2020 Cost of Dog Food Study

Dog food prices

Is there much to say about the price of dog food? Back a few decades ago, the answer would be no. Dog food was dominated by just a handful of massive brands that used shoddy ingredients and cared little for nutritional value which resulted in cheap, generic dog food.

Fast forward to today, and pet owners have been demanding healthier food for their dogs. As a result there are a wide variety of different brands and formulas on the market.

So what can we learn by looking at the price of dog food?

  • We can see which brands are targeting which segments of the market.
  • We can see how wide the gulf is between the brands focusing on the high-end versus the low-end.
  • We can also see if a brand sticks to one price point or spreads out to go after more of the market.

Comparing Costs of Top-Selling Brands

The cost of dog food varies extensively across brands. Below are the most popular dog food brands sold online and what the average cost is per pound of their dry kibble across all formulas.

Note: All data uses “full size bags” (20 lbs or heavier), since small bags of dog food can greatly skew the price-per-lb.

Which dog food brand is best for your pup?

You can see which brands are really competing against each other as the market is segmented into 3 different price ranges.

  1. Cheap dog food ($1.50 per lb or less)
  2. Mid-range dog food ($1.51 to $2.00 per lb)
  3. Expensive dog food ($2.00+ per lb)

Expensive brands like Zignature and Merrick target pet owners that want limited ingredients or alternative protein sources to chicken and beef with most of their formulas.

While the overall averages of the brands’ prices tell a lot about their strategy and positioning in the market, it can also be interesting to look at how much variation there is in their pricing.

From this chart we can see a few brands like Iams and Taste of the Wild really concentrate at one price point. Other companies like Instinct, Blue Buffalo, and American Journey have clusters across multiple price points, suggesting the company is aiming for larger market share.

Finally, here’s a look at the 5 most expensive and 5 cheapest dog foods we looked at from any brand.

Many of the most expensive dog foods advertise “grain-free”, novel protein sources, and veterinary diet formulas which are for dogs with certain dietary sensitivities.

Trends in Dog Food Prices

One year ago we did some similar dog food analysis, and now we can compare some of the data on dog foods! Here are 5 trends we’ve spotted since last year.

  • More dog food formulas enter the online market. There were roughly 200 more dog foods for sale this year versus one year ago.
  • The average price for a bag of dog food dropped by $2…
  • But the average price per lb has gone up from $2.19 to $2.22. This points to more manufacturers choosing smaller bag sizes at lower overall prices, but a slightly higher price per lb.
  • Grain-free increases in popularity. 44% of dog foods are labeled as grain-free.
  • Grain-free dog food is 42% more expensive than “with grain” dog food. On average, dog foods labeled as grain-free cost $2.48 per lb compared to $1.75 for other dog foods.

In light of the recent studies possibly linking grain-free diets to serious heart issues, it will be interesting to see how the higher end of the market responds with their formulas and advertising.

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