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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges across all industries, including the pet food industry. From supply chain issues to dealing with local lockdowns and addressing employee and customer concerns, pet food manufacturers and retailers have had to confront and overcome difficulties. But they’re continuing to provide food for beloved pets and comfort for pet parents around the world.

While we haven’t achieved the new normal yet, it’s important for those in all levels of the pet food industry to be flexible during these times, adapting and finding more ways to serve pets and pet parents safely. Here are a few of the challenges the industry has faced during the pandemic.

Unpredictable Sales

In the early days of the pandemic in the United States, people rushed to the stores to stock up on everything, including pet food. This caused a huge spike in retail sales. According to Womply, March 16 saw a 57 percent increase over the same day last year.

But these unprecedented sales figures had a backlash. As the supply chain struggled to catch up, pet food shelves in retail stores stood empty. At the same time, many people were either on lockdown or afraid to leave their homes to shop. These combined factors drove many pet parents to buy food online from services like Amazon and Chewy, so the early spike in retail sales has not been repeated. This means that some brick-and-mortar pet stores may be struggling to retain customers even though they have been designated as essential services.

Supply Chain Uncertainty

While retail shelves are stocked again, there is still lingering uncertainty in the pet food supply chain. Disturbances in the supply chain for human food have the potential to impact the pet food industry, too.

For those pet food brands that use meat, surplus meat in the supply chain due to restaurant and meat processing plant closures are all playing a role in the shifting landscape of pet food ingredients and supply chain. At the same time, the growing surge towards vegan and plant-based human food due to the pandemic may drive more pet parents to choose vegan food for their pets.

Brands that use mostly or fully plant-based ingredients have not seen the same supply chain fluctuations as some meat-based brands and have been able to maintain a steady supply chain to the consumers.

Overcoming Challenges

The best way for brands and retailers to weather the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic is to be flexible and nimble in their operating practices. This time is challenging, but it also presents many opportunities to grow, evolve and meet customers’ needs.

For the retailers and brands that have not developed e-commerce or delivery models, this is a great time to explore ways to get their products into consumers’ hands — and pets’ mouths — with as little direct contact as possible.

While many have seen great success with online-only ordering and distribution, brick and mortar shops have also turned to solutions like curbside pickup in tandem with delivery as a way to remain majority physical business, but still provide adaptive solutions.

Finding the New Normal

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed in the pet food industry. People still love their pets and are willing to provide the best-quality food to keep them safe, healthy and happy. In fact, before lockdowns or stay-at-home orders were enacted, many rushed to adopt pets to keep them company and add more love to their homes.

Household animals are a loving part of their families. Pet food manufacturers and retailers have a vital role to play in that relationship, and finding new ways to serve pets and pet parents is the best way to keep that relationship strong. Even in a crisis like the pandemic, pet food companies can adapt to changing circumstances, look for new opportunities, and continue to make the world a better place for the animals we love.

 

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