Online pet food, product spending growing double-digits

While physical pet food sales still dominate the market, online options are increasing — and so are the number of consumers taking advantage of those options.

New Sprinkle Headshot Headshot

Looking back at recent gainers and decliners among retail channels by percentage draw for pet product purchasing, the clear winner is online. In 2016, 11 percent of pet product purchasers bought pet products online, up from 6 percent in 2010, according to Simmons Market Research consumer survey data. Online has inexorably moved out of its status as a niche channel, or as a consumer resource primarily used for pet care and pet product information-gathering. An information superhighway in the 1990s, the internet has morphed into a retail sales hypermarket. 

Edging up against warehouse clubs (13 percent of pet product purchasers), veterinarians (13 percent) and independent pet stores/smaller pet store chains (15 percent), online has already claimed its place as a significant second-tier channel for pet product sales (see Table 1). In terms of cross-channel competition, Packaged Facts survey data from February–March 2017 show that the online purchasing option is most compelling to pet owners who buy pet products at pet superstores or at veterinarians: two-thirds of the customers for these channels are slipping pet products into website shopping carts. In terms of overall market share, Packaged Facts estimates that the internet currently accounts for approximately 8 percent of the US$46 billion US retail market for pet products in 2016, or around US$3.7 billion — with the caveat that internet sales are notoriously difficult to quantify.


TABLE 1: The draw of online shopping among pet product purchasers has steadily increased since 2010, according to Packaged Facts Data.

Pet product online sales growth

While online sales may still pale in comparison to sales volume at physical stores, pet product sales growth in the digital realm show no signs of losing steam. As of 2017, 27 percent of US pet product shoppers strongly agree that they are buying more pet products online, according to Packaged Facts survey data, and another 13 percent somewhat agree (see Table 2). In 2011, by contrast, only 4 percent strongly agreed that they were buying more pet products online, with another 10 percent somewhat agreeing.


Table 2: The percentage of US pet product buyers who say they “strongly agree” that they purchase products online more than they used to has increased since 2011, while those who “strongly disagree” with the same statement has steadily decreased.

Correspondingly, people who buy pet products online are also doing so more frequently. Among those who do buy pet products online, the percentage that have made a purchase in the last seven days has been increasing every year, with 35 percent doing so in 2017, according to Packaged Facts survey data, up from 16 percent in 2012. Conversely, among those who ever buy pet products online, the percentage who have not done so in six months or more fell from 31 percent in 2012 to 8 percent in 2017.

The frequency with which pet shoppers are buying online is not surprising given the astonishing assortment of pet product choices now available, straining retail merchandising space even for pet superstores and other big-box retailers. At the same time, a growing range of pet product retailers are either investing long-term in the online channel, come what immediate profit margins may, or are figuring out how to profitably sell pet supercategories such as pet food and cat litter online, despite their bulkiness and weight, at prices that remain competitive even with shipping/handling charges factored in.

The rising share of pet product dollars being spent online is, of course, where the rubber hits the road. Sooner or later, virtually all pet owners will be buying pet products online. The real questions are what overall share of pet product dollars the internet will claim, how quickly and (especially) by whom.


The latest pet food market trends


More Packaged Facts research on the US market 

Page 1 of 702
Next Page