Significant Growth for Grain-Free Foods

While you would have to be living under a rock not to notice that grain-free foods have taken the pet specialty retail channel by storm over the past few years, someone has finally quantified the impact that these healthful diets are having on pet store shelves. Market-research firm GfK reports that grain-free food sales in pet stores totaled $1.7 billion during the 12 months between September 2012 and September 2013—a year-over-year increase of 28 percent.

Not surprisingly, GfK also reports that the number or grain-free pet products on the market increased 33 percent—accounting for approximately one-third of all new pet product introductions—during the same period.

“We see the growth of grain-free foods—and natural pet products generally—as part of a larger trend toward humanization of pets,” said Maria Lange, senior product manager of GfK’s Retail Sales Tracking team. “Consumers are clearly comfortable splurging on pets they see as valued family members, not just everyday animals."

Of course, the growth of the grain-free food segment has been an overwhelmingly positive development for pet specialty stores across the country, as these retailers have proven particularly well-equipped to leverage this trend. But I wonder if there might be a downside to the numbers being reported by GfK.

What I find particularly concerning is the fact that the reported sales growth—while impressive—was outpaced by the rate of new product introductions in this segment of the food category. Could this be a sign that the grain-free trend is reaching a level of maturity and the market is reaching an oversaturation point? If so, pet specialty retailers better start looking for the next big trend that will give them a leg up on the competition.

What do you think? Has the grain-free trend reached its peak, or will it prove to be the gift that keeps on giving for pet stores? Sound off by sending me an email: