The Rise of Niche Pet Food Brands in the UK

The UK’s pet food marketplace has undergone substantial changes over the last five years. Sales have been shrinking in the UK as a result of declining pet ownership. Leading brands such as Mars Petcare and Nestlé Purina are losing share to smaller niche players like Lily’s Kitchen, which is going from strength to strength recording double digit growth in 2017. This has been the combined result of an increase in distribution with the company completing a full year of trading with Pets at Home in 2017 and strong growth across its portfolio of products.

Today’s pet owners are looking for the same quality of pet food as they would feed themselves. Feeling a weighty responsibility for the health of their pets, they are scrutinising ingredients lists more so than ever. As a result, there has been an increased preference for small luxury brands because of their perception to be more healthy and natural.

However, big companies can launch new brands faster than independent players. Traditional mainstream manufacturers have been very responsive to the growing number of independent pet food brands in the UK by launching their own premium varieties. These manufacturers can benefit from their wide distribution networks, marketing budgets and economies of scale to help boost sales within the luxury pet food sector.

Private label products are also competing in the luxury pet food market. Whilst rising consumer affluence is driving demand for luxury pet food products, premium private label pet foods are attracting more and more pet parents with their competitive price points. For example, Sainsbury’s recently rebranded and extended its Sainsbury’s ‘Complete Nutrition’ premium pet food range in January 2018 to include a new hypoallergenic range.

Growth of niche pet food brands is also expected in other markets, such as North America and Western Europe where the pet food market is mature and premiumisation and humanisation are expected to remain key drivers of growth and innovation. On the other hand, the increased Westernisation of emerging markets expects more than half of the industry’s global growth to be generated in Asia Pacific and Latin America. In these regions, more consumers are entering the commercially prepared food market and large manufacturers are expected to benefit from the lack of competition.