The total number of coupons issued for dry dog food fell 3% to 563 during the first 11 months of 1993, according to an exclusive analysis prepared for Advertising Age by Promotion Information Management, Chicago.
But what's more telling is that the amount spent on those coupons fell 14.5% to $147.8 million.
For brand managers of top labels, ranging from Purina Dog Chow to Alpo to Kibbles 'n Bits, other corporate priorities diverted promotion dollars.
First, a bitter price war-fiercest in canned cat food-consumed marketing budgets and profits, affecting dog food marketers, including Alpo Petfoods, Kal Kan Foods and Ralston Purina Co., that also compete in cat food.
"The price war in canned cat food is an industrywide event that forced us and others to shift dollars out of dog food promotion," an Alpo spokeswoman said.
Alpo ran eight coupon events for dry dog food products in 1993-three more than the previous year but representing 34% fewer coupons, only 351 million. PIM estimates Alpo spent only $10.6 million, about half of what it spent in 1992.
Alpo's experience mirrors the segment as a whole, where total coupon circulation fell 17% to 4 billion. PIM's analysis monitors coupons in free standing inserts, magazine ads and direct mailings.
In addition, the dry dog food segment has witnessed a dearth of new products in the past two years. Alpo, for instance, refreshed its entire dry dog food line in 1992 with lean and senior products; last year, it refocused on canned dog food and dog treats.
Paralleling its spending cuts on coupons, Alpo also spent virtually nothing on measured media advertising for its dry dog foods in 1993, compared with more than $5 million the previous year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
No company represents that trend better than the top dog in pet food, Purina, which in the '80s regularly unleashed new products like Purina O.N.E., Benji's Moist & Chunky and Lucky Dog. In the '90s, Purina has focused on supporting its existing lines, particularly trying to build the superpremium O.N.E. brand.
In the absence of a need to promote trial of new products, Purina's estimated coupon spending fell 12% to $75 million on more than a dozen individual dry dog food brands. Purina still represented half the industry's total spending and coupon circulation, PIM said, and more than a third of the dog food industry's total $58 million in measured media spending.
The lack of new products has also contributed to a decline in coupons with buy-one-get-one-free offers. Regularly used to generate trial of new items, the number of free offers plummeted 47% to 82 in 1993.
Probably reflecting fewer of those free product offers, the average coupon value in the dry dog food segment fell 17% to $1.40.
The only marketer to increase couponing for dry dog foods was Quaker Oats Co., which spent 35% more, or $52.6 million, in '93. PIM reported that Quaker used higher-value coupons and more regional promotions last year, spread over 27 different coupon events.
Quaker's top brand, Kibbles 'n Bits, saw total share increase 2 percentage points to 10.1%, factoring in a Kibbles 'n Bits Lean line extension, which took a 2% share on its own, according to supermarket sales monitored by Nielsen Marketing Research, Northbrook, Ill., for the year ended Sept. 30.
The dry dog food segment was flat overall, with sales down 0.2% to $1.26 billion, Nielsen reported. The two top brands, Purina Dog Chow and Puppy Chow, saw sales fall 2.7% and 5.9%, respectively, to shares of 10.6% and 8.7%.
Of the top 10 dry dog food products, only two registered an increase in dollar sales. Purina is garnering some success with O.N.E., whose sales rose 10.4% to a 4.9% share. And Kal Kan's base Pedigree brand watched sales climb 14% to a 6.2% share-no doubt benefiting as the company discontinued its superpremium Pedigree Expert line.
The only other growing brand in supermarkets is store brand dry dog foods, which as a group saw sales up 3.6% to a total 6.2% share.