Canadian Pet Food Industry Analysis

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Pet Food Purchase Factors

Dog and cat owners in Canada are mainly influenced by the quality of the food and its ethical sourcing. A large proportion of pet owners in Canada also consider whether to give meat-free food to their pets. Canadian pet owners show a very high concern for the diet of their dogs and cats.

Pet Food Quality

Ethically-sourced products

Meat-Free Pet Food

  • Some dog owners who are vegan or vegetarians start feeding their pets with meat-free food.
  • Research from the University of Guelph found that 35% of the owners surveyed would switch their pets to a vegan diet if the food met their nutritional needs and was affordable.
  • Petsmart, a Canadian pet food retailer, saw the sales of its top vegan dog food brand grow by more than double-digits in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • However, it is not recommended to feed cats meat-free food, and some pet owners who own dogs and cats only feed their dogs vegan products.

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Pet Food Packaging in Canada

Pet food packaging in Canada tends to follow international and US trends; however, these trends may be exacerbated or mollified in the national market. This research will examine and compare eight leading pet food brands to demonstrate these trends.

Sample Selection

  • The main leaders in Canadian dog food distribution are Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. and Mars Canada Inc. Nestlé's leading dog food brand in Canada, as well as worldwide, is their Purina line, while Mars leads with Iams but also showcases a variety of brands under their petcare line.
  • However, industry aficionados and discerning consumers frequently prefer local brands. Two brands, Orijen and Carna4, were selected for this research due to their significant standing in industry and consumer communities, namely the Canadian Pet Connection and Feline Living.
  • Finally, eight products were chosen for cross-analysis: A generic cat food and dog food sample from each of these leading brands.

Packaging Trends

  • All samples center the use of natural ingredients. Purina and Iams state that "#1 ingredient is real meat" (usually specified to the food in question: real chicken, real beef, so on) on virtually all their dog and cat food products. Orijen packaging states it is "made with fresh regional ingredients delivered daily: free-run chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish and nest-laid eggs." Carna4 places the phrase "synthetic-free" above its own brand name.
  • In general market samples, cat food products tend to have closer frames than dog food products. Compare both Iams cat food, and Iams dog food; also see a far more extreme example comparing Purina ONE Smartblend with ProPlan. General market samples appear to act on the assumption that cats should share a larger amount of packaging real estate: the pet head shot dominates packaging on Purina's ProPlan, and Iams furnishes their cat not only with an action pose, but a full natural background (even if under brand color translucency). Niche market samples did not share this correlation.
  • The general market, dominated by powerful name brands such as Purina, Iams, Alpo, and so on, trends towards familiar ground; photographs of pets are often dominant on the packaging along with carefully manicured pictures of natural-looking food. Meanwhile, niche markets have highly varied packaging. Orijen, for example, only contains a small silhouette of a canine or feline figure on the top left of the bag while a black-and-white natural landscape dominates the package marketing, while Carna4 uses handmade, commissioned artwork.

Notable Deviation

  • Carna4, the Canadian Dog Connection's #1 Dog Food, is distinct from other packaging in multiple notable ways. Despite the ornate artwork being the centerpiece of the packaging, the rest of the marketing side is fairly sparse. (Compare to Orijen or Iams packaging, which contains a considerable number of percentages.) The food is described, ingredients listed, and a few reasons to buy the product scattered in fairly unassuming positions (except, of course, for the dominant "Synthetic-free"): "Convenient alternative to raw, Made in Canada," and so on.

Mandated Information and Industry Guidelines

Research Strategy

To populate a list of representative samples, we required examples of dog and cat pet food products distributed in Canada which were representative of broader market trends. Generally, market trends begin in niche markets and may overtime move to the general market. This trend is known as "The Adoption Curve." First, Canadian brand leaders using an abstract from Euromonitor were identified. Secondly, Brands of dog food chosen by an article published by a leading online pet supply distributor with a similar article which recommends cat food to general markets rather than Canadian markets specifically.

Based on this cross-reference, 4 brands were selected: Purina, Iams, Orijen, and Carna4. Purina and Iams were chosen due to their market presence, and Orjien and Carna4 were chosen based on industry recommendation. Sample choices consider both general and niche market trends.

From these brands, eight products were selected: Purina ONE SmartBlend Chicken & Rice Adult Formula Dry Dog Food, Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Indoor Care Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food, IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™ ADULT LARGE BREED Dog Food, IAMS™ PROACTIVE HEALTH™ HIGH PROTEIN Cat Food, CARNA4 Hand Crafted Dog Food, CARNA4 Hand Crafted Cat Food, ORIJEN Original Dry Dog Food, and ORIJEN Original Dry Cat Food.

These samples are categorized based on two binary factors: the first four General Market and the last four are, Niche market and they alternate as Dog Food or Cat Food offerings. Each product was chosen either as a generic representative of the brand line or to examine a market trend further, such as the Iams cat food product.
Articles detailing trends relevant to the Canadian market specifically were behind paywalls, though some had useful abstracts. A free American article was cross-referenced with Canadian abstracts. We also investigated the regulatory landscape starting from PFAC website.


All pet food packaging samples trended towards advertising natural ingredients and health benefits. All contained depictions of the animal they were for, but these depictions tended to be large and photographic within the general market and small and artistic or abstract for niche choices. Successful packaging is simple except for a single noticeable feature, unassuming, and doesn't make the customer do any math.

From Part 01
  • "HUMANISATION TREND ALSO DRIVES PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, WITH QUALITY AND NATURAL INGREDIENTS KEY Many Canadian households consider their pet dogs as members of the family. The humanisation trend determines the types of food that owners give to their dogs."
  • "Even as costs rise with the popularity of high-quality food and treats, that doesn’t lessen the desire to purchase clothing, gifts and even tech for pets."
  • "Increased humanization of pets in Canada and the growth of premium brands have fueled pet food sales in 2017, according to two Euromonitor International reports on cat food and dog food in Canada."
  • "The raw pet food market is emerging, and it’s our goal to be a leader in these important initiatives."
  • "The number of pet owners who avoid animal products, either in their own or in their pets’ diet, is not currently known. The objective of this study was to estimate the number of meat-avoiding pet owners, identify concerns regarding conventional animal- and plant-based pet food, and estimate the number of pets fed a plant-based diet. "
  • "In total, 51% (1,659/3,231) of survey respondents reported at least one concern regarding meat-based pet foods, resulting in a total of 5,115 concerns reported regarding meat-based pet foods."
  • "The findings of this study suggest that more pet owners are interested in feeding a plant-based diet than currently do so, especially those avoiding meat in their own diet. "
From Part 02
  • "The labelling and advertising of pet food is regulated by the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Competition Act, administered by Industry Canada. PFAC members fully comply with these Acts and with the Guidelines for the Advertising and Labelling of Pet Food, which is a voluntary guide developed to ensure consistency and accuracy on pet food labels. The Guidelines also help to ensure that Canadian consumers clearly understand the contents of each package of pet food. They were developed by a working group including Canadian pet food manufacturers and importers, representatives from the Competition Bureau and the Government of Canada, as well as consumers. "
  • "The Guidelines, an accepted standard in the pet food industry, recommend pet food labels should contain at least the following information in addition to the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act items. "
  • "NESTLÉ AND MARS CONTINUE TO LEAD, DESPITE SPECIALIST BRANDS’ FOCUS ON SUPER-PREMIUM, THERAPEUTIC AND NICHE DEMAND Nestlé Purina PetCare Co and Mars Canada Inc remain the leading players in dog food with their well-known branded products, presence in both wet and dry dog food and widespread distribution through both mass and specialist retailers. Nestlé continues to focus on the Purina family (Purina Dog Chow, Purina ONE, Purina Beneful, Purina Alpo, Purina Pro Plan and Purina Beggin’), key products in mid-priced and premium dog food, whilst Mars’ strength continues to lie in Iam, Eukanuba, Pedigree and Cesar, again leading products within mid-priced and premium dog food. "
  • "SHIFTS IN DISTRIBUTION OBSERVED AS MORE OWNERS SEEK OUT THE CONVENIENCE AND DISCOUNTS OFFERED BY INTERNET RETAILING Modern grocery retailers still lead dog food as they offer owners a chance to buy food for their pets alongside their regular weekly shop. Pet superstores also remain key as owners appreciate the low prices and opportunity to interact with trained sales staff. "
  • "US DOG FOOD MANUFACTURERS RETAIN THEIR POSITION ALTHOUGH CANADIAN MANUFACTURERS ARE FINDING INCREASING FAVOUR AMONGST DOG OWNERS US dog food brands still account for the majority of sales. However, Canadian manufacturers’ increasing focus on natural and organic product offerings continues to gain them dog food sales. "
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