Positioning is the process and mindset of finding unique ways of penetrating a competitive market. The key question is “What makes us unique?” in a vastly competitive market. The word unique does not necessarily refer to the product – it is a more holistic term that should be applied to market penetration. Technology has given the world access to more products and substitutes than ever before, creating a high-demand for market positioning that not only solves a problem or fulfills a need/want, but also attracts and holds the attention of the consumer (Riles & Trout, 2000).
The all-natural dog and cat food market has taken off in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people finding solace in isolation by adopting animals. The human to animal psychological bond with these animals has never been higher, considering the relative amount of time spent during quarantine and time at home with the animal. With this escalated bond and accompanied desire for high-quality food products, the market for all-natural pet food has never been stronger. In fact, total pet food market expenditure is anticipated to rise from 100 billion in 2019 to 168 billion in 2029 (Bedford, 2021). The market has seen dramatic shifts in retail channels, with organizations like Amazon now providing either direct or secondary transaction services for pet food.
Analysis of Current Positioning in the Market
Current market competitors with significant position in all-natural pet food include Blue Buffalo, Hill’s, and Nestle Purina. These firms offer various levels in the all-natural sub-category, with Blue Buffalo and Hill’s being predominately focused on this market niche (Blog Author, 2018).
Blue Buffalo is a General Mills brand that focuses almost exclusively on all-natural foods with real meat as the first ingredient. The company also produces limited-ingredient offerings and breed-specific offerings for more esoteric diets. In 2020, Blue Buffalo saw a quarterly surge of revenue of $4002.5M to $5,023M in Q4, a 25% increase. Total General Mills pet food revenue in 2020 was $1,694.6M. This undoubtedly is due to an increase in demand for high-quality pet food as owners have turned to pet relationships during isolation (Naish, 2018).
· The adult, puppy, and senior BLUE Life Protection formulas currently retail at $64.99 for a 30lb. bag, or $2.17 per pound. This is an all-natural product utilizing real meat, vegetables, and fruit.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition also focuses on all-natural dog food, along with prescription dry and wet foods available through veterinarians. Hill’s is commonly viewed as a top-tier offering and in 2020 the company’s revenue grew in Q1 to $719M, up from $600M in Q1 2019, an increase of 19.8%. The total 2020 revenues were $2,525M. This again, is most likely due to owner bonding and desire to provide higher quality foods.
· Hill’s Science Diet retails for $71.99 for a 28.5lb bag, or $2.52 per pound. This is also an all-natural product with real meat; however, it does not appear to contain real vegetables or fruit.
Nestle Purina operates a niche brand of all natural retail food called Purina ONE that appears to aim at a more budget-conscious audience while still providing all-natural offerings. In 2020, Nestle had a whopping $15,422M in pet care revenues.
· Purina ONE natural dog food contains real chicken as the #1 ingredient as well but does appear to contain a higher fat and grain content than competitors. The food retails for $43.99 for a 31.1lb bag, or $1.41 per pound.
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