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Cat litter
20th February 2013

by Sandra Pearce

A monthly snapshot and analysis of a different sector within the UK pet industry




The cat litter market in the UK is thought to be worth up to £120 million, says Claire Sullivan, Bob Martin UK marketing manager, with the grocery channel having the lion’s share and accounting for £78 million (The Nielsen Company, Nielsen Scantrack, MAT to 21.7.12); other estimates put the grocery figure closer to £86 million. UK cat litter manufacturers estimate total yearly tonnage to be in the region of 220-260,000 tonnes.

The own-label market share is estimated to be about 55%, principally through the grocery channel (private label in grocery represents 53% of retail value, Nielsen, MAT 08.12.12).

In grocery, the most popular brand is Catsan (Mars Petcare) and own-label lightweight mineral litters. Non-clumping litters outperform clumping, and wood-based and mineral litters have the largest market value share.

Amy Hepworth, Beaphar marketing manager, said: “Mineral remains the biggest seller by volume and number of packets, largely driven by price. Wood-based seems to have an enduring appeal with its fresh scent, eco appeal, and the relative lightness compared with mineral. The adoption of FSC-certification shows commendable environmental commitment.”

In terms of innovation, attention seems to focus on odour control (including perfumed products), absorbency, and using eco-friendly, biodegradable material including paper, wood, straw or corn, though these latter offerings represent a small fraction of the market.

Amy reiterates: “Recent newcomers into the market like antibacterial, straw or aloe vera appear to have had little impact, though paper has increased in market share. This makes great sense from an eco point of view with the abundance of pulp.”

Sales and growth are therefore polarised between premium odour control and value-for-money economy litters, says Claire. “Value is skewed towards odour control while volume is dominated by economy. Both are showing double-digit value growth, and environmentally-friendlier materials are also keeping this growth pace.

“Economy litters are made from a variety of materials and we suspect, purchased on price rather than material, while at the more expensive end, shoppers are willing to pay a premium for performance features. In addition to human preferences, cats also have a say and owners will be guided by what their pet will accept!”

Brand new product Felight looks poised to carve a chunk of the litter market for itself – Bob Martin launched it into Tesco last November, followed by other multiple retailers in January. Felight is unique in that it is made from UK quarry waste, making it more sustainable. Developed in conjunction with the Imperial College London, the granular non-clumping litter contains a small amount of absorbent polymer, which is used in nappies to soak up waste and trap odours. The team believes the technology they have created can be further used in in de-icing grits for roads and soil supplements.