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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Shopping-for-pet-food | As pet owners ask more questions about their pets’ health, they look to food and treats for functional answers. | Iakov Filimonov I iStock.com

US pet food inflation still rising, outpacing human food

Throughout 2022, consumers have struggled with rising prices for nearly everything they need to buy, especially food and groceries, due to massive disruptions in supply chains, ongoing economic crises and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those who are pet owners have been dealing with the double whammy of pet food prices increasing at nearly the same pace as human food prices.

September brought good news and bad news for U.S. pet owners: Human food price increases (designated as “food at home”) have stabilized, even coming down a bit from August’s year-over-year (YOY) inflation of 13.5% to 13% YOY in September. However, September pet food prices were up 14% YOY, even higher than August’s 13.1%, according to U.S. government data compiled and analyzed by John Gibbons on his Pet Business Professor blog.

I wrote in September that pet food inflation was quickly catching up to human food; well, now it’s surpassed it.

Pet owners can’t catch a break

While the overall consumer price index for the U.S. went up very slightly from August to September, the YOY figure stood at 8.2% — still not great but at least down from earlier in 2022 (9.1% in June, for example) and not growing at the pace of some categories like pet food.

Driven by those still-rising pet food prices as well as those for other pet categories, inflation for the overall U.S. pet care sector reached 11% YOY in September. Veterinary services, up 11.6% YOY, were second behind pet food for inflation in the sector, followed by pets and supplies at 7.7% YOY and pet services at 6.3% YOY. The pet services figure represented a record. “Prices hit a new record high in September, passing the previous record set in May,” Gibbons commented.

It seems pet owners can’t catch a break.

Pet food inflation not at record high — yet

Looking for a silver lining, I will note that I was incorrect in September and previous months when I wrote that this year’s pet food figures represented highs; Gibbons sent follow-up information this week explaining that pet food inflation was actually worse during the “Great Recession.”

“The 14% YOY inflation for pet food only ranks seventh in history,” he wrote. “It turns out that in every month from September 2008 through February 2009, pet food had an inflation rate over 14%. It peaked in January 2009 at 16.1%, so things could be worse.”

The concern is, will the situation indeed become worse before it gets better?

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