Natures Menu - Cat Owner Segmentation

The Research Project

Mackman Research was approached by Natures Menu, the premium natural pet food manufacturer, to identify and create profiles of cat owners in order to inform a  targeted marketing strategy.

Research Outcomes

  • A segmentation workshop gathered valuable insight from team leaders and key stakeholders and identified pre-conceived audience segments  
  • 500 participants took part in the quantitative panel
  • A trends analysis identified current pet food purchasing preferences and defined future opportunities according to predicted trends
  • A detailed report included key findings and verbatim responses
  • Recommendations moving into a second 'drill-down' research phase

The Client

Natures Menu was established in 1981 in Norfolk, starting life as a small family business with a focus on natural pet food. They offer an extensive range of raw and natural pet foods for both cats and dogs, ensuring that their recipes are nutritionally balanced and locally sourced. Natures Menu has a wide range of employees, from a dedicated customer service team to registered veterinarians. Their welfare and quality standards comply with DEFRA approved micro-biological testing and raw material traceability. This means that pet owners can be sure that their cat or dog is eating only the best food available.

Brand Facts:

  • Natures Menu is a well-established cat and dog food manufacturer based in Snetterton, Norfolk, since 1981
  • Natures Menu comprises several sub-brands, including Country Hunter and True Instinct, all of which have a high meat content
  • In addition to their focus on quality ingredients and processes, their home delivery service is particularly popular among pet owners who feed their cats or dogs a raw diet
  • Their team of veterinary experts ensure that Natures Menu's raw and natural meals constitute a balanced and healthy diet

Research Aims

  • Natures Menu wanted to conduct a market orientation study to identify customer profiles of cat owners who purchase premium and natural feeding.
  • The research findings needed to provide Natures Menu with data on feeding behaviours, purchasing channels, and brand engagement over different audience segments to inform their approach to their cat food ranges

The Research Challenge

We asked our Research Director, Dr. Gemma Mackman, to tell us about this project's specific challenges:

"Market segmentation always pose a particular set of challenges. The client had existing assumptions about their market. We needed to test those beliefs whilst allowing space for new segments to shine through. Here we wanted to collect quantitative panel data that would allow for thematic divisions to be made. Yet panel data is not always 100% reliable. As a quantitative method, it would not reveal any in-depth emotion or motivation behind purchasing. To overcome this challenge, we designed a layered mixed methodological framework that would build on pre-conceived notions. That allowed us to 'drill down' on quantitative responses to provide tried and tested research outcomes."

The Research Design & Methodology

Mackman Research designed a research methodology and panel survey in collaboration with Natures Menu. We targeted cat owners who were purchase decision makers from core personas.

We designed a phased research framework that would record existing assumptions and gather primary quantitative data. Once the results of the panel survey were analysed, we switched to qualitative methods so that we could be sure that our segments were accurate and driven by a particular set of motivations. Our research was designed as follows.

Phase One of the market orientation study comprised the following elements:

  • A segmentation workshop conducted with key organisational stake holders and team leaders. This produced recommendations for quantitative panel questions.
  • A quantitative questionnaire to collect both specific and open-ended panel data.
  • A trends analysis to identify current market orientations and to investigate future movement opportunities for the pet food sector.
  • A comprehensive report with an executive summary identifying clear lines of inquiry for Phase Two.

In collaboration with Natures Menu, Mackman Research designed a panel survey which targeted cat owners who were purchase decision makers from core personas. The target core audience as defined by Natures Menu was premium 'pet parents'. 'Pet parents' were defined as predominately female and A, B, or C1 social class.

The quantitative survey needed to identify how different audience segments from a range of ages and professions approached feeding their cat, and their visibility of Natures Menu and its competitors. It also needed to test a female orientated owners' market by gathering data from an equal male:female audience. Over a two week period, the survey would aim to gather data from 500 panel participants. This survey contained a range of multiple choice questions along with open-ended questions that invited participants to comment on their answers in a longer form.

Research Findings

The panel data was collected over a two-week period, collated, and analysed to divide Natures Menu's audience into distinct customer segments to give an insight into the needs of cat owners.

The survey achieved an equal gender split between male and female participants. Following analysis of the panel data, a report was produced to illustrate the findings in a visual format, along with verbatim answers from participants. 

Personas were created from clear divisions in the data. However, some of these segments overlapped; it appeared that cat owners have primary and secondary motivations for purchasing.

"Panel data is only as good as its panel! This is why we recommend supporting quantitative data with qualitative research."

Amanda Ansell, Insight Manager

Research Outcomes

The panel survey identified a clear need to conduct qualitative research in addition to quantitative research. Some elements of the top level findings supported pre-conceived ideas identified during the staff workshop, while others challenged these ideas by providing evidence to the contrary.

Recommendations were made going into Phase Two of the market orientation research to concentrate the results even further and provide further evidence to support the development of personas that reflect Natures Menu's customers, their attitudes, and their purchase behaviour.

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