Aidan Gannon, owner of Petzlove Food ‘n Stuff, an independent pet store in Lone Tree, Colorado, began noticing the influx of customers asking for fresh pet food in late 2020. National direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising campaigns for fresh hit Pet food brands made waves at the time, which helped attract pet owners’ interest in these diets, according to Gannon.
“[DTC brands are] Creating a story that everyone hears, which is why we’re seeing more demand. This makes people aware, and makes it easier for us to turn them into decision making [to feed fresh]Gannon said. “At this point, we probably have an eight out of ten success rate in getting someone to walk out the door with something new. A few years ago, that was probably three out of 10.”
Industry data indicates that chilled and frozen pet foods are among the fastest growing segments of the pet food segment. Sales of frozen pet food in the United States reached $293.4 million in 2021, up about 20 percent from 2020, according to NielsenIQ.
While the category achieved double-digit growth in just one year, its market share is still small at 2.5 percent, according to NielsenIQ.
“Time and time again we see that pet parents don’t quite make the switch,” said Dr. Danielle Bernal, a global veterinarian with Wellness Pet, a manufacturer based in Tuxbury, Massachusetts, that recently launched its wellness-boosted product. A line of toppers that can double as complete meals. “As parents of pets move into this category, I think they still offer multiple formats: they’ll have food, they’ll be fed fresh.”
Pet owners still want options, and the increasing demand for fresh pet food has created a major predicament for independent pet retailers who report success in this category. With increased interest and sales, many retailers have run out of spaces on the sales floor, according to industry insiders.
Julian Attree, CRO/CSO at Minus Forty, a Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, company, manufacturer of commercial cooling systems for pet stores, convenience stores, retail food markets, pharmacies and vending. “Now you see shops with six and eight double-door units.”
Although Minus Forty is located in Canada, it does a significant amount of business with US retailers, including pet stores, according to company officials. The company recently showcased at the Global Pet Expo, held in Orlando, Florida, in March, and will be showing at SuperZoo in Las Vegas this August.
Atre noted that it wasn’t long ago that retailers often had solid-door freezers or freezers. Over the past decade, more and more stores have begun acquiring refrigerators with vertical glass doors, making them the best showcase for raw or gently cooked foods.
“[Retailers] I understood that how you market the product is also very important, and how that has had a huge impact on the selling process through.” “The move from residential solid-door freezers to appropriate commercial glass-door freezers – where they have good lighting and good visibility of the product – has had a positive impact. .”
Tara Pelzer, pet store owner in Charlotte, North Carolina, opened her shop four years ago with a single three-door freezer, gradually adding two more freezers over time. But Belzer said the order still justified the recent purchase of four gently used freezers from a store that was out of business.
Some retailers are rethinking their store layouts – and even store size – to make room for more freezers.
By August 2021, Gannon nearly doubled the size of his store to accommodate more freezer space.
The main engine [behind the expansion] is that I had to triple my freezer space,” he said. “There was no way I would have been able to meet demand with the freezer capacity I had, so the expansion made sense.”
Finding space for freezers can mean stopping merchandise, reducing floor space for dining beds or pets, turning treats into end covers or just finding space anywhere.
Audrey Berg Farnsworth, co-owner of Auggie’s Pet Supplies in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which carries nearly 20 brands of raw, fresh, and gently cooked foods. “We’re pushing them every angle we can.”
Financial and maintenance issues
Finding space to expand new offerings is one of the challenges that specialty pet retailers face as the demand for fresh pet food grows.
“Freezers alone can be worth more than $5,000,” Gannon said. “You can get rebates, you can convince distributors to participate, but there is also a cost to maintain.”
That’s why some pet food companies and distributors provide brand-name freezers for their products. Freshpet, for example, is a company that supplies these types of freezers.
“They basically give you a fridge, but it’s still their fridge,” Gannon said. “It’s foolproof, so they go out and fix it or replace it as needed…which might save you $2,500 to fix the compressor, but it stops you from carrying that brand.”
Maintenance, energy costs, and power outages are major concerns for retailers with multiple freezers. However, newer freezers are more energy efficient than ever, according to insiders.
“Four years ago, all manufacturers had to redesign equipment [to comply with updated energy consumption regulations]Atri said. “Now, you can plug a two-door refrigerator into a regular outlet—the only thing a retailer needs to know is that you don’t want to plug multiple units into the same circuit.”
Commercial freezers are designed to maintain a constant temperature for 24 hours during a power outage, but the loss of power is terrifying for retailers who have thousands of dollars in stock in every refrigerator. Being in hurricane country, Berg-Farnsworth has a generator to use for extended outages.
When a power outage occurred in March, Gannon estimated he had $15,000 to $20,000 in stock in his refrigerators.
“I could have lost it overnight,” he said, “but we got lucky.”
Atre said that freezers equipped with Internet of Things (IoT) technology — a term that describes things equipped with sensors, processing power and software — could alert retailers of power outages, temperature fluctuations and mechanical issues in real time.
When it comes to fresh food, there’s always a risk that it won’t flip quickly enough, which is something retailers may want to consider before adding more fresh options.
“I hate profligacy,” Belzer said. “We have a solid three-month programme, and we are going into [fresh] Inventory once a month. We’re tracking and starting discounting in three months.”
While the sales rate is good at the Berg-Farnsworth department store, the product sometimes sticks around. When that happens, she feeds it to her dogs, gives it to her staff or lowers the price.
“I also suggest opening a bag and taking samples,” Berge Farnsworth said. “The manufacturer will probably cover the cost of that bag, and your customers will get a free taste test. It builds customer loyalty and encourages them. They come out saying, ‘Oh, look.'” I got this free food. Free raw food. ”