It’s been a little more than two years since I last wrote about the premiumisation of pet food and supplies for Inside Retail. Since then, Covid lockdowns have taken place, and along with them came astronomical levels of pet adoption, particularly in the first half of 2020. 11.3 million Americans got a new pet during the pandemic, and nearly half of all British households that currently own a pet got at least one new animal. A late 2020 Japan Pet Food Association survey found a 15 per cen
cent increase in Japan’s dog and cat ownership compared with the previous year. Australia, already boasting one of the world’s highest household pet ownership rates, with nearly two-thirds of households owning a pet as at the 2016 Census, increased its pet count to 29 million — more pets than people. Pet shelters were emptied, cases of pet stealing were reported, and going rates for puppies — both purebreds and designer crossbreeds — anecdotally increased by a factor of seven in Australia. Millennials in particular adopted pets, many for mental health reasons and to stave off lockdown loneliness. Since the earlier days of the pandemic, the pet adoption rate has slowed. But due to an increase in pet populations among higher-income households in developed countries, and the willingness of more affluent consumers to spend increasing amounts on their pets each year, we are seeing not only the premiumisation of pet food, but owners adopting a more holistic ‘whole of pet’ health mindset. Retailers are stepping up to offer products and services to suit. This should see pet supplies sales value continue to grow in the near to medium term, even as volume growth may slow. According to the latest Ibisworld research on pet supplies in Australia, although coming off a low base, online pet supplies are set to grow in double digits. While the largest players are currently Pet Circle and Greencross (PetBarn), the sector’s attractiveness has been underscored by the recent entrance of Woolworths into the fray with PetCulture, offering both goods and health advice. Most of the online pet supplies providers focus on goods, with categories such as food, treats, toys, flea and tick, collars and leads, health, training, grooming, beds and clothes. Pet owners are increasingly looking to the overall wellbeing of their pets, which is seeing an increase in exercising equipment and the growth of pet health products, vitamins, and supplements. Retailers cite seeing an increase in health supplements. Particular growth has been seen in newer food formats such as freeze-dried and raw as well as organic, natural diets and other dietary requirements as the humanisation of the pet’s diet continues. Shelftrend’s Ebay Australia pet supplies data shows that the top-selling listing in dog food is actually a supplement: a rosehip vital canine powder. PetCircle also offers technology (everything from rechargeable LED collars to automated ball launchers for Fido to self-amuse on games of fetch), and home and travel, with products such as carry cages, kennels, doggy doors and cat flaps. Chewy.com in the USA goes a step further, providing a ‘home collection’ of luxury beds, chaise lounges and leisure and exercise based products, such as agility trainers and service-dog training equipment. A pharmacy offer includes compound pharmacy, devices and supplies, and a substantial selection of vitamins and supplements, with 7000 product listings. The end of the pet’s life is catered for with memorials and keepsakes, including urns for the pet’s ashes, and there is a range of pet-related gifts and books. In physical stores, one of the more interesting developments has been the growth of services. Two years ago, I wrote about PetCoach and other major US big-box pet retailers such as Petco. Fast forward to 2021, and both Petbarn and Petstock in Australia offer puppy and dog training classes along with grooming services, DIY wash, pet boarding, and pet adoption. Petstock offer pet ID tags and fish tank water testing, where PetBarn has a network of GreenCross Vets (PetCircle has also expanded its vet roster), petsitters and insurance. It’s clear that retailers are stepping up to offer products and services to suit consumers and their furry friends. This should see pet supplies sales value continue to grow in the near to medium term, even as volume growth may slow.