A Look into The Current Pet Food Shortage
February 26, 2021
How the COVID Ripple has Created Waves in Pet Food Supply
If you feed canned food to your four-legged companion, you’ve likely noticed some gaps in the store shelves lately. Various canned pet food items, ranging from grocery brands to premium quality, have been out of stock for weeks or even months.
Large retailers such as supermarkets, big box stores, and even online retailers seem to have more significant out-of-stock problems than smaller independents. The COVID ripple and the boom in pet adoptions have impacted the pet industry tremendously on many levels. For you, this means that shopping at local independent stores could benefit you and the community you live in!
Reasons for Supply Chain Disruption:
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused interruptions on nearly every level of the supply chain. Some you may have never considered, and others take several weeks or months to trickle down to store shelves. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the COVID ripple is responsible for the slower production rates of canned pet food.
- Labor shortages ranging from the livestock farms to the canning facilities and delivery drivers have slowed production. In addition, some processing facilities have been forced to close temporarily or operate with less staffing due to social distancing measures, lower facility capacities, and self-quarantines due to infection or exposure to the virus. When this happens multiple times, production lead times can quickly jump from 1-2 weeks to 2-4 months. As a result, some canned pet food manufacturers are so far behind they do not accept purchase orders. This, unfortunately, means that there are some brands or entire lines of canned food that may never be in production again.
- Supply shortages and delays are also to blame. Facilities at the beginning of the supply chain, such as livestock farms and slaughterhouses, have struggled to find workers to process the ingredients needed for pet food. This ultimately slows supply or, in some cases, creates temporary shortages. For common proteins like beef and chicken, other suppliers can often fill gaps. However, there are usually more long-term shortages in the case of more exotic options like venison.
- Imported ingredients have also seen delays. Production facilities, both national and international, have measures that require manufacturing facilities to close for extended lengths of time for quarantine and cleaning measures, along with the labor and supply shortages. In addition, the staffing shortages and safety measures in place with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol also extend the time imported products sit at the port.
- Inclement weather has also delayed transportation along the supply chain. Delays due to unsafe travel conditions and power outages from winter storms have been widespread from suppliers to production facilities to retailers. While this may not be a significant cause for empty shelves, it contributes to slower replenishment.
Increased Adoption Rates
Many families took advantage of the extra time they’ve had the last couple of years and welcomed a new furry friend into their home, and all those new pets inevitably brought a surge in demand for pet food. APPA reports 70% of U.S. households owned at least one pet in 2021, and pet owners have become increasingly interested in what they are feeding their pets. Wet and canned food, in particular, saw a dramatic increase in sales.
Have some formulas changed?
Some pet food manufacturers have chosen to discontinue or reformulate their recipes to bypass scarce ingredients to overcome some of the supply chain’s hurdles. So if your pet hesitates to eat his dinner, there may have been an ingredient swap that occurred. Be sure to check your pet food label to find possible ingredient substitutes.
What can you do?
If your pet food is out of stock, you probably have many questions. Why is my pet food out of stock? When (if at all) will it get restocked? What other options do I have? What about my pet’s dietary needs? Who can help me find something comparable?
But Big Box store employees are not likely to answer because large retailers do not work directly with distributors. They, therefore, have limited information (if any) about out-of-stock items. However, small independent pet retailers can order and receive products from multiple distributors, which comes in handy when one supplier runs out of an item. In addition, indie retailers have direct contact with distributors and close relationships with brand representatives.
This allows an indie store to provide accurate and up-to-date information straight from the source. Furthermore, indie pet staff will help you find appropriate replacements if your pet food is unavailable or discontinued. Finally, you can trust that these recommendations will be based on your pet’s needs and not on a sales goal!
The below charts show a significant dollar amount increase for both dry and wet pet food formats. Dry food experienced a greater dollar growth; however it was actually a smaller percentage of growth in comparison to wet foods (data as of August, 2020). This means that there likely was more of a strain put on wet food producers, further adding to shortages.
About the Authors:
Nicole is the founder & owner of multiple-award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut, USA. She has completed undergraduate work in biological sciences, business and holds an M.S. in Nutrition. Currently, Nicole is pursuing a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences (Canine Nutrition/Metabolomics) at the prestigious University of Georgia in the USA.
Her background includes experience in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading figures in the human and pet health industries. Nicole has been heavily involved in police canine nutrition within the USA, helping to improve the modern care and feeding of working dogs. Her interests include working dog nutrition, raw feeding, pathogens, metabolomics, and nutrition’s relationship to disease in humans and canines. Her current research involves the exploration of the canine urinary metabolome and the relationship to diet.
Publications: Cammack, N.R., Yamka, R.M., and Adams, V.J. (2021). Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.741575.
Jenna enthusiastically joined our team in early 2021 bringing nearly a decade of pet industry knowledge and experience along with her. She is a proud mom to cats Aerie and Spook who are both credited with her interest in pet nutrition. Quickly Jenna realized that there was a lot to be desired for honest, unbiased and accurate information within the industry and she knew she wanted to help change that. Much like the team at NPP, she believes in the value individualized diet, fresh food and tailored advice can provide for overall health, regardless of age. She also is the mom to 4 sugar gliders, Crumb, Crosby, Bindi and Gatsby which helps bring additional small animal knowledge to our robust team. When she’s not helping pet parents at NPP Jenna can be found hiking with her husband Adam, horseback riding and painting pet portraits.
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