through
reported an increase in functional diets that
to address specific needs in
high-quality diets that deliver maximum health
benefits,” said Pete Brace, vice
president of communications and
pet parent relations for Merrick
Pet Care in Amarillo, Texas.
For example, Chanda
Leary-Coutu, senior market-
ing communications manager
for WellPet LLC in Tewksbury,
Mass., sees a focus on hairball
control in the dry cat food space.
“We’re seeing more dietary
solutions help prevent discomfort
caused by hairballs,” she said.
Other factors important to cat
owners are textures and palatability. There is tremendous diversity in the selection of flavors and
proteins available for cats now,
At Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food
Co. in Wheeling, Ill., the first
question Holly Sher, president,
in cat used to
be all pâté, but
etc.,” she said.
will buy five
“Nine times out of 10, [cus-
tomers are buying based on] pal-
atability,” she said. “I give sam-
ples so they can see what their
cat will eat. People want to feed
certain foods they like, but if the
cat won’t eat it, it doesn’t matter.”
Cream of the Crop
Customers are buying better-quality cat foods to
provide increased moisture, protein content and
health benefits to their feline family members.
Today’s cat owners are more than willing to cater to their pets’ picky palates with a variety of dining options.
CANNED VS. DRY
78% of cat owners feed
dry food most often
16% of cat owners feed
canned food most often
3% or fewer owners use
all other types of food most
Source: APPA2015-2016 National Pet
Rotating displays and cross-merchandising cat products are the most
popular methods for displaying dry and wet cat foods in stores, according
At Animal Nutrition & Grooming Center in Roseville, Calif., owner Tracy
Alford said they change up shelving frequently so people see different items
all the time.
“We don’t always put cans together by brand,” she said. “Sometimes it’s
organized by protein, sometimes by texture and sometimes by sizes. This
helps people learn about different brands and quantities. And sometimes we
rotate by price point.”
Brad Gruber, COO of Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y., recom-
mends that retailers regularly feature wet and dry cat foods in their rotating
off-shelf displays, such as endcaps, window displays, stack outs and themed
promotions, to draw excitement from shoppers.
“Cross-merchandising cat products—for example, food with treats, litter
and toys—ties the entire purchase together and helps the average sale go up
to a more respectable and profitable level,” Gruber said. “Offering packages
or bundles of assorted products together at a promotional price excites the
consumer with a thought of getting a better value for their money spent.”
Having employees feeding the food really helps, so they can say, “This is
what my cat eats,” said Holly Sher, president of Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co.
in Wheeling, Ill.
EDUCATING YOUR CUSTOMERS
“Consumers are more engaged than ever before in gathering information before
they make a purchase, and we predict this trend will continue since technology
plays such an important role in people’s lives,” said Brad Gruber, COO of Health
Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y.
“One of the most important practices for retailers to have is the proper education and knowledge of the products they are selling to their consumers,” said
Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager for WellPet
LLC in Tewksbury, Mass.
Research and communication are important aspects of selling cat food at
Bon Pet Supply in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“We do a lot of research—hours of research—for our customers so we know
we’re doing the right thing,” said manager Amanda Morton. “We talk a lot to
people, especially about wet food and why to feed it or feed a mix [of wet and dry].
People like to know about how the kitties’ bodies work and what’s good for them.”
Holly Sher, president of Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. in Wheeling, Ill., also
recommended that stores “educate their customers about canned food and
moisture—not just adding water on dry food—and variety in cat food.”
“It is important to the health of the animal that owners choose a correctly
balanced food for their pets,” said Jørgen Baymler, CEO of Bacterfield GMBH in
Hamburg, Germany. “Consumers must be critical when choosing pet food in order
to ensure they make a choice based on actual facts and correct information and
not solely based on advertising and the look of the bag containing the food.”
Many retailers accomplish consumer education through conversations
with cat owners in person and on the phone.