The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated e-commerce sales trends in the pet food market, contributing to the increasing dominance of online dog, cat and other pet food sales. The past decade left the pet food industry in a relatively good position to withstand the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to food service, tourism or other decimated sectors. Over time, pets have become part of the family for many pet owners worldwide, as opposed to livestock with benefits, spurring premium pet food sales growth. During the pandemic this meant that pet owners stockpiled dog and cat food along with their own provisions. Beyond that, pet adoptions swelled in the early days of the pandemic. As people then hunkered down with pets both new and old, online pet food sales’ prominence in the market grew at a faster pace than before COVID-19.
Pet food online sales growth
By 2024, industry observers forecast that e-commerce will become the top retail sales channel for pet products. This year, online sales of pet products will make up 27% of all sales, according to Packaged Facts analysts in the report “U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2020-2021: The COVID-19 Impact.”
Two major players in the pet food e-commerce space, Chewy.com and Amazon, lead online sales with three quarters of the market and seem likely to maintain that dominance. In 2020, Chewy.com may see sales of US$6.5 billion, if Packaged Facts estimates prove true, up from US$3.96 billion in 2018. Amazon’s pet products sales may reach US$5.7 billion, climbing from US$3.3 billion in 2018. Along with the two giants, many brick-and-mortar retailers have also moved their sales online. Retails also increasingly use buy online and pick up in store systems.
Pet owners buying and learning online
Pet owners who purchase online, according to Packaged Facts’ survey of pet owners earlier this year.
- Amazon - 60%
- Chewy - 54%
- PetSmart.com - 27%
- Walmart.com - 24%
- Petco.com - 23%
Along with buying more pet food online, pet owners increasingly look to digital sources of information about their pets. While veterinarians remain the most trusted source for both baby boomers (77%), Generation X and millennials (66%), Packaged Facts’ survey respondents have differing views on the internet. Twenty-five percent of millennials and the younger generation Z, selected social media, including Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, as their most important source of pet care information. Whereas only 18% of Gen X responded as such, along with 7% of boomers and seniors.