Local and independent petfood suppliers looking to stand out from their big-box competitors are turning to organic, raw and gluten-free petfood for inspiration.
Annual retail sales of organic and natural petfood are expected to grow three times as fast — 12% a year on average to $2.8 billion by 2015 — as petfood sales overall, according to a recent Packaged Facts report. "People are treating their dog food like some people are treating their baby food," said Todd Martin, vice president of marketing for Castor & Pollux Pet Works. "They want to know it's safe and they want to know it's quality." Annual organic petfood sales increased to US$84 million from 2002 to 2009, according to the Organic Trade Association, but remain a small part of the overall market, partially because it can cost up to 30% more than non-organic petfood.
Organic food is becoming popular enough that some large pet store chains are beginning to stock up, but for now the more exotic options remain plentiful only in independent shops. "My clientele are probably mostly single, more single women than not, and what I am finding is that [their pets] are their kids," said Neal Massa, co-owner of California-based My Pet Naturally. "So you are going to spend a little bit more money for petfood."