The pandemic has certainly fueled the pet industry, which is booming.
According to the American Pet Products Association spending reached a record-high of almost $100 billion in 2020 with $40 boon spent on pet food alone. J.M. Smucker acquired Rachael Ray’s Delish premium pet food brand for $1.9B in 2018 and General Mills purchased Blue Wilderness for $8B. Pet adoptions soared 30 to 40% depending on where you live in the US and no wonder – the pandemic increased stress and the stay at home orders left many searching for companionship. And what better way to solve both issues than to focus on nurturing a pet – and having them return the favor.
The Produce Blue Book reports that the latest trend is upping the quality of pet food to even a higher level. We’ve all witnessed the upgrading over the past few years to higher quality pet foods – but now, brands like Pet Plate, The Farmer’s Dog, and Ollie, are marketing human-grade pet meals loaded with healthy ingredients including fruits, vegetables, and/or herbs. And they report that mainstream brands like Nutro by Mars Petcare are bringing fruits and vegetables to the forefront of their dry dog food ingredients and are committing to clean ingredients. The top trends in pet foods are following the human food trends: healthier ingredients alternative proteins (any one want to bet when Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods enter this category?), minimally processed and sustainably produced. What all this means for your supermarket is that now more than ever you need to put together a pet food plan to steal shoppers back from the Petco’s and eCommerce pet food competitors. And the way to do that is understand your shopper’s pet needs – the psychological needs – better than those competitors.
According to the American Psychological Association in an effort to manage the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned to their social support networks. But with limited access to in-person human social networks, many people are turning to pets for social support. Which may reduce uncertainty and potentially decreasing the risk for development of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Pets, APA says, may play an important role through the COVID-19 pandemic as a complementary social support to supplement technology initiated human-to-human interaction. Multiple theories have emerged to explain why people may turn to their pets for social support and companionship. One of these theories, the biophilia hypothesis, states that humans are innately drawn to other living things. Beyond attention, attachment theory suggests that the bonds that humans create with other living animals are also important for safety and security. The emotional bonds created through healthy attachment with animals have the potential to offer significant support to individuals during traumatic and uncertain times like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Train your store associates to understand these shoppers needs, and just maybe, we can steal back those pet foods purchases before they are forever lost.