BY LIZE TT BOND
If superior nutrition is good for the human family, it’s also a fit for Fido. As a result, de- mand in the vitamin-rich, nutrient-dense,
superpremium food category is escalating.
“More than ever before, sustenance for to-
day’s canine companions receives the same
consideration as the food pet parents serve
on their own plates,” said Ann Hudson, vice
president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet
Brands in St. Louis. “These consumers are
seeking nutritious, superpremium products
that will make them feel good about the
meals placed in their dog’s bowl.”
Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of
Caru Pet Food in Vero Beach, Fla., cited health
concerns as another reason owners are willing
to purchase high-quality diets for their dogs.
“Consumers are seeking these foods in or-
der to address specific health issues,” Pettyan
said. “A dog will thrive when fed a diet that’s
closer to homemade and isn’t full of fillers
Superpremium foods are vitamin rich and
nutritionally dense, featuring quality pro-
teins, fats and carbohydrates, said Brad Gru-
ber, president and COO for Health Extension
Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y.
“This means less food in a pet’s bowl and
less waste left behind to clean up,” Gruber
said. “These diets are formulated to support
the needs of a broad range of breeds and dif-
fering life stages.”
Julie-Anne Hollander, marketing/projects
for K9 Natural in Christchurch, New Zea-
land, noted the obvious benefits of feeding a
diet high in meat and low in carbohydrates:
It’s a natural form of nourishment dogs are
instinctively drawn to, and their bodies are
designed for it.
“It’s not so much consumers asking for
superpremium food, per se, but the desire
to offer their pets real food,” Hollander said.
“Rich proteins and fats are needed to provide
dogs with a wholesome source of energy that
supports healthy skin and joints.”
Today’s pet owners take time to research
nutritional options, Gruber said.
“These consumers know the exact ingredients in selected dog foods, where they are
sourced, plus how committed the company is
[in regard] to sustainability and transparency
in the entire supply chain,” Gruber said.
However, while Pet Things in Douglasville, Ga., is experiencing strong demand in
the superpremium category, owner Terry
Brlecic emphasized the significance of val-ue-brand offerings.
“When a shopper switches from a grocery store food to a higher-quality product,
they see improvement in the coat and overall
health of their pet,” Brlecic said.
But that goal often requires an initial introduction to a brand at a lower price point.
“As we move through our food offerings,
the customer will go as far as their budget allows or to the point where the desired health
improvements are seen,” Brlecic said.
Thus, the biggest struggle for the independent retailer is satisfying the value customer
by stocking a nutritious food at a lower price
point, he said.
“If there is not a product available as a
starter food, the customer will leave and not
return,” Brlecic added.
As consumers increasingly
consider giving their
dogs the very best diets
available, it is up to retailers
to help them get there.
Manufacturers and retailers agree that the dog’s status as family member is a flourishing phenomenon.
The deep emotional connection forged between pet owner and canine companion continues to drive an upward spiral of expenditures within the industry, said Brad
Gruber, president and COO of Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y.
“The pet parenting boom we’re experiencing is being led by the two biggest age
groups for pet ownership: baby boomers and millennials,” Gruber said. “So this trend
is not only economic, but cultural.”
At Woof Gang Bakery, a chain of stores with headquarters in Orlando, Fla.,
Samantha Cohen, vendor relations manager and corporate buyer, noted an increase
in millennial customers seeking the same wholesome, organic and natural foods for
their pets as for themselves.
“Most of the brands of food carried in our stores typically fall into the superpremium
category,” Cohen said. “I find trends in pet diets tend to follow those in human diets.”
As a result, the segment is burgeoning.
“Very simply put, pet owners are going to keep spending on pets in the same
way they do for their children,” Gruber said. “It would be safe to assume we will see
superpremium products growing at the same proportion, with indications showing it
could be at an even faster pace.”
Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food in Vero Beach, Fla., noted
the emergence of differing tiers within the superpremium aisle.
“There are human-grade-ingredient diets manufactured in human-food plants,
and high-quality freeze-dried and dehydrated diets,” Pettyan said. “Superpremium
brands are even launching specialty diets combining the kibble that some customers
are accustomed to with a freeze-dried element for additional nutrition.”
Small, dehydrated mixes as an alternative category continues to grow as well,
said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
“These foods offer unique dietary choices that can’t be found outside the pet
specialty channel,” Hudson said.
DRIVING GROWTH IN THE CATEGORY
With retailers’ help, dog owners are weighing the
benefits of trading up to freeze-dried and frozen raw