Evolution of the UK Pet Food Market: A 20-Year Overview


The UK pet food market has undergone significant transformations over the past two decades, reflecting changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and a growing awareness of pet nutrition. In this article, we will explore the developments in packaging design, pack formats, materials, and the emergence of private labels and supermarkets’ own brand ranges. Additionally, we will touch upon the market value and the prevalence of dogs and cats as pets in the UK while also delving into the variety of pet food options available, including tinned, pouch, fresh, and subscription services.

Market Overview:
The UK pet food market has experienced remarkable growth, driven by the increasing number of households with pets. According to recent statistics, approximately 12 million households in the UK own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choices. This rising pet ownership has propelled the pet food market to a value exceeding £3 billion, reflecting the growing significance of pet nutrition in the lives of British families.

Packaging Design and Materials:
Packaging design in the pet food industry has evolved to meet functional requirements and attract the attention of discerning pet owners. Over the last two decades, a notable shift has been towards more vibrant, informative, and sustainable packaging. Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on designs that communicate vital nutritional information, ingredient transparency, and the overall health benefits of their products.
Materials used in packaging have also witnessed a transformation, with a growing emphasis on eco-friendly options. Recyclable and biodegradable materials are becoming more prevalent, aligning with the broader societal push towards sustainability. Brands are making conscious efforts to reduce their environmental footprint by adopting packaging materials that are both practical and environmentally responsible.

Pack Formats:
The pet food market has diversified its pack formats to cater to varying consumer needs and preferences. Traditional formats like tinned food, which have been a staple for decades, remain popular. Tinned food offers convenience and a longer shelf life, making it a reliable choice for many pet owners.
Pouch packaging has gained momentum in recent years, offering a lightweight and portable alternative to tins. Pouches are convenient for pet owners on the go and are available in single-serve or multi-serve options, ensuring freshness and portion control.
Fresh food options have grown in popularity, with many pet owners opting for refrigerated or frozen meals. This trend aligns with the broader consumer shift towards fresh, high-quality ingredients and focuses on providing pets with nutrition that resembles homemade meals.

Private Label vs. Supermarket Own Brand Ranges:
The pet food market has witnessed the emergence of private labels and supermarkets’ own-brand ranges, offering consumers more choices at various price points. Private label products, often produced by specialist manufacturers on behalf of retailers, provide an affordable alternative to well-known brands. These products frequently compete in terms of quality and nutritional value, challenging the dominance of established brands.
Supermarket own brand ranges have also gained prominence, leveraging the trust consumers place in these retail giants. The advantage lies in the ability of supermarkets to offer competitive pricing while maintaining quality standards. The competition between private label and supermarket own-brand ranges has led to a more diverse and accessible pet food market for consumers.

Subscription Services:
In recent years, subscription services have become a notable trend in the pet food market. Pet owners can subscribe to regular deliveries of their preferred pet food directly to their doorstep. This model offers convenience and cost savings and ensures that pets never run out of their essential nutrition. Subscription services also allow pet owners to customise their orders based on their pet’s dietary requirements, making it a personalised and hassle-free option.

The evolution of the UK pet food market over the last 20 years reflects a dynamic industry that continually adapts to changing consumer preferences, sustainability concerns, and technological advancements. The market’s value, packaging design, pack formats, and the rise of private labels and supermarkets’ own-brand ranges all contribute to the diversity and accessibility of pet food choices for UK consumers. As the market continues to evolve, it will be fascinating to observe how innovation and consumer demand shape the future of pet nutrition in the United Kingdom.

Wow Me Design is the Cheltenham-based brand development agency creating brands people want. We would love you to get in touch at

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