Best in Show: Branding Man’s Best Friend

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Americans love their dogs, and spending money on pet products and services is big business. In 2014, pet-related sales reached $73 billion with no signs of slowing down.

The rising market can be attributed to the growth of US households with pets: 45 million households own dogs while 30 million households are cat lovers. The online market also opens doors to product availability and revenue.

With such a big revenue tag for this category—there’s a reason why Smucker just paid $5.8 billion to acquire Del Monte’s Big Heart Pet Brands—are there best-in-show brands?[more]

The landscape of pet products is highly competitive and fragmented due to the diverse number of products in the category. Front-runners, usually backed by major manufacturers, appear in cat litter options and pet healthcare. However a quick walk down the aisles at your local pet chain reveals an abundance of brands.

For example, in the dog toy aisle, Martha Stewart can be found next to Bret Michaels’ line (yeah, that Bret Michaels—lead singer of Poison—hence the tagline “Pets rock”). Both lines are sold exclusively at PetSmart’s brick-and-mortar stores as well as online.

PetSmart noted in a statement that the demand for brand options comes directly from the consumer. “Our pet parents have told us they want unique, high-quality products for their pets that are also fun and reflective of their personalities,” according to Matt McAdam, vice president of merchandising for PetSmart.

The uniqueness of brands continues from there and reflects the growing demand for natural, healthy products by their two-legged owners. Burt’s Bees has a line in the grooming aisle, while GNC Pets boasts the tagline of “Because your pet’s health is as important as your own.”

The lack of major players in this fragmented pet industry means the public has not given its loyalty to any one brand. No leader of the pack also means there is room for innovation, and small enterprises don’t have to bark as loud for market share.

Packaged Facts, a CPG market research firm, notes that brands have to have an “all in mentality” and truly focus on the pet industry to be front-runners. P&G and Novartis have bowed out because they couldn’t give the category the attention it needed to thrive.

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