Top 3 pet food stories for 2018, what they mean for 2019

The pet food market in 2018 saw an FDA ingredient investigation, rampant M&A activity and continued e-commerce and retail disruption. What will 2019 bring?

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In 2019, the pet food industry should continue to track an ongoing FDA investigation, M&A activity and e-commerce and retail disruption. | Tess Stukenberg
In 2019, the pet food industry should continue to track an ongoing FDA investigation, M&A activity and e-commerce and retail disruption. | Tess Stukenberg

This has been another dynamic year for pet food. Looking back at 2018, several developments stand out that likely will continue in 2019 and beyond:

  • FDA investigation into canine DCM and certain pet foods. On July 12, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was investigating an outbreak of cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in breeds not typically associated with the condition, with a possible link to ingredients used in popular grain-free, limited ingredient and similar pet foods. During a September 4 webinar, Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M., deputy director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance, said 149 new DCM cases had been reported since the alert. Most were in dogs, and about 90 percent had histories of eating grain-free diets containing a high proportion of legumes, pulses or potatoes (see https://bit.ly/2oYlnEE).

Partnering with a veterinary diagnostic lab network, FDA is continuing its investigation but has issued no updates since September; nor have veterinary programs also studying the issue. Considering so much is still unknown, it likely will take much more research to uncover the true causes. (Watch for a follow-up webinar in 2019.)

  • Robust pet food M&A activity. As of late October, pet food companies, equipment manufacturers and ingredient suppliers had announced at least 44 mergers and acquisitions (M&A). The most notable occurred in the first half of 2018, with General Mills acquiring Blue Buffalo, J.M. Smucker acquiring Ainsworth Pet Nutrition and pet food giants Mars Petcare and Nestle Purina buying various technology, e-commerce and diagnostic companies. Rumors of other pending acquisitions abound (see www.PetfoodIndustry.com/articles/7581).
     
  • Ongoing rise of omnichannel pet food shopping. As e-commerce and digital technologies continue to grow, so does disruption of the pet food shopping landscape. This year saw Amazon launch its own dog food lines, following Chewy.com (see page 36), plus the ongoing migration of premium products into mass and other non-specialty channels. Traditional channels no longer apply, as consumers jump from online to brick and mortar and back again, plus everything in between — and the changes will continue.

Petfood Forum 2019 will include sessions on the DCM situation and omnichannel shopping. Stay tuned and grab your seat: it promises to be another exciting year for pet food!

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