Mars Petcare’s Chris Rodi on key trends in the pet market

Premiumisation and humanisation are the key trends that independents need to know about in petcare, says Mars Petcare.

Chris Rodi from Mars Petcare

Company CV 

Company Mars Petcare

Marketing director Chris Rodi 

Company profile Mars Petcare is the pet product division of Mars. It covers a number of well-known cat and dog food brands, including Sheba, Pedigree, Cesar and Dreamies. 

Recent news Mars Petcare’s Melton’s petfoods factory, and its pet nutrition and science centre in Waltham, were recently the subject of a Channel 4 documentary called Britain’s Giant Pet Food Factory.

Petcare’s a very vibrant category that independent retailers should be prioritising. It’s worth £2.6bn and has been growing between 2% and 3% over the past few years. Pet food shoppers are very important to basket spend. They’re more valuable to a retailer as they’re spending about £4.50 more than a non-pet-owner, and that adds up to more than £700 per customer over the course of a year. 

It’s a relatively static category, in that the amount of people owning a dog or a cat isn’t changing. That means the growth is going to come from premiumisation. The way pets are viewed in families is changing – they’re seen and treated as family members, which means owners are looking for better-quality pet products. Premiumisation and the humanisation of pets are the key trends retailers need to know.

What can retailers do to drive impulse sales, and get shoppers to trade up to premium products? 

There are three things. Firstly, having a good range of care and treats products is important as 50% of care and treats are bought on impulse. It’s a very expandable category that drives incremental value. It should be situated in second sites in store, such as clip strips and counter-top units, to make sure shoppers are interrupted by your pet treats portfolio. This will help drive sales in the channel.

Second is giving enough space to the sub-categories that are growing in petcare, such as better-quality and natural foods. Shoppers in convenience are topping up on brands they’re buying elsewhere, so it’s important you give fair share to these growth areas. 

Third is a good portfolio of premium products, so not just having cans, but also stocking pouches, for example.

Is discounting the key to strong sales in petcare? 

There is no doubt promotions are important – about 70% volume is sold on deal – but getting the range right is the priority, making sure you stock the products that have the highest rate of sale. Price-marked packs are important as well, as they increase shopper confidence and boost rate of sale by up to 50%. 

Sheba and Pedigree pouches are examples of very-high-performing price-marked products in convenience that are driving sales uplift.

What is Mars Petcare doing to drive distribution in independent stores, and make sure they’re stocking the key lines? 

We try to make sure that the must-stock ranges are in our promotional plans, and are promoted through media activation. We’re also working to educate and engage retailers. We communicate very clearly our top 50 and top 10 lines lifts, and advertise them very clearly to retailers.

Recently we’ve been working with Costcutter on a core range trial. We’ve launched two trials in stores in Northamptonshire to rebuild their fixtures and close their range gaps. The idea is we’ll track the impact the right range and fixtures has on sales. We’re confident this will provide Mars Petcare with case studies to educate retailers on the impact optimisation and the right fixture can have.

What can independents do to stand out from the multiples when it comes to petcare?

The key difference is convenience. It’s catering to the top-up shopper who wants to find what they want quickly. Therefore, it’s critical to have the right range that is easy to shop. This means having the must-stocks, and thinking about fixture layout.

Giving fair space to the growing sub-categories is important as well. Putting the bestsellers in the best location, dedicating the best space to the best rate of sale products, alongside prioritising the premium products and care and treats. 

Eighty-two per cent of shoppers say it’s worth paying extra to get better quality, so it’s also vital retailers cater for this trend. 

More industry profiles: Boost Drinks’ Adrian Hipkiss on how the company plans to make the most of the energy market.


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