This year has brought significant challenges to the pet food industry, and while we’ve been fortunate to see extraordinary examples of teamwork and genuine goodwill across the sector, most of us will be quite pleased at the thought of approaching the end of 2020.
But throughout this season and beyond, a number of key trends stand to impact the pet food industry, for better or worse. What these trends all have in common is that there is an intensity to them, perhaps because they are driven largely by public anxiety around ongoing lockdowns and food insecurity, and in some cases can be traced back to our earliest responses to the Covid-19 outbreak.
E-commerce and DTC
The feedback we are receiving from our customers and partners is consistent: E-commerce is booming. This is also reflected in a recent report from Kantar, which stated that 6% of people who bought pet food online did so for the first time this year, with pet food one of the top 20 categories to experience this growth.
Most retailers have had to rapidly switch gears, and are now placing new focus on delivering a digitally optimised look and feel, nutritional information guides & supportive content and seamless checkout, working as one to provide a more satisfying online experience, aimed at strengthening the online value proposition to become a key driver of brand loyalty.
With many bricks and mortar stores shut down over lockdown, brands were forced to reassess their existing routes to market. Among those that normally sell into the supply chain, some have explored the Direct-to-Consumer, or DTC, model instead. In the US, pet food has been a frontrunner ahead of human food when it comes to DTC, with boutique and smaller, more agile brands the early adopters of this model. We can expect momentum in Europe and the UK around this model to increase, with larger brands scaling their DTC offering. Watch this space.
The narratives presented by the media to the public throughout the COVID-19 crisis brought into sharp relief the complexity, and in some cases fragility of the food supply chain. Headlines of the virus impacting meat and poultry processing plants and crop growers ploughing acres of crops into the ground served as a wakeup call to industry players – and consumers – that weaknesses were embedded in the “just in time” supply chain model.
While the fluctuations we originally saw early in the pandemic as a result of stockpiling seem now to be a distant memory, we must remain vigilant to ongoing consumer apprehension around food availability, and remain sympathetic to those who are still sheltering at home or feeling nervous about venturing back to stores. Therefore making large-pack and multi-pack formats available must be one of the strategies retailers look to adopt going forward.
With this comes the need to inform pet owners of correct portion sizes, food longevity and storage information to ensure that they can use their large-pack formats effectively, without unduly creating excess food waste.
Furthermore, since strategies aimed at developing trust on the part of the consumer can help your end users to achieve better peace of mind, it’s important to prioritise transparency around the provenance of the food ingredients, with particular focus on the traceability, authenticity and integrity of the ingredients themselves (organic, locally produced etc).
More support needed for pet charities and new pet owners/fosterers
Throughout lockdown we have heard heartbreaking cases of pet owners forced to rehome pets, or when faced with unemployment, choosing not to eat so that they could continue to feed their pets.
And although widespread media outlets reported during the onset of the Covid-19 crisis that there had been a steep rise in the number of pets adopted or fostered, we now hear of climbing numbers of pets being rehomed or abandoned.
In the cases where new pet owners and fosterers have taken in an animal in need, they may find choosing the right pet food for their new pet confusing or stressful – particularly if they have not had the opportunity to research food options and portion recommendations ahead of time.
At C&D we aim to do all we can to provide clear information and guidance to make new pet ownership easier for those who are adopting or fostering pets. We are committed to supporting new pet owners, those fostering pets, and pet charities which have been inundated since lockdown and are now finding it hard to cope.
We have been proud to work with Bradford4Better to provide much-needed food to pets in Yorkshire facing malnourishment. Bradford4Better identified the people and animals most in need of support and mobilised dozens of volunteers to distribute product and as a result our pet food has been delivered to a huge number of animal shelters, community centres, churches, and other neighbourhood organisations throughout Yorkshire.
We have also started a Team Cat versus Team Dog 1,200 mile race in support of The Dog’s Trust & Cats Protection charities. Our Cat and Dog teams will be walking, running and cycling the 1,200 miles, which is the equivalent of the length of both the UK and Ireland. If you’d like to donate, please click on the following links…
The pet food industry is entering into a new era, and if these trends continue as expected, the coming months will be marked by tech advances, fluctuations in consumer confidence, and animal welfare concerns. It’s important that as an industry we are awake to ongoing shifts, and are responsive to the ways in which these changes are likely to impact our businesses and the pet food sector as a whole.
If our commercial team at C&D can help your business to create effective and responsive strategies to meet today’s challenges, or if you are a pet charity in need of support in these difficult times, please let us know. We are open to enquiries and would be happy to speak with you.