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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Spiking costs for pet food producers have contributed to rising pet food retail prices. | NVS my world I Shutterstock.com

Pet food inflation soared in 2022 but not to all-time high

Pet food inflation in the U.S. stood at 15.2% year over year (YOY) in December 2022, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. That represented a slight decline in the YOY figure from November 2022, but pet food prices were actually up a tick in December, 0.4%, on a month-to-month basis.

The 15.2% YOY rate is higher than that for food at home (human food groceries), which was at 11.8% in December, and far ahead of the overall U.S. consumer price index (CPI) at 6.5%.

Pet care overall is not looking so great, either, at 10.9% YOY. Yet, as bad as all of this seems and is, and despite many current beliefs and headlines, the pet care inflation rate—what John Gibbons, who carefully analyzes all the BLS data, calls “petflation”—is not at a historical high when measured for the entire year of 2022. A couple of years during the recession of the 1980s hold that dubious honor.

Annual pet food inflation rate looks a little better

Looking at annualized inflation for 2022, the CPI was at 8%. Pet care overall was at 8.9%, so nearly a full point more but tracking fairly closely.

Even pet food, in terms of the yearly inflation rate for 2022, doesn’t seem as bad as YOY figures do; its 2022 rate was 10.2%. That’s less than the 11.4% for food at home.

BLS has been tracking monthly prices for pet products since 1977, Gibbons said; a few years later, in 1980, petflation hit its highest rate of all time, 11.51%. The next year brought the second highest rate, 10.32%. These years coincided with a significant recession on top of high inflation, which economic experts at the time dubbed “stagflation.”

In 2008, during the Great Recession, petflation reached 9.19%, Gibbons indicated, making it the third highest. The 8.9% rate for 2022 comes in fourth.

Pet food inflation: Tracking core inflation?

Let’s hope that the lower U.S. CPI is the leading edge of a coming slowdown in inflation for all categories, including pet food. Overall consumer prices have also declined in other regions, such as the Euro Zone, where expects believe it may have peaked. Yet core inflation—comprising food and energy prices—has remained “sticky,” experts say, meaning they’re still uncomfortably high and continuing to make life difficult for consumers.

Unfortunately, pet food seems to be tracking along with core inflation—no surprise considering it uses many of the same ingredients as human food, or byproducts from them. The same with energy sources, in many cases. That probably means we’re in for some continued discomfort and challenges.

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