As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weaken the economy, it is logical to assume that such adverse effect extends to the pet food market. However, in previous months, market experts have pointed out that pet owners’ ongoing need to buy pet food (there is no substitute), and the Latin American market’s strong infrastructure, help protect it from some of the pandemic’s financial impact.
Thus, for Mexico specifically, the local pet food market may eventually outperform the negative economic influence of COVID-19, an opinion reinforced by an executive with Mars Petcare Mexico.
Alfonso Verduzco, demand director, said that in previous years, the pet food category grew an average of 10% annually. Yet, just before the pandemic appeared, the category posted a slowdown due to the overall declining economy in Mexico.
Then, at the beginning of the pandemic, a sizeable portion of local pet owners bought pet food products in excess to store at home, particularly from supermarkets, according to Verduzco. Such an effect lasted only four weeks, enough to signal a peak in consumption and a subsequent fall.
With fewer visits to stores, especially in the traditional supermarket channel and convenience stores, sales decreased.
Despite such volatile consumption behavior, Mars expects a positive and sound performance by the end of the year, Verduzco said. For example, e-commerce doubled its market size in less than three months. In addition, consumers preferred buying large packages, rather than medium-sized and small packaging.
At the same time, though, the company observed an adverse impact on the specialty channel, as these stores are in shopping centers that were shut down during the pandemic, limiting the effect of affluent consumers.
It is well-known that when the economy slumps, consumers are prone to downgrade from premium and standard-priced pet food brands to inexpensive products. Verduzco mentioned that downgrading was another trend that occurred during the pandemic, specifically in dry food, as consumers have numerous alternatives to lower expenses on pet food products.
With Mars Mexico having a focus on advocating for dog shelters, the company recently launched an initiative, Dogs on Zoom, to bring together potential adopters with homeless dogs, eventually leading to online adoptions. Under the Pedigree brand, the program has helped solve the problem that confinement brought, as people couldn’t visit dog shelters anymore.
View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
Iván Franco is the founder of Triplethree International and has collaborated on hundreds of research projects for several consumer goods industries. He was granted the Global Consultant of the Year award by Euromonitor International and authored the book 17 Market Strategies for Growth (in Spanish).
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.