The U.S. pet industry posted its most significant growth ever in 2021. As reported in Packaged Facts' “U.S. Pet Market Focus: Pet Stores & Pet Specialty Retailing,” sales of pet specialty retailers and e-tailers topped $31 billion, with a 18% growth rate surpassing that of the pet and vet industry overall.
Inflation remains a primary concern across consumer goods markets, however, with a range of factors combining into a perfect storm of economic pressures. “Manufacturers across the pet market have slowly increased their prices, spurred by challenges in acquiring ingredients, packaging materials and a host of other items that go into making and selling pet products,” said report analyst Shannon Brown.
Fueling inflation are supply chain issues that began with the 2020 COVID-19 shutdowns, although they have since been compounded by surging consumer spending, additional shipping delays, overcrowded warehouses, and shortages of both shipping containers and long-haul truck drivers.
According to Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts, pet product marketers must contend with demand for ingredients that are increasingly difficult to acquire. At times, store shelves remain unfilled and force pet owners to pay more for items or to purchase different products or brands than they typically would, a challenge that can disproportionately affect key pet product growth areas such as “fresh” (refrigerated/frozen) pet food.
[Read more: “Freshpet Reveals Leadership Changes Designed to Support Rapid Growth”]
U.S. pet owners and pet product shoppers are well aware of the shifting landscape, as a comparison of Packaged Facts' “2021 Survey of Pet Owners” with this year's iteration shows. For example, 59% of pet owners report spending more on pet products than they used to, up from 45% in 2021, and 45% are spending more on pet products and attributing it directly to COVID-19, up from 34% in 2021.
Even so, the pet specialty market saw a flurry of activity between 2020 and 2022, with Chewy approaching $10 billion in annual sales, PetSmart's $2.4 billion bond deal and Petco's IPO.
Store-brand products have also long been a strength of the pet store channel. As recessionary conditions put pricing pressure on all pet categories, store-brand products are well positioned to leverage their status as premium and on-trend yet affordable options.