The following article from The Denver Post is illuminating on the plight of dogs and cats during our challenging economic times –the pet food industry is booming. Many dogs, apparently, are coasting through like Robber Barons in private railway cars through a shanty town (though, Yours Truly, cannot report anything but the occasional deprivations and delights from his own abode). Here’s the article:
DESPITE rising unemployment, credit card debt and thinning discretionary spending, American pet owners remain loyal customers to an industry that is enjoying consistent growth.
The pet food industry is fuelled by consumers who will not back away from spending on food and necessities for their animals, although they are just as likely to pare down the family holiday.
The strong spending comes amid price increases in nearly every pet food category, the result of rising costs of fuel, ingredients and transportation for manufacturers.
Dogs and cats, though, still feel the pinch in other ways, owners said. Fewer treats, new toys or accessories such as collars and leashes, even fewer trips to the groomer are all part of the cost savings.
”We’ve cut back for us all,” said Kathy Schmidt, of the Denver suburb of Lone Tree, whose miniature schnauzer, Archie, has had to wait longer between clippings.
Though the family has trimmed back, Archie still eats pretty well because ”he needs to eat what he’s accustomed to”, Ms Schmidt said.
That is one reason spending on pets remains robust, with total sales of all pet products topping $US45 billion ($51 billion) this year, a 5 per cent increase, according to the American Pet Products Association. Retail sales of pet food are up 4.5 per cent this year, at about $US18 billion. Pet food sales are projected to top $US21 billion by 2013.
Boutique pet stores are enjoying growth while many of their counterparts catering solely to humans struggle.
”We’ve seen double-digit growth this year. The recession hasn’t really touched us,” said Deb Dempsey, the owner of Mouthfuls in Denver.
Dedication to their pets’ health apparently has much to do with how owners spend. ”We have so many customers who say they’d eat macaroni and cheese before they’d cut back on their dogs,” she said.
The pet food recalls of 2007 did not leave the industry unscathed, but did reinforce owners’ focus on quality, not price. ”I’ll go to McDonald’s and eat lunch from the dollar menu, but a can of food isn’t something I want to skimp on,” Pat Janssen, a money manager, said of his dog. ”But there are fewer toys and chews in the bag these days.”
Prices are stabilising, but consumers should not expect too big a drop any time soon. Much is due to long-term supply contracts producers locked into when prices were already high, analysts say.
”We’re trying to cut back, though we’re not real good at it,” said owner Mark Niederhauser of his two chow-chows and a papillon. ”I just can’t deny the dogs.”