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It's no secret that the pet industry has grown tremendously over the last 10 years. Pet owners are spending more money than ever on their canine companions and dog food is a large part of that expense. The biggest pet food manufacturers in the US are working overtime to meet the demand for pet food that is safe, healthy and affordable.

According to the American Pet Products Association, $66.75 billion was spent on pets in the United States last year. $31+ billion of that was spent on pet food alone (source)! That means that more than 1/3 of the total amount spent on pets in the United States last year was spent on food for our animal companions.

And that's just in the U.S! Imagine what those numbers look like for every country in the world. I know I mentioned that these numbers have drastically increased in recent years, but let me put that into perspective for you.

In 2006, Americans spent just $38.5 billion on their pets and in 1996 that number was only $21 billion. If we use 2017 as a guide and estimate that 1/3 of those figures was used to buy pet food, that would mean that $12.8 billion and $7 billion was spent on pet food respectively.

1996 was 21 years ago. That means that in just 21 years, pet owners in the U.S. increased their spending on pet food by more than $21 billion dollars! That's more than a $1 billion dollar increase each year!

With that said, let's see who is profiting the most in the pet food industry. We're going to take a look at the biggest pet food manufacturers in the U.S. and what drives consumers to purchase their products.

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15 Biggest Pet Food Manufacturers in the USA

15 Biggest Pet Food Manufacturers in the USA1. Mars Petcare Inc.

Mars Petcare has been named the world's leading pet food company since 2014. Its parent company, Mars Inc., is the seventh largest private company in the US, and together Mars rakes in annual sales exceeding a massive $33 billion.

It’s high number of sales isn’t surprising once you look at the brands Mars manufacturers, some of which are household pet food names. Altogether Mars Petcare owns 41 brands including $5 billion brands: Pedigree, Iams, Whiskas, Royal Canin and Banfield Pet Hospitals.

Other leading brands include: California Naturals, Catson, Cesar, Chappi, Dreamies, Eukanuba, Sheba and Temptations.

2. Nestlé Purina PetCare

Nestlé Purina PetCare remains a powerful force in the global pet care industry and acts as fierce competition for first place with Mars Petcare. Nestlé has long been a leader in the US market and operates pet food factories on every continent and in 19 countries, making them not just one of the biggest manufacturers in the US, but the world.

Nestlé Purina PetCare brands include recognisable names such as: Alpo, Bakers, Chef Michael's Canine Creations, Dog Chow, Fancy Feast, Felix, Gourmet, Kit & Kaboodle, Purina and Purina ONE.

3. Big Heart Pet Brands

Big Heart Pet Brands claims to hold first position in the US' dog snacks market, second place in dry cat food and a strong presence in premium pet food and pet snacks. You and your pets probably recognize a number of these pet treat names.

Big Heart Pet Brands include: Meow Mix, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Milk-Bone, 9Lives, Natural Balance, Pup-Peroni, Gravy Train, Natures Recipe, Canine Carry Outs, Milos Kitchen, Snausages, Meaty Bone, Jerky Treats, Pounce and Alley Cat.

4. Hill's Pet Nutrition

Hill's Pet Nutrition sells over 300 products mainly through authorised pet supply retailers and veterinarians in more than 80 countries worldwide. In 2013, the company's breakthrough Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic weight loss line was introduced in more than 50 countries, drastically increasing Hill’s rank in the pet manufacturing game.

Hill’s takes pride in being supported directly by vets the world over and is the leader when it comes to vet-approved and sold food brands. The brands you might recognize from Hill’s include: Science Diet, Prescription Diet, Ideal Balance and Healthy Advantage. They're often some of the most vet recommended dog foods around.

5. Diamond Pet Foods

In addition to its own brands, Diamond Pet Foods also produces several private label products. The family-owned and privately held company’s headquarters are located in in Missouri and manufactures in South Carolina and California and overseas in France.

Brands in Diamond Pet Foods include: Diamond, Diamond Naturals, Diamond Naturals Grain-Free, Nutra-Gold, Nutra-Gold Grain-Free, Nutra Nuggets Global, Nutra Nuggets US, Premium Edge, Professional and Taste of the Wild.

6. Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo claims to be the fastest growing major pet food company in the US, at the top of the Wholesome Natural market segment. Currently, they command about 6 percent of the US pet food market.

Brands covered by Blue Buffalo include: BLUE, Basics, Wilderness, Freedom, Life Protection Formula, Naturally Fresh and LifeSource Bits.

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7. Spectrum Brands / United Pet Group

Spectrum Brands surged forward in 2015 after acquiring Proctor & Gamble's European division, which includes the brands Iams and Eukanuba. They also acquired Salix Animal Health, a global leader in dog treats and snacks, especially rawhide.

The company controls over a dozen pet care brands with a global reach. With the addition of Proctor & Gamble and Salix Animal Health, Spectrum achieved a 25 percent jump in sales in 2015, which now approach $1 billion annually.

Other brands included in the Spectrum family are: Dingo, Wild Harvest, One Earth, Ecotrition, Healthy Hide, Digest-eeze, 8 in 1, Birdola, Pro-Sense and Kookamunga to name a few.

8. WellPet

WellPet is the product of two natural pet food specialty businesses. The company grew again in January 2016 with the acquisition of Sojo's, a US-based maker of raw pet food and gourmet treats. Sojos rose to prominence in the fast-growing category of raw nutrition for pets, particularly freeze-dried raw pet food.

WellPet was formed in January 2009 with the merger of two old-guard pet food companies – Old Mother Hubbard (which claims roots back to 1926 in Gloucester, Massachusetts) and Eagle Pack Pet Foods (which dates back to 1970). Both companies had pioneered innovations in natural and holistic pet food products.

Brands included in the WellPet family are: Sojos, Wellness Natural Pet Food, Holistic Select, Old Mother Hubbard Natural Dog Snacks and Eagle Pack Natural Pet Food.

9. Sunshine Mills

Sunshine Mills manufactures and markets products under its own brands and private labels. Sunshine is a family-owned business that sells its products in the us and more than 30 other countries worldwide.

Brands under the Sunshine Mills umbrella include: Hunter’s Special, Sportsman's Pride, Triumph, Hi-Tor, Evolve, Lassie, Nurture Farms, Triumph, Sportsman's Pride, Hunter's Special, Buttons and Bows, Hi-Tor Veterinary Select, Veterinary Select, Sunshine Pet Treats.

10. Merrick Pet Care

Merrick Pet Care was one of the industry's fastest growing natural and organic specialty pet food producers. Merrick offers a wide variety of dry and wet foods, as well as treats, using ingredients sourced solely from the US.

The products are available nationally at independent pet specialty stores, Petco, and online via select retailers. Brands owned by Merrick include: Backcountry, Backcountry Raw, Before Grain, Classic, Good Buddy, Grain Free, Lil' Plates, Limited Ingredient Diet, Natural Ultramix, Organix, Purrfect Bistro, Treats and Whole Earth Farms.

11. Ainsworth Pet Nutrition

Ainsworth Pet Nutrition has employed a diverse strategy to grow from a regional manufacturer to have a national presence. Ainsworth's partnership with Rachel Ray brought with it a celebrity appeal.

The privately owned company, founded in 1933, has virtually doubled its sales in the last decade. Ainsworth brands include: Dad's, Rachel Ray Nutrish, Better Than and Kibble Select Complete.

12. Simmons Pet Food

Simmons Pet Food is a leading North American private label and contract manufacturer of wet and dry pet food and treats. Simmons source high-quality ingredients and use state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to produce premium and value-focused pet food.

As a private-label and contract manufacturer, Simmons Pet Food boasts 3,500 products mostly in the wet pet food space.

13. C.J. Foods

C.J. Foods is a custom contract manufacturer of super premium pet food, specialising in natural and organic products for dogs and also producing for birds, reptiles, fish and other zoological dietary needs.

C.J. Foods currently produces more than 300 varieties of animal foods. Their state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities have a combined annual capacity of 250 million pounds of dry kibble. The company produces roughly 25-30 custom brands.

14. Tuffy’s Pet Foods

Owned by KLN Family Brands, Tuffy's Pet Foods encompasses the family's line of pet food products which are primarily premium, natural and organic brands. Brands included in the Tuffy’s and KLN family are: Pure-Vita, Nutrisource, Natural Planet, Natural Planet Organics, Supreme, Tuffy's Gold and Tuffy's Premium.

15. Nature’s Variety

Nature's Variety is a natural pet food company and is widely considered a leader in the raw foods segment. Nature's Variety sales have increased by 30 percent a year since 2010 as the raw foods market has grown.

Brands under the Nature’s Valley umbrella include: Instinct, Prairie, Sweet Spots and Pride.

In Summary

Overall, the pet food manufacturers topping the game own cheaper brands available in most supermarkets and pet stores not just across the United States, but globally. Pedigree, Cesar and Bakers are among the brands owned by the top two manufacturers in the US and are considered dog food that is widely available and affordable.

Brands which are still in the top 15 but further away from Mars Petcare Inc, tend to be more specialized foods, leaning towards raw, natural and organic ingredients. Overall, just looking at the top 15 and how their businesses have grown, pet food manufacturing business is an exciting industry bringing in new pet food products which are innovative and and on a mission to become more eco-friendly and healthy.

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