US pet food sales eclipse pandemic spike, keep climbing

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Pet food and treat retail sales value growth blazed a new path in 2021. Last year every four-week period except one saw sales dollar growth of 9.9% or more, according to the NielsenIQ report “U.S. Pet Food Trends and Insights.” Pet food sales rose in 2021 to the point where they matched then eclipsed the 2020 sales spike in the early pandemic. In that March 2020 pandemic spike, U.S. pet retail sales reached more than US$850 million per four-week period, but dropped rapidly back to US$600 million by late April. By the beginning of this year, pet retail sales had climbed gradually to surpass pandemic highs as dollar sales volume neared US$900 million per four-week period in December 2021.

Supply chains challenge pet food retailers while e-commerce boosts sales

Along with the lingering pandemic, supply chain issues influenced pet food sales in 2021. NielsenIQ analysts looked at the number of UPCs selling at U.S. pet product retailers. In 2020, there were 27,697 UPCs crossing check-out scanners. By 2021, that number dropped by 586 to 27,111, a decline of 2.2%. Dog treats and wet cat food seem to have suffered the most from supply chain issues as they saw the largest decline in UPC prevalence.

Despite problems with getting pet foods where they need to be, e-commerce thrived in 2021, staying strong as purchase orders continued a three-year upward trend. Even the holiday seasonal bump was higher in December 2021, as orders increased by 393,000 compared to 279,000 in 2020. In February 2019, less than 10 million total dog food and treat orders were placed online. That figure more than doubled by the end of 2021 to over 22 million orders. Cat food e-commerce orders nearly tripled between February 2019 and December 2021. Dry dog food and dog treats especially helped drive this growth.

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