US pet food e-commerce interest grew to 28% in pandemic

In the United States, pet owner interest in purchasing dog, cat and other pet foods online increased dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic spread.

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(Dashabelozerova |
(Dashabelozerova |

In the United States, pet owner interest in purchasing dog, cat and other pet foods online increased dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. In a survey by Commercial CafĂ© conducted during the pandemic, 27.7% of U.S. pet owners responded that they would order pet food online. Before the pandemic, that figured stood at 15.8%. Likewise, Google Trends data from January 6, 2019 to April 19, 2020 reflected this pet food sales trend. The greatest number of Google searches related to pet food purchasing occurred during the onset of the pandemic in the United States.

Overall sales trend towards online during pandemic

Pet food sales’ shift online matched other products. Commercial Café also noted that overall online shopping had increased in volume, value and frequency. Daily online purchases rose from 6% of consumers to an estimated 10% during the pandemic. Weekly online shoppers increased from 45% to 59%. Conversely, survey respondents decreasingly made only monthly online purchases, dropping from 37% to 22% as consumers ordered more frequently during the pandemic.

In Commercial Café’s survey, 83% responded that they now plan to purchase certain products online that they bought in-store prior to the pandemic. Among respondents who bought products online monthly pre-pandemic, 56% reported now making weekly purchases.

Before COVID-19 spread, 54% of respondents spent US$100 to US$500 online monthly. Of those, more than 30% of respondents stated they plan to increase their monthly online budgets to US$500 to US$1,000.

Pet food e-commerce increasingly important

While those figures weren’t related to pet food specifically, they reflect the overall change in sales that may shape retail in the U.S. from now on. During the past decade or so, pet food e-commerce grew from an adjunct to brick-and-mortar retail sales to become a dominant channel in many regions. The pandemic rapidly accelerated that shift to online pet food and treat sales.

Online sales of dog, cat and other pet foods were already growing steadily in the Unites States before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted pet owners’ movements. Pet food and treat e-commerce in the U.S. made up 16% of all pet food retail sales, according to Nielsen and Rakuten Intelligence. Pet food and treat sales online reached US$5.8 billion in 2019, out of a total US$36 billion market in the U.S.

As people stayed home, e-commerce pet food sales more than tripled in year-over-year sales growth between January and March. Pet food sales online were 21% higher in January 2020, compared to 2019. As the coronavirus spread, March e-commerce pet food sales jumped 77% higher year-over-year for the month, compared to 26% for brick-and-mortar retailers. Sean Simpson, associate client director at Nielsen Global Connect, shared that data and his analysis during a Petfood Industry webinar.

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