General Mills' Blue Buffalo recently launched a new brand of puppy and kitten food exclusively at Petco.
Dubbed Baby Blue, the brand taps into the pet humanization trend that is driving sales in premium pet care products as consumers increasingly see their pets as family members. The lineup of dry and wet food as well as treats is merchandised on dedicated racks positioned in the main aisle. Headers identifying the adjacent racks as puppy and kitten "nutrition centers" call out the line’s exclusivity while pink and blue shelf strips corresponding to the colors of the product packaging help differentiate between the cat and dog SKUs.
The in-store display is depicted in the partners’ TV spot about celebrating every “first” pet experience, including their first meal at home. (See video below.) Created by New York-based Anomaly, the 30-second video is posted to the chain’s YouTube channel and ran on websites such as sportingnews.com, macworld.com and aol.com throughout March, sometimes as 15- and six-second recuts.
The pet retailer also welcomed the lineup with multiple circular features and a Jan. 13 Twitter update depicting a launch event with adoptable puppies. Supporting Google search ads continue to tout the retailer’s offer of 35% off first subscription orders and 5% back for Pals Rewards members. On petco.com, Baby Blue has a dedicated shop with a leaderboard carousel that touts nutritional benefits and ingredients, and provides directions on how to transition food gradually and when to switch to an adult formula.
The Baby Blue showcase on bluebufallo.com identifies the brand as available exclusively at Petco and offers a store locator as well as links to request forms for coupons offering up to $7 off puppy SKUs or up to $4 off kitten SKUs as well as to articles sharing information and tips for new pet parents. The destination also links to information about the Petco Foundation’s adoption events and Petco’s puppy training classes. While both the adoption events and in-store group classes are temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, Petco is offering private training at select locations as well as virtual classes via Zoom.
Teasing the Baby Blue launch during General Mills’ Investor Day last July, Blue Buffalo co-founder and president Billy Bishop indicated it would “leverage the unique aspects of the pet specialty channel” to create lifetime Blue Buffalo customers.
General Mills’ strategic framework for growth in the U.S. includes increasing sales of wet food and treats as well as driving sales to younger pets and younger pet parents — where growth is already outpacing total Blue sales growth — by targeting them at a time when they are most engaged.
The exclusivity of the launch is also intended to help revitalize Blue Buffalo sales in the pet channel. While sales in the food, drug and mass channels continue to grow, benefitting from expansion to new retail partners in recent years, pet channel sales have been on the decline.
To those ends, additional Blue brands that hit pet specialty shelves this year include True Solutions (functional wet and dry dog foods), Scooby Snacks (treats for dogs) and Bursts (treats for cats).
During General Mills’ most recent earnings call in March, chief executive officer Jeffrey Harmening said that demand for pet food has remained strong during the pandemic: “To the extent that the U.S. has some economic hardships as a result of this virus, we would anticipate the pet food category would still be a robust category.”