Glenn Polyn//January 1, 2023//
Glenn Polyn //January 1, 2023//
With their high levels of intelligence, entertaining personalities and vibrant coloring, pet birds of many different species make popular pets. With a growing number of pet owners opting to add feathered friends to their families — according to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, eight percent of U.S. households now own a pet bird — industry leaders are increasingly emphasizing the importance of responsible bird ownership in order to ensure long-lasting health and happiness for birds and their owners alike.
Current State of the Avian Pet Sector
As the pandemic drove people to spend an unprecedented amount of time at home, interest in pet ownership — including birds — has surged in the past few years. Caterina Novotny of Prevue Pet Products explained, “The pandemic had a significant impact on pet ownership, and people turned to their homes and pets to enhance their lives and happiness. During this time, bird ownership soared to an all-time high.”
The APPA Survey confirmed this trend as nearly half of new bird owners cited the pandemic as one of the reasons they chose to purchase a bird. According to Vic Mason, president of the World Pet Association (WPA), pet product retailers are adjusting its inventories to meet demand. “Our SuperZoo show data indicated that there is a renewed interest in the bird category from retailers,” he said. “Over 12 percent of our buyers reported that they carried products related to bird.”
Despite these exciting trends in bird ownership, the turbulent economic climate over the past several months may be starting to take a toll. “While bird ownership experienced robust growth during and after the pandemic, we do see it flattening in the latter half of 2022 and going into 2023,” said Terry Gao of Caitec.
In addition to potentially curtailing growth in pet bird ownership, factors such as inflation and supply chain disruptions are beginning to have a negative impact on how much bird owners are spending on their pets. While the pet industry exceeded over $100 billion in sales for the first time ever in 2020, bird food retailers are now reporting that consumers are shifting to less expensive formulas and beginning to spend less on discretionary items such as treats. “The economy has really impacted sales,” said Brent Weinmann, chairman of the Bird Enjoyment and Advantage Koalition (BEAK). “With inflation as high as it is, the consumer has fewer discretionary dollars to spend.”
However, retailers have noted that the pet bird food sector has not experienced as drastic shocks as other industries, and they remain optimistic that demand from bird owners will continue to be strong in the future.
Importance of Responsible Breeders
As pet owners continue to show interest in birds, it’s increasingly important for the industry to promote responsible bird care, beginning with breeders. Retailers must be selective when choosing breeders to work with — unfortunately, as demand for pet birds has increased, so has the number of scams and disreputable breeders in the market. For example, some breeders sell unweaned birds, promoting it as an opportunity for owners to bond with their pets. However, owners must realize that birds are highly sensitive creatures and could suffer disastrous health problems if they are hand fed by someone without adequate experience. Some unscrupulous breeders may also sell birds that have been stolen or have not been socialized properly.
Caterina Novotny describes the level of professionalism retailers should look for when partnering with breeders. “While Prevue Pet Products does not sell birds, some of our best customers do. The passion and dedication they have is demonstrated by the long hours spent caring for and interacting with their birds,” she said, “This is a 24/7 job that only the most dedicated professionals would choose.”
Educating Bird Owners on Proper Bird Care
While pet birds can enrich their owners’ lives in numerous ways, they also come with various responsibilities and require a long-term commitment. Providing education for both current bird owners and those thinking of adding a pet bird to their households is the key to maximizing health and well-being for birds and quality of life for their owners. This is the mission of BEAK, a nonprofit organization composed of bird product manufacturers and associations formed to address the need for responsible bird ownership and growth. Through BEAK’s consumer-facing campaign, MyBird, the organization seeks to share the joys and benefits of pet bird ownership while offering education on responsible bird care. To learn more about BEAK and access a variety of fun and informative tools, including a pet bird matchmaker quiz, visit the MyBird website.
The chairman of BEAK, Brent Weinmann is also the president and CEO of Vitakraft Sun Seed, a pet food and treats manufacturer with focus on bird, small animal, cats and dogs. Weinmann has been in the pet industry for over 40 years and has served on the American Pet Products Association (APPA) board for 19 years. He has also previously served as a trustee and then president of Pet Care Trust and is still active with the organization and continues to participate in funding. Today, Weinmann and his wife live on a small horse farm near the Vitakraft Sun Seed factory in Grand Rapids, Ohio, where they have a bustling animal family of dogs, chickens, horses and a house full of cats.