Innovation in the US litter market

Like all pet product categories, the litter market is not standing still. What is more, while conventional cat litter is the go-to choice for cat owners, the market is developing on many levels.

High brand loyalty

Packaged Facts estimates the US cat litter market at $2.8 billion (€2.5 billion) in 2019. As in many other countries, the litter market in the US is a mature market, with only 2% annual growth. 

There is a slight growth in cat ownership (87% of households as of 2019, up from 84% in 2009). 

Innovation is critical in the cat litter segment.
However, consumers do have high brand loyalty and are not happy when their accustomed brands are discontinued or reformulated. 

Lightweight litter

In 2011, lightweight litter was introduced to the market. This was a success. 25% of cat owners are now using a lightweight product. 

Types of cat litter purchased in the last 12 months, 2019
(percentage of US cat litter purchasers)

Multi-cat34%
Longer-lasting odour control30%
Extra-strength odour control29%
Dust-free28%
Unscented25%
Lightweight25%
Superior clumping formula21%
Natural/eco-friendly15%
Organic11%
Health monitoring10%

Note: Cat litter product positionings are not mutually exclusive.

Source: Packaged Facts, Pet Litter, Clean-Up, and Odor Control: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities (December 2019).

Sustainability

With environmentally-friendly litters, sustainability is the top concern. Many tons of cat litter end up in landfills each year, making natural litters featuring earth-friendly, biodegradable materials – such as corn, wheat, soya bean, walnut or wood – seem like a solid choice from an environmental standpoint. 

Packaged Facts survey data show that while 20% of cat litter purchasers have tried pine, wheat, corn or recycled paper litter at some point, 77% of them have decided to stop using these natural litters. The most prevalent reason is that the cat did not like or would not use the litter. 

Natural litter manufacturers are realising that simply being environmentally friendly is not enough for cat owners, and are experimenting with different ingredients and textures to better appeal to cats and cat owners alike. Washable litter is another eco-friendly alternative now being offered. 

Health

In addition, a newer segment of the litter category involves health monitoring formulations: products that allow owners to monitor their cat’s health by examining changes in the litter box. Packaged Facts survey data show that many cat owners have already turned to functional cat foods as one way to handle health problems, with 43% using food targeting a health condition involving the urinary tract, gastro-intestinal function, kidney and liver support or thyroid. 

Cat litter marketers are responding to these same concerns by releasing products that can help cat owners identify a problem. A related trend is special needs litter designed for cats with allergies or injuries, and for aging pets that can no longer tolerate conventional litter.

Combining smart technologies

From a broader viewpoint, the cat litter category is being reshaped by the same convenience and tech-driven trends playing out across the pet products industry and consumer markets in general. Marketers and retailers are encouraging automatic subscription and smartphone app reordering of cat litter and related consumable supplies. 

Subscriptions – also known as auto-replenishment or autoship programmes – are intended to save shoppers time and money, and help them avoid running out of products such as pet food and cat litter. They are also an increasingly indispensable tool for most major pet retailers. 

A survey of US pet owners shows that ‘products that will save time/make my life easier’ is a top purchase motivator for automated and digital products. This includes automatic and ‘smart’ litter boxes as well as pet monitoring devices, feeders/waterers, toys, training products and pet doors. These often novel pet tech products work in tandem with smartphone or desktop apps that allow pet owners to interact with the products and their marketers and, increasingly, with the pets themselves.

 

For more information about the report: packagedfacts.com/pet-products-services-c124/

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Author

David Sprinkle

Research Director, Packaged Facts