U.S. private label pet food sales: Small yet skyrocketing.

Discover the rapid growth of U.S. private label pet food sales. Though still a small market segment, it's experiencing an impressive surge.


3/2/20242 min read

By 2023, the U.S. experienced a huge increase in sales of private-label pet food, increasing by 25.6% year on year. This reflects a bullish outlook for the sector, especially when considering that the $1.7 billion sales figure represents only a small fraction of the massive $51 billion U.S. dog and cat food market. This data comes from the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) in partnership with Circean Unify. The growth raises questions about the sustainability of this trend, especially given the anticipated continued rise in pet food prices.

Private-label pet food sales

The popularity of private-label pet food has surged for valid reasons. Packaged Facts reported that, by the end of 2022, private-label dry dog food reached a 10.1% usage rate, surpassing major national brands like Blue Buffalo and Purina Pro Plan. This steady increase from a 9% rate in 2017 indicates a shift in consumer preferences, possibly driven by the belief that store brands offer comparable quality to well-established name brands. A significant majority of U.S. pet owners surveyed affirmed this perspective, viewing generic brands as equally effective as branded ones.

In certain segments, private-label pet food has gained a larger market share due to these dynamics. For instance, in early 2023, private-label cat food and treats made up more than 7% of category sales, indicating strong consumer trust and acceptance. These figures, reported by Cascadia Capital, emphasize the growing popularity of private-label options among pet owners.

However, the narrative is slightly different for private-label pet supplies, which saw a peak sales of $2.2 billion but experienced a slight decline, suggesting a complex consumer relationship with these products.

NielsenIQ data corroborates the rise of private-label pet food, showing it outpacing the overall market and various branded segments. This trend is not exclusive to the U.S.; Europe's pet food market has an even stronger private label presence, with some countries significantly outdoing U.S. market shares.

The European context offers a broader view, indicating that private labels have become deeply entrenched in the market, likely for reasons similar to those in the U.S., such as inflation and the pursuit of value without sacrificing quality. European pet owners, like their American counterparts, are increasingly opting for private labels, encouraged by the industry's focus on innovation and quality enhancement that sometimes exceeds that of branded products.

The pivot towards private-label pet food also reflects industry innovation, with private labels introducing new products and features that align with or surpass current trends. This dynamism not only benefits consumers but also propels private label manufacturers toward expansion through acquisitions and increased demand for their trusted and preferred products.

In summary, the rise of private-label pet food in the U.S. underscores changing consumer perceptions and market dynamics, shaped by economic factors and a growing recognition of the product's quality and value. As the market evolves, it will be fascinating to watch how private labels further carve out their niche, potentially transforming the pet food market landscape in the U.S. and globally.

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