ORVILLE, Ohio — The J.M. Smucker Company released its third quarter earnings for the 2019 fiscal year, reporting an overall increase in net sales, including a significant increase in net sales for its pet segment, year-over-year. The company saw a 6% increase in overall net sales to total $2.012 billion. Its pet food segment accounted for nearly 38% of the company’s overall net sales in the third quarter, representing a 35% increase year-over-year to $759 million. Smucker’s also assured it is on track to meet its full-year guidance.

Mark Smucker, president and CEO of Smucker’s, said, “Multiple brands in our pet business achieved double digit sales growth including Rachael Ray Nutrish, Meow Mix, Kibbles 'n Bits and Nature's Recipe.” The company’s top premium brands, Nutrish and Nature’s Recipe, grew 23% and 11%, respectively, from the third quarter of last year, added Smucker.

Smucker also reported the company had successfully implemented a price increase across its pet segment portfolio during the third quarter.

“Our long-term organic growth projection for the overall pet business remains unchanged in part due to the anticipated growth related to Rachael Ray Nutrish and innovation across the portfolio,” added Mark Belgya, vice chair and chief financial officer of Smucker’s. However, discontinuation of a Gravy Train plant manufacturing wet dog food and other private label offerings negatively impacted sales within the segment by $19 million. Belgya added, “Gains in Meow Mix and Kibbles 'n Bits were partially offset by declines for Natural Balance in Milo's kitchen. The decline in Natural Balance reflect ongoing softness in the pet specialty channel, which is not being offset by growth in e-commerce.”

Natural Balance, Smucker’s super premium pet food brand sold in the pet specialty channel, achieved underwhelming sales numbers last quarter. David Lemmon, president of pet food and snacks for the company, said he is “not happy with the performance on Natural Balance,” but indicated a strategy to lift the brand in the pet specialty retail space through marketing and e-commerce efforts and a focus on limited ingredient diet and ultra-premium offerings. Natural Balance currently accounts for 10% of sales for the company’s pet business.

Innovations are on the horizon for Smucker’s pet segment in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, according to Lemmon, “primarily focused around our snacks line with Milk-Bone being sort of the anchor of that effort.” Lemmon went on to say the company expects innovations across the gamut of its pet segment, from value to premium and super premium brands. Nutrish is expected to be a focal point for innovation, as it is expected to drive significant sales growth over the next year. “We're giving a lot more innovation support to Nutrish moving forward in cat, wet cat, wet dog, dog and treats,” he added.

On Feb. 20, The J.M. Smucker Company presented at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) Conference, where executives reiterated support for its pet segment as a leading category for the company.

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