Adventures in Pet Food

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry, shares her insights and opinions on all things pet food, addressing market trends as well as news and developments in pet nutrition, food safety and other hot topics for the industry.
Pet Food Market Trends
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Online pet food projected to pass in-store sales by 2025

By 2025, pet food e-commerce will account for 55% of total U.S. pet food sales, projects a new report from Packaged Facts, “U.S. Pet Market Update: Pet Food Focus, 2021.” That would follow a jump from 32% of U.S. sales in 2020 to a projected 37% by the end of 2021.

The report notes, “Packaged Facts classifies all purchases initiated online in this category – including sales through the digital storefronts of traditionally brick-and-mortar retailers (such as Walmart.com or Petsmart.com) – regardless of buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) or curbside pickup dynamics.”

This classification makes sense in the wake of e-commerce’s spread throughout the global economy even before the COVID-19 pandemic; the lockdowns and health concerns resulting from that (ongoing still in late 2021 in some regions and parts of the world) have only expanded the many ways consumers now shop and purchase online, and in many different categories of products.

Pandemic forever altered pet food shopping

It’s worth noting that pre-pandemic, Packaged Facts had projected e-commerce’s share of U.S. pet food sales to be 24% by 2025. Due to the pandemic, online sales blew past that projection in 2020 to the final share of 32%.

In February 2021, a Packaged Facts survey of U.S. dog and cat owners showed 34% reporting significant changes in the channels where they bought pet food and other pet products: At that point, 40% said they were shopping more online, while 39% said they were frequenting brick-and-mortar stores less.

Not surprisingly, the online pet food sales gain has come at the expense of brick-and-mortar store sales, which were flat from 2020 to 2021, according to Packaged Facts. That decline is projected to continue, with the brick-and-mortar share of U.S. pet food sales expected to drop from 63% in 2021 to 45% in 2025.

This is happening as U.S. pet food sales continue to grow: a projected rise of 6.4% from 2020 to 2021, with a compound annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025 of 6.6%. According to Packaged Facts, not only is most of that growth occurring in the e-commerce channel; sales increases in that channel are also helping drive overall market growth.

Among a short list of factors accounting for dollar sales growth, the Packaged Facts report cites the “intertwined rapid acceleration of online sales driven by Chewy.com and Amazon.com, whose swift advances have been more than offsetting the resultant drag on brick-and-mortar sales.”

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

The outlook for brick-and-mortar outlets is not entirely dire; in fact, the pandemic has caused many to adapt to the e-commerce world and capitalize on the growing trend of ordering online and picking up in store (BOPIS) or at curbside. The retailer still gets the sale, while pet owners can still support their local businesses if they desire. For pet specialty retailers, the overall pet care industry has stepped up with networks and programs to help even small, independent pet stores participate in the online sales boom.

Indeed, “e-commerce, especially important in the pet food sector due to repeat and bulk purchases, ramped-up activity among brick-and-mortar-based retailers including BOPIS, curbside pick-up and same-day/two-day delivery programs,” the Package Facts report says.

As e-commerce continues its rapid upward march, it appears the days of shopping only in physical stores will continue to capture less consumer focus and activity, and not just for pet food and other pet products.

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