Packaged Facts estimates total U.S. retail sales of pet supplements and nutraceutical treats at $1.3 billion in 2012. Sales growth stalled in 2010 as the recession took hold and held on, a slow-down attributable almost entirely to a downturn on the equine supplements side. Nonetheless, the environment is increasingly competitive across the pet nutrition market, particularly with the growing sophistication of specialty nutrition and condition-specific pet food formulas.
With hundreds of products fighting for limited shelf space, selling pet supplements means educating consumers and retailers about their benefits and differences, with veterinarians remaining the toughest customers of all. Clinical testing, proprietary formulas, the NASC (National Animal Supplement Council) seal of approval, novel ingredients, natural ingredients, retail merchandising, and social media programs are all parts of the competitive equation. Now more than ever, the sale of one pet supplement or nutraceutical treat comes at the expense of another.
Throughout the recession and its aftermath of economic doldrums, sales of dog and cat treats remained strong, so it is not surprising that pet supplements increasingly resemble treats. Traditional forms still abound, including tablets and pills. But palatability concerns and the human/pet bonding and fun factor of supplements in treat form has led to an explosion of functional biscuits and “soft chews.” Also gaining ground are alternative delivery formats including gels and pastes, as well as gravies and powders designed to be added to pet food. As a result, the boundary between supplements and foods continues to blur, and the number of pet owners regularly providing their pets with specialty nutrition products keeps rising.
An August 2012 Packaged Facts consumer survey shows that 43% of dog owners and 36% of cat owners purchase some type of specialty nutritional formula pet food or supplemental nutritional products for their pets. “As in human nutritional products market,” says David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts, “aging is the core market driver, as more pets suffer from age-related conditions such as joint deterioration and cognitive dysfunction.” Also taking a page from human supplements are popular ingredients including glucosamine, omega fatty acids and probiotics, along with trendier ingredients such as bee pollen, green tea and elk velvet antler.