Pet food shortages leave owners on the hunt for kibble and cat treats

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The black, short-haired kitty Astra, one of the millions of pets acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, was forced to skip the salmon-flavored Whiskas candy sold in New Orleans stores this month. .

Loki, an Alaskan malamute dog in Ontario, Canada, didn’t have his usual Royal Canin kibble in his food bowl.

North American pet owners are struggling to track down some of the foods from major retailers such as Amazon.com (AMZN.O), Target Corp (TGT.N) and PetSmart as the sector grapples with increased demand and pressures on the supply chain. Read more

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Pet food ingredient costs have risen 8% to 20% since the pandemic began, according to the American industry group, the Pet Food Institute, outpacing a 5.4% jump in consumer prices in the 12 months through June. Read more

Higher prices for staples such as corn, soybeans and meat, as well as rising transportation and labor costs, affect all food supplies – for animals and humans alike – as the US economy regains momentum. Read more

“The pet supply chain is not very different from the food supply chain,” said Koi Knox, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants. “Obviously COVID has really underlined that – whether it’s ingredients, raw materials, processing or downtime at different facilities.”

Prices of US corn and soybeans, key ingredients in many pet foods, reached eight-year highs this spring, putting pressure on manufacturers that use the crops. Read more

Pet food makers also face increased competition for animal and vegetable oils as more of it goes into renewable fuel supplies, according to the Pet Food Institute. Read more

The institute warned US agricultural officials in a letter in June that “unprecedented increases in ingredients and equipment prices are jeopardizing the ability of US pet food makers to plan and implement strategies that ensure American cat and dog food bowls are full.”

The supply restrictions are surprising pet owners, and there have been many pet owners since the pandemic began. About 12.6 million American households indicated that they acquired a new pet from March to December 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association.

In New Orleans, Ora Bishop, 39, scoured local stores for weeks to find her cat Astra’s favorite treats, made by Mars Pettker. The company, the world’s largest pet food maker, declined to comment.

And that shortage has been a nuisance to the writer and actress, who said Astra has helped her cope with anxiety and depression during the pandemic.

“I wish she was less smart and would eat the other flavors,” Bishop said. “It’s a bit ridiculous to go on this quest to find certain flavors of foods and desserts.”

Extra work for charities

Limited supplies led to additional work for animal charities such as the South Shore Pet Food Pantry near Boston.

Co-founder Kristen Clancy said she reviews online wish lists for pet foods on sites like Amazon and Target about every two weeks, rather than every two to three months previously, because the products are frequently sold out. You manually update the lists to provide alternative items for donors to purchase.

Over the weekend of American Independence Day, Clancy said she updated all the items on the target list because they weren’t available.

“It can take a long time because we are looking for alternatives that are beneficial for animals but also cost-effective for people who make donations,” she said.

Target declined to comment.

Amazon said pet food manufacturers are prioritizing best-selling items over specialty products due to increased demand. According to the company, pet treats and food brands that focus on health and wellness are gaining popularity as more people treat their animals like family.

Changing shopping styles

Retailers work with suppliers to keep up with customer demand and changes in shopping patterns so they don’t lose out on business.

American consumers spent nearly $26 billion on pet foods from July 2020 to July 2021, up 4.7% from the previous year and 7.8% from two years earlier, according to NielsenIQ.

The company said supply shortages drove net online retail sales of Chewy (CHWY.N) down $40 million in the quarter ended May 2, but still up 31.7% from a year earlier at $2.1 billion.

General Mills’ Pet Division (GIS.N) operating profit rose 6% to $415 million in the fiscal year ended May 30 as larger net sales outpaced higher input costs. The company, which sells Blue Buffalo pet food, recently bought Tyson Foods (TSN.N) Pet Products for $1.2 billion. Read more

“Everything is going well, because there are more pets and more benefits, but you’re seeing people convert faster than we’ve ever seen,” said Bethany Quam, head of pets at General Mills, of changes to where people shop. .

In Ontario, Mariela Garcia, 20, said it came out empty in June when she searched Amazon and PetSmart sites for Royal Canin dog food made by Mars. At the time, COVID-19 restrictions prevented her from entering retail pet stores to shop for her dog Loki, named after the Marvel comic character.

“I was in shock,” Garcia said. “Usually always available.”

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Additional reporting by Tom Polancic and Richa Naidoo in Chicago; Editing by Simon Webb and Lisa Schumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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