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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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Next wave of pet food: Reaching consumers directly online

March 5, 2018

With continuing rapid growth in e-commerce, including online pet food sales, is the next logical step in the evolution of brands to market and sell directly to consumers? On the road ahead for many consumer product goods companies, particularly those in the pet food and human food industries, could be direct-to-consumer outreach efforts, posits Emergent, which positions itself as the “healthy living agency.”

“E-commerce growth has already redefined the business landscape, giving consumers a comfort level with buying products from home,” states a blog post on Emergent’s website. “Retail isn’t going away, online or off, but we think a measurable percentage of the business overall may indeed move to direct-to-consumer platforms.”

That move will likely be aided and abetted by brands’ increasing use of social media as marketing and communications platforms for reaching consumers — what Emergent calls the “walled garden of rented audiences” that effectively gives control of the relationship with those consumers to the platforms, not the brands. Recent changes to how branding messages are delivered on these social media make it even more difficult for companies to rely on them as marketing channels. That includes Facebook’s January revision to its algorithm to favor friends’ and family’s posts showing up more in newsfeeds over those from brands and companies.

Mars: "Future-proofing" via a direct line to consumers

Mars Petcare, the largest pet food company in the world, has already figured this out, it seems. It established a division called Mars Petcare Connected Solutions to bring together its vast array of products and services, and the insights derived from marketing and selling them to consumers. “All of our core businesses will have to go through a true transformation in the next decade to future-proof their brands,” said Leonard Sudakov, US president of the division, quoted in an article on AdExchanger.com.

“The competitive aspect of our business is that we have so many touch points that allow us to serve consumers, Sudakov continued. “Ensuring the entire organization understands that and sees the value and benefit of data is a massive priority.” That means establishing a direct line to consumers is also a priority, “not only to send messages to them, but also to sell to them,” wrote the article’s author, Ryan Joe.

While Emergent’s theory of increased direct-to-consumer engagement is around marketing and communication, selling directly to them, too, does not seem all that far-fetched for pet food brands. And not just giants like Mars; after several smaller pet food companies pulled their products from Chewy.com in the wake of its acquisition by PetSmart last year, at least one was reported to be developing its own e-commerce business.

E-commerce’s day in the sun

“We see the shift to e-commerce as an outcome of evolutionary progress — meaning anything that adds measurably to consumer convenience and satisfaction is going to get its day in the sun,” says the Emergent blog. After all, no company, in any market sector, can afford not to have its products sold online. Doing so itself could allow a pet food company to control more aspects of that business model and consumer relationship.

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dphillips@wattglobal.com

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