Britain has always been a nation of cat lovers, with ownership continuing to increase at pace over the decades due to cats being more suited to living in smaller spaces as a result of increasing urbanisation. However, since March 2020, ownership boomed in the UK as people spent more time at home, with many taking the big decision to welcome a cat into the family as a means of company.
Here at Natures Menu, we’ve noticed shifts in how pet parents choose to feed their cats and kittens. Most noticeably, cat owners have become increasingly more cautious of overfeeding and instead spend more time researching the nutritional needs of their pet. As a result, they then go on to make more considered purchases for premium cat food products that are natural, nutritious and include therapeutic ingredients. Essentially, the pet food industry is being humanised as owners now perceive their own nutritional needs to be equal to that of their pets. This has been reflected in our brand’s cat portfolio, which operates in both the premium food and cat treats space, as sales of our complete and balanced wet products have experienced double digit growth year on year.
Looking at kittens more specifically, this is where we have seen additional growth in the market. This is due to both pet parents’ desire to pamper their new kittens as they grow up, but also due to the sheer volume of people purchasing or adopting a kitten during lockdown. It’s been reported by the PMFA that there’s now approximately an astonishing 12 million cats in the UK and 3.2 million homes took in a pandemic pet. This demonstrates the huge new pool of pet owners who are trying to navigate the pet food market to find the best products that work for both their pet’s needs, but also the owner’s lifestyle. Natures Menu’s sales of treats saw substantial double digit growth year on year, as well as the wider market category increasing in both retail sales and overall volume growth.
However, it’s not just what cat owners are choosing to purchase which has changed, how they prefer to purchase food has changed too. As with many businesses, we’ve seen a substantial shift in consumers opting to now buy online. During March last year, our direct to consumer channels double overnight, and this hasn’t really shown signs of changing despite shops reopening. There will always be a valuable place for the pet food retailer in the market, as consumers crave the in-person shopping experience of handling different products and comparing them side by side, however e-commerce is quickly becoming the go to when pet owners need to repurchase a product that they know and trust.
It’s reassuring to see that consumers are now making more considered choices when it comes to pet food. Those in the industry should take note that owners now have a long list of very valid requirements for the brand they choose to purchase from, in order to ensure they’re giving their cat or kitten the best possible life. The increase in sales for premium food that’s made with natural, authentic ingredients and also provides complete transparency in the sourcing and manufacturing process can be attributed to the rise in ethical consumerism. I, for one, am proud to play my part in the production of such high quality products.