American dogs and cats eat more than $1.7 billion a year in grain-free food, a market research company reported this week.
Sales of grain-free pet food have jumped by 28% over the past year, according to The GfK Group, a German-based company that tracks business at more than 11,000 U.S. pet stores.
“We see the growth of grain-free foods — and natural pet products generally — as part of a larger trend toward humanization of pets,” said Maria Lange, a GfK senior product manager. “Consumers are clearly comfortable splurging on pets they see as valued family members, not just everyday animals.
“We see brands like Blue Wilderness, Natural Balance and Taste of the Wild leading the way,” Lange added, “and we expect other outgrowths of the natural trend to emerge in the coming months.”
Over a 12-month period ending in September 2013, sales of grain-free items for dogs totaled $1.4 billion, more than four times the $322 million sum for cat products, GfK reported.
All together, grain-free selections make up a fraction of the $21 billion-a-year U.S. pet food market.
GfK noted that manufacturer and retailer interest in the sector is growing, with 3,500 products found on store shelves, a 33% increase in one year. About 2,300 of those products are formulated for dogs and 1,200 for cats.
Pet owners pay about 45% more for grain-free products, GfK added.
“Grain-free and high protein diets are said to be more natural for dogs and cats, giving them more energy and healthier coats and cutting back on allergic reactions,” GfK stated. “The grain-free category is an outgrowth of a larger trend toward natural pet products, ranging from cat litter to flea and tick products.”