General Mills (GIS) has been struggling with the supermarket format -- big time.

With younger shoppers looking to buy fresh and organic products, they no longer want so-called "pantry foods." Other companies are having their share of struggles, too.

But one way out of this mess? M&A. And it doesn't necessarily have to be through human food, but pet food as well. That's why General Mills went out of its way to pay $8 billion for Blue Buffalo (BUFF) . The price is about 16% above where Blue Buffalo closed on Thursday.

It's not the first time a big food company went after a pet food, recognizing a growth opportunity in a different segment. J.M. Smucker (SJM) bought Big Heart Pet Brands for $5.8 billion three years ago in February 2015. Nestle, Mars and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) have also made moves in the space as well.

Humanization of Pets

The "humanization of pets" trend is no secret on Wall Street, although the trend may be overlooked for things like cloud-computing and artificial intelligence. It's not a flashy, sexy trend necessarily, but as consumers continue to put more emphasis on the well-being of their furry friends, corporations are racking up the profits.

With that in mind, why couldn't healthy pet-food maker Freshpet (FRPT) be the next M&A target? With its near-20% annual revenue growth and $700 million market cap, there are more than a few growth-starved companies out there who might consider gobbling it up next.

While Freshpet jumped 6.75% on Friday on the General Mills-Blue Buffalo deal, there are other considerations outside of food too.

For instance, don't forget that PetSmart bought Chewy for $3.35 billion just last year. It's also worth pointing out that before PetSmart made the deal for Chewy, it too was acquired (by a private equity consortium in late-2014). While the price tag for Chewy may not seem large -- particularly after the Blue Buffalo deal -- consider that it tops the Walmart (WMT) deal for Jet.com, where it paid $3.3 billion for Jet.com to take on Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) . This makes PetSmart's buy of Chewy the largest e-commerce deal in history. 

So you can see what types of premiums these pet deals are commanding.

What else could be next?

How about companies that sell equipment to veterinarians? Companies like Henry Schein (HSIC) and Patterson Companies (PDCO) fit the bill here. Both have not had the easiest time as of late, though. 

Despite dependable businesses, investors have grown worried about Amazon entering the dental supply market. Then, a note from the FTC alleging anti-competitive behavior to deny discounts to buyers sent the stocks spiraling.

While HSIC commands a $10.5 billion market cap, Patterson's $3 billion market cap would be an easy pill for a number of companies to swallow. While Amazon likely feels that it can build out its own business, acquiring Patterson may not be the worst play. With about half of its business coming from the pet side, the e-commerce giant would gain immediate access to a new growth segment. Further, Amazon would be grabbing a spot in the dental supply market -- a market it's seemingly already interested in -- and begin scratching away market share from competitors.

What else is there? At $16.1 billion, it would be a big deal to acquire Idexx Labs (IDXX) , which makes all sorts of tests, analyzing equipment and even software. Analysts expect double-digit sales growth for the next couple of years, although admittedly it does come with a lofty valuation.

Still, a pharmaceutical or medical device company searching for a boost in growth, flush in cash and still basking in the new tax-plan sunlight may consider scooping up this best-in-class name.

After all, it's a lot cheaper than Zoetis (ZTS) , which makes medicines and vaccines, among other products, and commands a market cap in excess of $40 billion.

Maybe Patterson Companies, Idexx Labs and Freshpet aren't on every buyer's shopping list. But they're at least worth considering given how much consumers care about their pets these days and how much they're willing to spend.

Need more ideas? Here's a few more acquisition targets.

Amazon is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AMZN? Learn more now.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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