Shur-Gain looking to a healthy 1995

Shur-Gain has prospered from the popularity of pet food specialty stores and private label pet foods over the past eight years and is expecting even more growth in 1995.The pet food and farm feed division of Maple Leaf Foods built its...

Shur-Gain has prospered from the popularity of pet food specialty stores and private label pet foods over the past eight years and is expecting even more growth in 1995.

The pet food and farm feed division of Maple Leaf Foods built its St. Mary’s plant in southwestern Ontario in 1986 to allow it to get into the private label business.

Now, Shur-Gain has just completed a $1-million expansion to the facility to enable it to meet its 1995 projections.

Shur-Gain, the private label supplier to Loblaws and other grocery and specialty chains, has also experienced gains in its branded products.

Dave Hartney, manager, pet food products for Shur-Gain, attributes the company’s success to the fact that it has never been a grocery brand.

Pet and feed stores

Instead, its standard Shur-Gain brand, Canine Plus and Feline Plus super-premium lines, and Lifeline premium products have been distributed through pet food retailers and feed stores.

Hartney says the manufacturers who have invested heavily in their branded grocery business are suffering because they are being pushed out by the grocery chains’ private labels and specialty pet foods chains with private label and special diet foods.

For example, at the end of July, Quaker Oats Company of Canada, which mainly supplied grocery chains with its branded pet food products, closed its Trenton, Ont. manufacturing plant and discontinued a number of brands, including Tender Chunks and Ken-L Ration dog foods, and Puss ‘n Boots cat foods.

The pet food market in Canada is worth about $700 million, with the private label business estimated at $100 million and growing.

Dave Mitchell, general manager of the Pet Food Association of Canada, says because the multinationals, which make up about 80% of the market, do not reveal numbers, market size can only be guessed at.

Mitchell attributes the changing pet food market to trends in the human food market.

He says the growing concern with healthier human foods accounts for the growth in private label and special diet pet foods.

President’s Choice

‘Look at what [Loblaws'] President’s Choice [private label] has done with human food, and they’re doing the same with pet foods,’ Mitchell says.

‘We’re also seeing in the retail side, the grocery stores losing a great deal of the market,’ he says.

‘Taking their place are franchised pet food shops, and each one, such as Pet Value Discount Pet Foods and Global Pet Foods, has its own private label.’

Mitchell says that Canadians per capita buy more products from discount warehouses than Americans and that is why u.s. chains are moving north.

That trend is continuing in the pet food industry.

u.s.-based warehouse retailer Pet Stuff is moving to the Toronto area this fall, with superstores due to open, at a size considerably larger than the 2,000 square feet of a typical specialty pet food franchise outlet.