Dog, cat and even hen adoptions soared in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic as people prepared to shelter in place. This boost in pet populations may influence the fortunes of the pet food industry in the economic upheaval created by the disease.
While millions adapt to working from home, social distancing and self-isolation, they seek out new pets to keep themselves or their kids company. In Minnesota, animal shelters promoted adoptions in anticipation of temporary closure, reported Minnesota Public Radio. By the time the shelters closed, people adopted more than 300 animals, leaving only a few. Similar pet adoption booms occurred when animal shelters in New York, Arizona and California made adoption appeals, reported the Washington Post. Even hens have found homes recently, as people look for backyard pets that will also provide eggs in uncertain times, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. More pets means more demand for pet food, and right now, that may mean home delivered dog and cat food, boosting the already growing pet food e-commerce channel.
Meanwhile, the global economy faltered as numerous nations froze travel, millions stayed home, hospitals overflowed and thousands died. However, the pet food industry may prove resilient to this turmoil and tragedy. Pet owners purchased large quantities of dog, cat and other pet food as they prepared for the pandemic, as a General Mills’ executive noted about Blue Buffalo sales in March. He believes pet food sales will remain strong despite the effects of the pandemic and its economic aftermath, citing the inelasticity of demand for pet food during the Great Recession.
Similarly, Packaged Facts publisher David Sprinkle believes that pet food’s performance during the Great Recession may give hope during the current market crash and volatility. Pet foods and treats even may have gotten a short-term bump the first quarter of the year, as pet owners stocked up, Sprinkle wrote in “Pet market bulletin: Assessing coronavirus impacts on the pet industry.” Supply chains may be disrupted though.
In contrast to the Great Recession, the current crisis involves factors that may benefit the pet food industry, beyond the bump in pet numbers. Due to the pandemic, many people now work from home, at least temporarily. Plus, they live in areas with legal or suggested restrictions of movement. These public health measures have shuttered stores, restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, libraries and other opportunities to socialize with Homo sapiens, but you can still take the dog for a walk or tease the cat with a laser pointer, then give them a treat afterwards. Building that bond with their pets may encourage people to humanize their pets a bit more and subsequently buy premium or superpremium pet foods and treats.