What do all of these factors have in common?
Each of these is a domino in the petfood ingredient market. The days of US$2-per-bushel corn seem a faint memory for those of us who have been in the petfood business for many years. Today, corn prices are over US$7 per bushel, with some experts projecting a rise as high as 35% over the next year.
The decision to use US corn crops to produce ethanol for automobiles concerned many of us (approximately 35% of corn is used in ethanol production) and has become a domino on the prices of other ingredients and products. Wheat and soy prices increase along with corn prices because farmers replace their acreage with corn. In turn, this drives up feed/food production costs and potentially will reduce production. All of this will lead to increased prices of meat, milk and eggs and will be felt in the petfood industry.
Additionally, unstable and rising fuel costs will increase manufacturing and logistics costs throughout the pipeline. Using fats as biodiesel will likely reduce inventories necessary for the petfood industry. Adding insult to injury are the unexpected natural phenomena (rain, wind, storms, floods, earthquakes and fire). All of these reduce or slow farm or fleet output/harvest, destroy potential inventories and reduce delivery.
Further complicating the situation, the humanization of petfood products has increased the use of some ingredients (e.g., pea, potato, chicken meal) with limited inventories while demonizing the use of more common ingredients (e.g., corn, wheat, soybean) with larger inventories. Add to this a greater demand for export and increasing quality standards, regulations and inspections—the domino effect is profound.
What can a petfood company do before the dominoes fall? A simple answer is to build a comprehensive business plan covering all phases of the business and focusing on efficiency, cost containment and planning. If your company is a petfood producer, it must make sure the pipeline of ingredients is connected to the goals of marketing/sales. Communication between groups is more vital than ever. Providing quality ingredients to production is as critical to the fulfillment of the business plan as any marketing/sales campaign.
More importantly, a good business must become more proactive and less reactive. Don’t wait for the dominoes to fall and reduce the company’s potential. In recent years, short supplies of ingredients (e.g., chicken meal, fish meal) have unexpectedly hit companies quite hard. A proactive business:
If your company is not a petfood producer but rather contracts with one or more of the many fine toll manufacturers, the same pathway is important. However, this means working more closely with your toll manufacturing company to know its issues ahead of time and better understand the same proactive position discussed above.
Some of the immediate, shorter-term choices with falling dominoes include:
Those who grasp these issues and implement a proactive posture will be the ones most likely left standing when future dominoes fall.
Find more ingredient options in Dr. Greg Aldrich’s column at www.petfoodindustry.com/ingredientissues.aspx. (The column will return in the August issue.)
Pet owners want a lot from their pet food brands. They want primary proteins that suit what they believe is best for their animal. They want grains or they don't. They want something customized, but it has to be easy to understand.
Constraints and crises, like those experienced in 2020, help drive innovation and sustainability offers context.