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Freshpet Targets Empty Nesters, Smart Dogs

Posted by Barry Silverstein on June 3, 2011 10:30 AM

As the US population ages, the number of empty nesters grows exponentially. And typically, it's the mothers who suffer most as kids leave home. Many of them, it seems, "replace" their children with four-legged ones.

That's one of the reasons the pet industry continues to flourish. According to the American Pet Products Association, the US pet industry accounted for over $48 billion in sales last year. Almost $19 billion was spent by US consumers on pet food alone.

Freshpet wants to take a bite out of the pet food market with a new campaign targeting those empty nesters — in particular, women age 45 to 54 with household incomes of $100,000 and more.

The brand's VP of marketing Kathryn Winstanley tells MarketingDaily, "These are people whose kids are now busy with high school or off at college or in jobs now, and who are now lavishing their affection and attention on their pets, which they basically view as their 'children'."

The company will rely primarily on television ads running on shows that target the demographic, including Good Morning America, Rachael Ray (who has her own brand of pet food, Nutrish), The Today Show, and The View. Ads will also appear on select cable networks, including Animal Planet, Food Network, HGTV, Lifetime, Oxygen, and TNT.

The campaign plays up how dogs instinctively know "what's up" in the household. One ad, for example shows a dog who understands his owner is about to go on a business trip. Dogs also instinctively know what they want for food, says the ad — and that is fresh food, which is what Freshpet makes.

In fact, Freshpet manufactures fresh, refrigerated dog and cat foods, an unusual slice of a product category that is traditionally comprised of dry and canned food. The company even provides retailers with a branded refrigerator that sits in the pet food aisle.

There's an ever-growing market for variations on pet food products. In recent years, old canned stand-bys such as Alpo have spruced up their brands by focusing on the meat content, while new brands such as Red Moon have created custom foods mixed especially for an individual dog's needs.

Freshpet, however, is unique in nationally marketing fresh, refrigerated products. The company's Freshpet Select and Deli Fresh brands are packaged in tubes and tubs. Roasted Meals, a new brand launching in July, will be packaged in resealable pouches. The company also markets Vital, available in pet specialty stores, and Veterinary Nutrition, available only through vets.

While European pet foot brand GranataPet is getting attention with its hybrid Foursquare/outdoor campaign, traditional media — especially television — has proven to be very effective for Freshpet.

The brand tested TV in 2009 and saw a 30% lift in sales. That led to a relatively small national cable campaign in 2010, followed by a substantial investment this year. Winstanley says TV will be the lead medium, but Freshpet will also use print, billboards, online and social media in a supporting role.  

Let's see if those empty nesters with "knowing" dogs will be willing to pony up to feed their "kids" the good stuff.

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