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Solid pet food set can get consumers into stores, drive sales

BY Michael Johnsen

There is just one secret mass retailers looking to steal pet food share from specialty pet shop operators need to know — and it’s related to one of the biggest consumer trends right now. It’s that more pet owners, who are buying products for their furry critters, are becoming as concerned with what goes into their pet’s body as they are with what’s going into their own bodies.

“People are looking for ‘better-for-you’ foods to eat themselves, and that trend is mirrored in what people want to feed their pets. Natural, grain-free and real meat are all trends driving growth in the super premium pet food category,” Joe Toscano, vice president and director of trade and industry relations at Nestlé Purina, said. “While ingredient lists are more scrutinized than ever, sometimes what’s left out of the food is just as important as what’s in it. For example, no corn, wheat or soy continue to trend positively, along with no artificial colors and fewer unrecognizable ingredients.”

According to Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president of the American Pet Products Association, pet ownership is at an all-time high, with pet-owning households numbering 84.6 million. As a result, he said, demand for products that help care for pets is similarly high. APPA, now in its 60th year, will be hosting its Global Pet Expo 2018 in Orlando, Fla., where more than 3,000 products are set to debut at the Orange County Convention Center from March 21 to 23.

“This $66 billion industry is booming, and we’re seeing a surge in innovation like never before with products that help us care for — and in many cases even pamper — our pets,” Darmohraj said. “From gluten-free dog treats to raw and freeze-dried dog and cat foods, to calming products, CBD oils, interactive feeders and pet monitoring systems with cameras, we are seeing a huge shift in products across the board.”

Mass retailers keen on capitalizing on the pet opportunity also should know that dog and cat owners are willing to trade up for better quality products. “Pet owners are becoming more and more willing to pay premium prices to make sure they’re providing their pets with the best,” Danya Kennedy, managing director of sales planning/customer insights and solutions at Mars Petcare, said. “Retailers can continue to offer pet food options that help consumers give their dogs and cats food they can feel good about. They also can make sure their employees are up to speed on the latest pet food trends and offerings so that they can properly inform customers of the benefits of each food, and help them make the right choice for their pets.

A key demographic that well-informed associates can help is reaching the ubiquitous growth opportunity of millennial shoppers, who Toscano said are now the nation’s largest pet-owning generation in addition to being the largest living generation at 75 million. “Millennials are, on average, getting their first pets by age 21, compared with the typical baby boomer, who waited until age 29,” he said. “This generation will make a big impact on the category, as they decide how to allocate their $3.4 trillion in buying power on their ‘starter children.’”

Outside of food, a ready stream of differentiation may help mass retailers set themselves apart from the homogenized offerings at specialty retailers. “Consumers want variety, something new, in pet care. They’re not just looking for a 50-cent savings here or a $2 savings there,” Terry Hannaford, CEO of Omega Paw, said. “Is the pet destination the place where you have everything, or is it the place you go and find something you’ve never seen before? The best pet destinations are the ones where customers can find something new that addresses a new need or want.”

Toscano similarly emphasized the importance of a solid pet set in enticing customers looking for success in the category — and throughout the store.

“The pet category is huge and growing,” Toscano said. “It is an anchor to center store, as the No. 2 reason consumers leave the house to go to the store, and it’s shopped by 75% of U.S. households. When your pet category is healthy, your store is four times more likely to be healthy. So retailers should be treating the pet category as the ‘Big Dog’ that it is by investing in appropriate space, assortment, price and promotion to ensure it is a destination for their consumers.”

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Chilly Cow hits freezer aisles with light ice cream offerings

BY Gisselle Gaitan

A new brand of ice cream, Chilly Cow, is making its way to the freezer aisle in grocery stores nationwide. The product is crafted for those who are not pleased with the healthy dessert options out there, the Le Mars, Iowa-based company said.

The products will come in seven flavors, which will include brown butter salted caramel, chocolate brownie batter, chocolate chip cookie dough, mint dark chocolate chip, cookies ‘n cream, sweet cream peanut butter and vanilla graham swirl.

“We know that inside every health-conscious person, is a person who still wants that soul-soothing ice cream experience – and the current, chalky-tasting light ice creams out there just aren’t delivering,” Joshua Tubbs, brand manager for Chilly Cow, said. “That’s why Chilly Cow is here to save the world with the first light ice cream that actually tastes like the real thing.”

Chilly Cow is made with ultra-filtered milk, contains 55% fewer calories, 70% less fat and 60% less sugar than regular ice cream, the company said.

The products will come in half-pint portion sizes that do not exceed 190 calories and are sold in packages of two. Four of the flavors — brown butter salted caramel, chocolate brownie batter, mint dark chocolate chip and vanilla graham swirl — will also be sold as ice cream bars that come in boxes of five.

Chilly Cow’s two-pack of half-pint cups and ice cream bars will be sold for the suggested retail price of $5.49. Further product information can be found on the company’s website or social media channels.

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Applegate expands sliced, shredded cheese offerings

BY Gisselle Gaitan

Not long after revamping their line of pepperoni products, Applegate has announced the launch of a new, natural cheese line that will include six sliced offerings and three shredded options.

Applegate Naturals sliced and shredded cheese lines will fall in line with the brand’s mission of Changing the Meat We Eat, by continuing to raise their standards in cheese sourcing and production, the Bridgewater, N.J.-based company said.

“Our mission has been rooted in the idea that food can transform people’s lives – from the farmer who grows it to the person who eats it – and this new cheese line exemplifies that idea,” Nicole Glenn, Applegate vice president of marketing, said. “The uncompromising standards for this new cheese line support a thriving community of farmers, their cows and the land to produce what we like to call clean, crave-able food.”

The new sliced cheese offerings will include, medium cheddar, provolone, American-style Colby, Muenster, pepper jack and mozzarella. The shredded cheese varieties will feature Italian blend, medium cheddar and Mexican blend.

Applegate also announced that its new cheese offerings will be made with transparent, traceable milk pool sourced from pasture-raised cows on independent farms in the Midwest. Cows used for the products are humanely raised, never administered antibiotics or growth hormones, and the cheese has no added colors, no artificial ingredients, and is Non-GMO Project certified, the company said.

The new launches will be available at select retailers such as Hy-Vee, Meijer, Publix and Whole Foods for the suggested retail price of $4.99 per package.

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