PackagedFacts225In the $28 billion U.S. pet food market, mergers and acquisitions have dominated the headlines in recent years. Among the most noticeable pet market merger and acquisition trends has been companies traditionally known for producing food for humans entering the pet food category.

"The mature yet thriving outlook for the pet food industry makes a foray into the market a worthwhile venture for just about any food company, especially considering the continued emergence of premium priced and natural and organic pet products that are helping drive sales in many pet retail categories," says David Sprinkle, research director for market research publisher Packaged Facts.

According to the Packaged Facts report Pet Food in the U.S., 11th Edition, pet food industry sales will grow at 3%-4.5% rates over the 2015-2018 period, driven by increased focus on pet health and the powerful role in pet owner lives of the human-animal bond. At these rates, U.S. retail sales of pet food will rise by a total of 16% during the forecast period to $33 billion, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3%. J.M. Smucker's $5.8 billion purchase of Big Heart Pet Brands (maker of Meow Mix, Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni and Kibbles 'n Bits) has been one of the more notable recent acquisitions made by a food industry giant. Last year Mars, a company best known for its delectable candy products, scooped up Iams and Eukanuba from Procter & Gamble in a $2.9 billion acquisition. Adding Iams and Eukanuba strengthened Mars' already impressive pet-brand portfolio, which included Whiskas and Pedigree.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of Big Heart Pet Brands gives Smucker's one of the top three players in the dog and cat food segment. According to Pet Food in the U.S., 11th Edition, the U.S. dog and cat food market remains top-heavy, with the Nos. 1 through 3 companies accounting for over 69% of U.S. retail sales in mass and pet specialty channels in 2014. On a tier of its own is Nestlé Purina with a 35% share. Mars added six percent to its total when it acquired P&G's pet brands in 2014, to move to a 21% share. Big Heart Pet Brands follows as the only other company with a double digit share of the market, at 13%.