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

CHICAGO, July 29 (Reuters) – Black short-haired kitten Astra, one of the millions of pets purchased during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, had to skip salmon-flavored whiskas treats in stores in New Orleans this month were sold out.

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

Pet owners in North America are struggling to track down certain groceries from large retailers like Amazon.com (AMZN.O), Target Corp (TGT.N) and PetSmart as the sector grapples with increased demand and stresses on the supply chain. Continue reading

The cost of pet food ingredients has increased 8% to 20% since the pandemic began, according to U.S. industry group Pet Food Institute, outperforming consumer price increases of 5.4% in the 12 months to June. Continue reading

Higher prices for staple foods like corn, soy, and meat, and rising transportation and labor costs, are affecting the overall food supply – both for animals and people – as the US economy gains momentum. Continue reading

“The pet supply chain is not that different from the food supply chain,” says Coye Nokes, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants. “That was obviously very much emphasized by COVID – be it with the ingredients, raw materials, processing or the downtime at different locations.”

US corn and soybean prices, the main ingredients in many pet foods, hit an eight-year high this spring, putting pressure on manufacturers who use the crops. Continue reading

Pet food manufacturers are also facing increasing competition for animal and vegetable oils as more of it is invested in renewable fuels, according to the Pet Food Institute. Continue reading

“Unprecedented increases in the price of ingredients and equipment are jeopardizing the ability of US pet food manufacturers to design and implement strategies to ensure America’s dog and cat food bowls are full,” the institute warned US agricultural officials in a June letter.

Supply shortages surprise pet owners, and there have been many more owners since the pandemic began. According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 12.6 million U.S. households reported having purchased a new pet between March and December 2020.

In New Orleans, Aura Bishop, 39, spent weeks searching local stores to find her cat Astra’s favorite goodies, made by Mars Petcare. The company, the world’s largest pet food manufacturer, declined to comment.

The bottlenecks were an inconvenience for the writer and actress, who said Astra helped her deal with anxiety and depression during the pandemic.

“I wish she were less picky and eat different flavors,” said Bishop. “It feels a little silly to go looking for specific flavors of croquettes and treats.”

ADDITIONAL WORK FOR CHARITIES

Limited supplies have brought additional work to animal welfare groups like the South Shore Pet Food Pantry near Boston.

Co-founder Kristen Clancy said she checks online pet food wishlists on sites like Amazon and Target about every two weeks instead of every two to three months beforehand as products sell out more often. She manually updates the lists to offer donors alternative items for purchase.

Over the U.S. Independence Day holiday weekend, Clancy said she updated all of the items on her destination list because they were not available.

“It can be time-consuming because we are looking for replacements that are beneficial to the animals but also inexpensive for the people who donate,” she said.

Target declined to comment.

Amazon said pet food manufacturers are prioritizing best-selling items over niche products due to increased demand. Pet treats and food brands that focus on health and wellness are popular as more and more people are treating their animals as families, according to the company.

CHANGE SHOPPING PATTERN

Retailers work with suppliers to keep pace with customer demand and changes in shopping behavior so they don’t lose business.

According to NielsenIQ, U.S. consumers spent nearly $ 26 billion on pet food from July 2020 to July 2021, 4.7% more than last year and 7.8% more than two years earlier.

Delivery bottlenecks reduced the net sales of online retailer Chewy (CHWY.N) in the quarter that ended on March 2.

General Mills’ Pet Business (GIS.N) operating income increased 6% to $ 415 million for the fiscal year ended May 30, as higher net sales trumped higher input costs. The company that sells Blue Buffalo pet food recently bought Tyson Foods (TSN.N) pet treat business for $ 1.2 billion. Continue reading

“Everything is going well because there are more pets and more premiumization, but you are seeing people switching faster than we’ve ever seen,” said Bethany Quam, president of General Mills’ pet segment, of the changes in people, the shopping.

In Ontario, 20-year-old Mariella Garcia said she was left blank in June when she searched Amazon and PetSmart websites for a Royal Canin dog food made by Mars. At the time, COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from entering pet stores to shop for their dog, Loki, who was named after the Marvel comic book character.

“I was just shocked,” said Garcia. “It’s usually always in stock.”

Reporting by Tom Polansek and Richa Naidu in Chicago; Editing by Simon Webb and Lisa Shumaker

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