Pet food settling in for an uncertain long haul

Pet food industry revenues are up, but with a pandemic ongoing who can say what the rest of the year will bring?

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Uncertainty is the only certain thing right now as the pet food industry continues to adjust in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. | (MCCAIG | iStock.com)
Uncertainty is the only certain thing right now as the pet food industry continues to adjust in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. | (MCCAIG | iStock.com)

2020 thus far has been unpredictable, to put it mildly. As the COVID-19 pandemic persists while states and countries attempt to re-open their economies, it is becoming increasingly incumbent on individuals to decide what they need to do in order to keep themselves and their families safe.

For many pet owners, one of the easiest answers is to switch to (or continue) purchasing via e-commerce. I’ve heard from several pet food companies with e-tail platforms and subscription services that their numbers are up significantly on both fronts, and not going back down (including this month’s cover profile, which saw such significant growth that it had to briefly freeze new customer orders in order to adequately serve existing customers amidst the deluge).

According to Packaged Facts data, pet adoptions continue to rise, particularly among people who already own pets and households with children. That is, no doubt, one of the factors playing into the predictions for pet food sales growth in spite of an unstable economy. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) is estimating US$99 billion in pet expenditures for 2020 in the U.S. (up from US$95.7 billion in 2019), with pet food and treats making up US$38.4 billion (up from US$36.9 billion in 2019).

But we know that it takes more than consumer willingness to purchase an end product to ensure industry growth. Right now, transportation seems to be an issue for some companies, particularly those with the same e-commerce models that are currently so successful. But it’s not just them, and it’s not just pet food. In general, everything from air transport to ship cargo to ground trucks are in the midst of problems keeping up with demand.

And of course there is the ever-present threat of supply chain disruptions. “I think the industry is going to be affected by the shortages that are currently being seen in the human food industry,” said one industry executive in our second-quarter Industry Confidence survey.

For all of these factors that make up our industry, only time will tell.

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