Pet Gifts: The gift that keeps on giving to pets and brands

During a pandemic, when pet owners (existing and new) closed with their furry family members, they’ve rewarded the comfort and companionship with plenty of pet treats—nearly $10 billion in 2021 in the United States alone, according to Packaged Facts.

However, treats have been a growth story since before the pandemic, helping to boost the overall pet food market for several years. This is especially true with cat treats, which have surpassed dog treats in sales every year since 2016, David Sprinkle, research director and publisher of Packaged Facts, writes in Pets International.

Lucky pets get a lot of rewards

On top of a years-long history of growth, the pandemic has accelerated U.S. pet treat sales to double-digit increases for two consecutive years: a staggering 20% ​​in 2020 and another 15% in 2021. While this level of growth is likely not to be the case, the facts remain. Bottled and Sustainable projects a compound annual growth rate of 12% through 2025, reaching estimated sales of US$15 billion that year.

To dig deeper into the ever-increasing sales, consider that in 2019, treat sales per American dog averaged $68; That increased to $82 in 2020 and $95 in 2021. For cat treats, the amounts were $23, $30, and $35 per cat, respectively, according to the Packaged Facts data.

This means that a lot of pets get a lot of treats during the pandemic. Accordingly, indulgent foods had the largest market share, at 36%, followed by rawhide and long-acting dog chews at 32% (perhaps to keep them occupied while their owners are having Zoom meetings and/or helping their kids with online education?).

However, the continued focus on pet health and wellness, which has also accelerated during the pandemic, has translated into functional treatments taking 17% of the market share, with dental treatments close at 15%, according to Packaged Facts.

Cats are dealing with increased use everywhere

While dog treats still account for 80% of the pet treat market in the United States, as noted before, cat treats have been gaining share for several years. In fact, since Packaged Facts began tracking use of treats and other types of pet food in 2006, the use of cat treats in the United States has increased from 39% and then to 60.4% in 2020-2021. This contrasts with dog treats and biscuits, which started out much higher (75.5% use in 2006-2007) but remained relatively flat (77% use in 2020-2021).

And it’s not just cats in the United States that are increasingly enjoying treats. A poll of 1,776 cat owners in Canada, France and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, conducted by Pets International and online pet community Yummypets, found that only 17% never give their cats a drink. Conversely, 36% treat their cats once a day, and 16%, several times a day. Other frequencies surveyed included once a week (22%) and once a month (9%).

French cat owners are just as likely to offer nothing (while they tend to feed their cats for free), as are “elderly owners,” according to Pets International. (Personal side: This American cat owner never gives out treats, but that’s because my picky cat—well, don’t all of them?—won’t eat them.)

Among the cat owners in this survey, the most popular type of cat treat was crunchy food, at 53%, which may align at least partially with the gentle treat category mentioned in the packaged fact statements. Also showing up here are dental treats, which were given by 22% of owners, followed by catnip or cat grass, at 21%.

All of this data helps support that cat treats will continue to be a growth category, as dog treats will likely continue to contribute significant sales as well.

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