MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills is working to build a strong competitor in the natural pet food and dog treat category, reporting positive retail sales for existing products and newer additions so far in its fiscal year 2022.

Bethany Quam, group president of General Mills’ pet segment, shared these updates in the company’s presentation during the virtual Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference on Sept. 8.

Household penetration for the Blue Buffalo brand is sitting above 15%, buying rate is growing and omnichannel market share growth continues following its entrance into the Food, Drug and Mass (FDM) channel when it was acquired by General Mills in 2018.

“Thus far in fiscal ‘22, Blue Buffalo's Nielsen-measured retail sales have increased at a double-digit rate,” Quam said. “And I should mention that our newly acquired dog treat brands are doing really well also with first quarter retail sales nearly up 20%.”

General Mills’ pet segment now consists of both Blue Buffalo and Tyson Foods’ former pet treat business, which it acquired in summer 2021.

The company has been working to accelerate its pet segment over the last six months through several initiatives – one of them being expanding its share of the lucrative market for dog treats.

Tyson’s pet treat brands — Nudges, True Chews and Top Chews — complement Blue Buffalo’s dog treat offerings, which are primarily baked biscuits. With the addition of jerky and meat-first formats, as well as a harmonious retail channel network and cross-selling opportunities, Quam stated General Mills’ pet segment is “now the No. 1 natural player in the dog treat segment.”

“We are very bullish about the growth opportunities ahead for Blue Buffalo and our expanded pet food business,” she said.

To increase consumer engagement, General Mills has continued to invest in its in-store Pet Detective program and recently launched a mobile application, Buddies, to “scale one-to-one relationships with pet parents,” Quam said.

To contribute to Blue Buffalo’s brand strategy of “relentless innovation,” the company launched a new wet cat food line, Tastefuls, in March.

“Our bold move to replace our previous Healthy Gourmet product line has paid off with Tastefuls already turning at a 40% higher rate than the products it replaced and our growth rate in cat wet doubling to more than 25%,” she said. “And we see tremendous opportunities for growth still ahead.”

One hitch that is affecting other General Mills business segments is input cost pressures. The company has reevaluated its pricing across the pet segment to mitigate this challenge.

“We are competing well and fighting through it and working to improve our service levels and continuing to make sure that we get our food out there for the pets that need them,” Quam said.

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