Petco, others respond to demand for natural pet foods

Petco, others respond to demand for natural pet foods
In this Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, photo Lauren Ray pets her 9-month-old dog Bear in her Milwaukee home. Ray says she is happy to hear Petco is announcing Tuesday, Nov. 13, that it plans to stop selling dog and cat food and treats with artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, both online and at its 1,500 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico by May 2019. She feeds her dog organic food and hopes Petco's change will help her find more varieties at a convenient location. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

Demand for healthy, natural food is extending from humans to their pets.

Petco says it will stop selling dog and cat food and treats with artificial colors, flavors and preservatives by May, both online and at its nearly 1,500 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Petco’s move is the first of its kind among major pet stores. It comes at a time when sales of natural pet foods are steadily rising.

The U.S. market share of natural pet products more than doubled to 6.5 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to Nielsen, a data company.

Sensing the growing trend, two big food companies — J.M. Smucker Co. and General Mills — spent billions to acquire the natural pet food brands Nutrish and Blue Buffalo earlier this year.