pet retailers

Pet retailers should invest in quality fridges and freezers

As seen in Pet Product News

The pet food market continues to grow as pet owners look to feed their beloved furry friends the very best food they can afford. As such, demand for premium pet foods loaded with nutrients and high-quality ingredients has grown and this means investment in high quality fridges and freezers is needed.

Pets—and pet specialty retailers—are both benefiting from this trend, judging by the rise in spending on pet food and the longer life span of dogs and cats. In fact, dogs are now living an average of 11.8 years, up from 10.5 years in 2002, while cats’ lives now last an average of 12.9 years, up from 11 years in 2002, according to Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2016 State of Pet Health report. And pet food spending has skyrocketed too; the American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimated that spending on pet food would hit $29.88 billion in 2018.

This preference for higher-quality—and fresher—pet food gives retailers more opportunities to diversify their offerings with higher-margin products. A good example of this is the recent growth in fresh or frozen pet foods. Walk into a pet store in 2019 and the biggest difference you will notice from a decade ago are the freezers or refrigerators lining a wall.

While frozen and refrigerated pet foods only account for about 10 percent of the total market today, this market share is growing by leaps and bounds. Given millennial consumers’ preference for more healthful foods, premium pet foods are poised to take even more market share away from kibble and canned varieties. Beyond the non-GMO, raw, protein-rich, grain-free foods that are proliferating across the country, the fresh pet food category is expanding even more, with ice creams, goat milk, bone broth, gelatos and yogurts gaining popularity.

Frozen and refrigerated pet foods offer many advantages to retailers. There is a higher profit margin with premium pet foods, and the typical customer is more likely to spend on other things, like treats, accessories and pet services. In addition, because these high-value customers shop more frequently to stock up on fresh food, as opposed to the kibble buyer who comes in to the shop once a month, retailers are more likely to sell more to these customers and develop a long-term relationship with them. Finally, to compete with online pet food retailers, it pays to offer a product they are less likely to sell because of spoilage, which includes fresh and frozen pet food.

Retailers seeking to build a raw food section within their stores will need to commit space to merchandising freezers and refrigerators. This can be challenging for retailers with a smaller store footprint, but the return on margins and increased consumer frequency outweigh the square-footage commitment.

Some retailers make the mistake of trying to economize by buying a bank of solid wall freezers and installing them along an outer wall of their shop. While it is understandable to want to test out the market without investing in commercial units, with solid wall units, customers have no idea what is behind the door and no reason to look. All the sophisticated packaging, clean labeling and marketing effort that pet food manufacturers put into their product goes to waste. To introduce new products to consumers, there is no substitute for brightly lit, attractive freezer merchandisers to showcase a wide array of products. And to help impulse sales, nothing beats a merchandiser freezer strategically placed by the point of purchase, where customers unaware of this new category of pet food can be tempted to try it out.

Food safety is another reason to invest in high-quality refrigeration equipment. Packaged Facts survey data show that, for 69 percent of dog owners and 64 percent of cat owners, “fear of pet food contamination/product safety is a key consideration in the dog foods/cat foods I buy.” Consumers who put a premium on healthful ingredients want to know the integrity of the food is backed up all the way to their local store.

Another consideration when purchasing display fridges or freezers is maintenance, as standard condensers require a constant supply of air to function and can become clogged and malfunction. This can be an issue for pet food stores that offer grooming services or host a lot of animals on a daily basis. In that scenario, merchandiser freezers that have self-cleaning condensers will save retailers untold hours in labor and downtime for servicing as they will only require an occasional visual inspection to ensure they are free of dirt and fur buildup.

There is no better time to introduce higher-margin, gourmet pet food to your customers. Encompassing everything from high-meat, protein-rich raw food to alternative ingredients like brown rice or ancient grains, premium pet food now accounts for more than half of the U.S. market, according to research firm Euromonitor International. The category is set to grow even more as health-conscious millennials look for functional foods like turmeric, honey and coconut oil on the ingredient list to boost the nutritional value of pet food.

Finally, anti-aging trends will impact the market, with specific products aimed at easing geriatric pets into their senior years as slowly and painlessly as possible.

All this enrichment in pet diets can have a similar effect on your bottom line, but investing in the right merchandisers will be key to this category catching on with customers.

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