Natural Foods Merchandiser
Willow the authors papillon poses for Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine

Natural and organic pet food poised for growth

Pet owners are increasingly interested in feeding their pets as well as they feed themselves—and that means natural and organic.

The same concepts driving the natural and organic human food market—grain free, locally made, vegetarian—are showing up in pet food. No surprise here: As owners increasingly humanize their pets and connect the way they feed themselves with the way they feed their companions, the natural and organic pet food category is poised for growth.

Market research firm Mintel expects sales in this category to continue mounting at a steady pace, reaching $20.8 billion by 2016, a 15 percent increase over 2011’s estimated $18.1 billion market. While cat food sales grew modestly to $6.8 billion in 2011, the dog food market—the category’s largest segment—jumped 20 percent from 2006 to 2011, to $10.6 billion.

When choosing chow for their dog or cat, 75 percent of pet owners cite price and value as their top deciding factors, slightly ahead of nutritional value and flavor/taste appeal, Mintel reports.

Just like what’s happening in the human food market, natural and organic pet food brands are facing competition from big conventional companies capitalizing on the natural demand. Nestlé’s Purina, Mars’ Pedigree and Del Monte Foods all now market natural products that are sold at  major retailers such as PetSmart and Petco.

As these stores bridge the gap between premium and mass pet food with competitive prices, and more consumers flock to natural and specialty pet shops seeking ways to extend the vitality of their four-legged friends, natural and organic pet food may soon be the new norm.

See our picks for 5 functional—and natural—dog treats

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