Cat and dog food is a high-growth industry, mainly due to the sharp increase in adoptions.
The American Pet Products Association (APPA) represents over 1000 pet product manufacturers. According to the 2019-2020 National Pet Survey, 42.7 million US households own cats and 63.4 million own dogs. This is a dramatic increase over previous years.
Cat and dog owners in the US spend between $200 and $300 on their pets annually. That means roughly $13 billion is spent on cat food and $19 billion on dog food in the US annually.
The Surge in Cat and Dog Food Sales
The soaring cat and dog food market are attracting a lot of interest from market research companies. Pet food manufacturers rely on the information produced by market research firms so that they may keep up with changing industry trends.
In 2019 General Mills found that their pet food range outperformed their snack bar and yogurt sales.
Demand for pet food has risen because pet ownership is increasing. Research has shown this is due to factors such as:
- Increase in households with over $100,000 a year income
- Married couples without kids are more likely to pamper their cat or dog
- Increased loneliness as the aging population expands
- A 44% increase in Hispanic dog owners (non-Hispanic rose 2%)
- Increased cat and dog adoption
Pet Food Safety
Pet food safety, nutritional value, and taste are the most critical factors of pet food consumption. The pet food manufacturing industry is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA takes a preventative approach rather than a responsive approach with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The act rules that manufacturers of pet food must comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) for animal food production. The practice guidelines maintain pet food quality to prevent animals from potential health hazards.
The Association of American Feed Controls issues strict labeling guidelines on pet food ingredients. Pet food manufacturers must list the ingredients in ascending order of weight.
The major ingredients must be listed first, then the minor ingredients. Standardized ingredient names must also be used to avoid confusion.
Ingredients fall into different categories: raw ingredients (such as raw meat), rendered ingredients (which have been cooked to kill bacteria), vitamins and minerals, and chemical additives.
Potential Link of Dilated Cardiomyopathy to Pet Food
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently investigating a potential link between the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and packaged dog food.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that causes the heart chambers to expand. The heart struggles to pump blood around the body, which results in decreased energy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse.
DCM is a common problem in Golden Retrievers, as they often have a taurine deficiency.
560 cases of DCM have been reported between January 1st, 2014, and April 30th, 2019. Of the 560 dogs that developed DCM, 119 died, and 5 of 14 cats died.
A spreadsheet lists all reports of DCM cases and the related pet food brands:
- Acana: 65
- Zignature: 64
- Taste of the Wild: 53
- 4Health: 32
- Eastborn Holistic: 32
- Blue Buffalo: 31
The FDA Centre for Veterinary Medicine is still working with the Veterinary Laboratory Investigations and Response Network to identify the cause.
The FDA has not confirmed the link, but an investigation of the potential relationship to pet food containing legumes, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and potatoes is ongoing.
There may not be a cause for alarm. The ratio of cases to dogs is minimal as there were 560 cases reported from 77 million dogs, that’s one in 137,000 cases.
Pet food safety standards are in place to ensure that packaged pet foods don’t trigger skin diseases or allergies in pets.
7 Largest Cat and Dog Food Manufacturers in the US
The pet food market is dominated by 7 companies globally and in the US. Below they are listed in ascending order:
- Mars PetCare Inc $18 billion revenue
- Nestle Purina PetCare $13 billion
- J.M. Smucker $3 billion
- Hill’s Pet Nutrition $2.3 billion
- Diamond Pet Foods $15 billion
- General Mills (Blue Buffalo) $1.3 billion
- Spectrum Brands/United Pet Group $8 million
Mars PetCare Inc
According to petfoodindustry.com, the biggest pet food manufacturer globally and in the US is Mars PetCare Inc, with a revenue of $18 billion. Mars PetCare has its own research institute called Waltham PetCare Science Institute, which is dedicated to improving pet health through nutrition.
According to the science institute, chronic kidney disease is the number one cause of death for cats over 5. Other leading causes of death include obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and osteoarthritis. It is believed that diet can either prevent or cause these conditions.
Mars PetCare produces 50 well-known pet food brands such as:
- Royal Canin
- Greenies Dental Treats
- My Dog
The second biggest cat and dog food manufacturer in the US are Nestle Purina PetCare, whose revenue is $13 billion. In 2019, Nestle Purina reported sales of $10 billion of pet food globally.
The recent boom in Nestle’s performance has been due to the rising popularity of its Purina Pro Plan and Purina One products. The 28 pet food brands made by Nestle Purina include;
- Beyond Busy
- Cat Chow
- Chef Michael’s Canin Collection
The third biggest pet food manufacturer with annual revenue of $2.9 billion. However, J.M. Schmucker was in the press in December 2019, when it voluntarily recalled its wet tinned cat food called Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner Plate. Some cat owners reported their cat vomiting or getting diarrhea, seizures, or difficulty walking after consuming the product.
The company has reassured its customers that the tins of food concerned were manufactured on a single day.
Other brands manufactured by J.M. Schmucker include:
- Miaow Mix
- Rachael Ray Nutrish
- Nature’s Recipe
- Natural Balance
The key players in US pet food manufacture maintain their market dominance by closely monitoring customer behavior to keep up with changing trends.
After Amazon and Chewy started selling pet food online, there has been a considerable market shift towards e-commerce. Online sales of pet food and pet products have soared 256% since 2015.
Smaller pet food manufacturers may find themselves at a disadvantage if they aren’t already embracing e-commerce.
Ultimately, there are no signs that this market is slowing down, especially in e-commerce terms.