Pet Sales a Treat for Grocers

Consumers spending more time at home are buying more treats, toys for their four-legged friends
Photograph: Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many changes to consumers lives—some talked about more than others, such as working from home, cooking-at home and opting for pickup and delivery. But it has also meant more time with consumers’ beloved pets, which has led to an increase in sales of pet treats, toys and the like at grocers nationwide.

Sales of pet products such as accessories, flea and tick treatments, and toys are doing well at K-VA-T and its Food City stores, says Dan Glei, EVP of merchandising/marketing. “It’s a pretty robust category. People are home [and] want to play with their pets,” he says.

Treats and toys are the fastest-growing products at Festival Foods, De Pere, Wis. “We are very focused on being a convenience in this category so the consumer doesn’t have to make another stop,” says Sean Sanders, center store senior director.

“Pets are being pampered and indulged like never before,” says Joe McQuesten, SVP of fresh and center store merchandising for Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash. And because of this, the treat category is exploding. Weekly sales of cat treats have been, on average, 25% higher than last year, with some weeks 50% higher. Sales of dog bones and treats have increased as well, he says, “perhaps to provide a distraction and moment of quiet while conducting video and conference calls.” Dog treats are averaging double-digit growth compared to the prior year.

Although smaller in size, categories such as pet toys, pet medicine and pet shampoo have doubled their sales each week since mid-March too, McQuesten says.

There are a plethora of pet products beyond food on the market right now, says Aimee Becker, SVP of strategic advisory for Daymon, a private-label development firm in Stamford, Conn. These range from pet cameras to ergonomically designed pet beds and DNA kits. “That’s a really interesting area of how people are thinking more about their pets,” she says.

And sales of grooming tools such as shampoos and trimmers are growing by 20%, Becker says, because consumers who might have outsourced these services pre-pandemic are now doing them themselves. “And what we’re hearing from consumers is they’ll continue these behaviors,” she says.

Glei thinks the changes to shopping during the pandemic have driven some of this growth. “The consolidation of trips means shoppers’ visits are deeper and wider,” he says. Plus, some shoppers have preferred to shop for pet products in their grocery store, rather than make a separate trip to a pet specialty store such as Petco.

“We like to think they shop with us because we’ve done a great job of keeping our range in place and when we couldn’t get national brands, we’ve done all we can get other brands in place,” Glei says.

Treats are a great item to carry. Within the pet category, treats “are a key driver as they tend to bring innovation and functional benefits to the category,” says Tim Dornfeld, category manager for KeHE Distributors in Naperville, Ill. “However, while treats make up around a fifth of pet sales, they account for over a third of category growth over the last five years.”


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