BELLEVUE, WASH. — DataWeave, a provider of solutions to help brands accelerate their online growth, released its report on the state of the pet care industry within the e-commerce sector. The report examines growth potential and digital shelf performance to demonstrate the importance of e-commerce in the pet industry.

DataWeave’s report tracked data from more than 5,000 pet care product SKUs, analyzing product availability, discounts and share of search, as well as more than 100,000 SKUs to examine the leading e-commerce brands in the United States. Data was collected from October to December 2021 and 2022.

The company focused its analysis on leading pet care brands Mars Petcare, General Mills, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Merrick Pet Care, Nestlé Purina and The J.M. Smucker Company, and leading e-commerce retailers Amazon, Chewy, Petco, PetFlow, PetSmart, Pet Supermarket and Pet Supplies Plus.


E-commerce opportunity

According to data from Statista shared by DataWeave, the US pet care industry sales achieved $60.2 billion in 2015 and are expected to rise to $93.1 billion by 2025. This growth is not only driven by consistent increases in pet ownership, but can also be attributed to increasing average amount spent on pets by consumers.

This growth will contribute to 8% annual growth in the US pet industry by 2030, according to Morgan Stanley, as average annual spend will increase to $1,320 per pet in 2025 and is expected to reach $1,897 per pet by 2030.

This increase in spending is largely driven by e-commerce. According to eMarketer, e-commerce sales of pet food products have risen significantly from 13.3% of total sales in 2016 to 36% in 2022. This steady increase is expected to continue, with eMarketer expecting pet food e-commerce sales to grow to 45.7% of total sales in 2025, accounting for nearly half of all pet food sales.

Additionally, pet food is currently one of the leading US e-commerce CPG categories, according to Statista. Pet food e-commerce sales reached $3.5 billion in 2018, just behind human vitamins at $7.4 billion and pet supplies at $5.7 billion.  

The rapid rise of e-commerce in the pet nutrition space has led to fierce market competition. According to DataWeave, brands need to track and optimize their online presence and drive higher consumer visibility to their products in order to really win in this space.


Product availability

With supply chain constraints, labor issues, COVID-19 and other issues impacting the pet nutrition industry, product availability has continued to fluctuate, leaving consumers struggling to find their favorite products online and in-store in some cases. But ensuring product availability within e-commerce is imperative, according to DataWeave, as it plays a key role in a brand’s share of search.

Though product stock can be replenished quickly, it takes a considerable amount of time for a brand to regain lost share of search and discoverability in the e-commerce arena, according to DataWeave.

According to the company’s report, the stock availability of pet care products across all examined brands and retailers hit a low of 52% in 2021, but shot up to 76% in 2022, likely due to easing supply chain challenges following COVID-19.

In 2021, Merrick Pet Care faced the lowest product availability at 32%. Hill’s Pet Nutrition maintained the highest availability at 69%, and General Mills was just behind at 57%. Mars, The J.M. Smucker Company and Nestlé Purina all had relatively similar availability at 48%, 44% and 43%, respectively.

In 2022, Nestlé Purina faced the highest increase in product availability, jumping a whopping 39% to 82%, just behind both Hill’s Pet Nutrition and General Mills at 83%. The J.M Smucker Company’s product availability shot up to 72%, and Mars’ availability increased to 76%. Merrick held the lowest availability again for 2022 at 39%.

According to DataWeave, hyperlocal product availability is important in e-commerce, as it can help boost discoverability and sales.

In examining product availability, DataWeave also looked at the availability of cat food versus dog food. According to the report, all brands, except for The J.M. Smucker Company and Mars, had a higher stock of dog food compared to cat food.

General Mills, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Nestlé Purina all had about equal stocks of dog and cat food. However, The J.M. Smucker Company maintained a higher stock of its cat food products at 84% compared to dog food at 60%, and Mars also maintained more cat food stock at 80% compared to dog food at 73%.

Merrick had a significantly lower cat food stock of 17% compared to its dog food stock of 54%, demonstrating a clearer consumer preference for dog food products above cat food.


Discount variations

One of the many benefits e-commerce shopping offers consumers is price discounts. However, large variations in product pricing can impact a brand’s equity, according to DataWeave. The company recommends that brands track their product price points across various e-commerce retailers to help maintain their brand’s perception and marketing position to consumers.

E-commerce retailers approach discounting in various ways but, on average, PetFlow, Petco and Chewy offered the most aggressive discounts, whereas Amazon, PetSmart and Pet Supplies Plus took a more conservative approach. According to DataWeave, discounts on PetFlow, Petco and Amazon sharply rose in 2022 compared to 2021, likely as a result of increased competition within the e-commerce space.


Share of search

As e-commerce competition ramps up, pet care brands are forced to differentiate themselves to increase their visibility to consumers and maintain their share of e-commerce searches. Consumers typically use branded and non-branded keywords to find the products they’re looking for, as well as general keywords like “dog food,” “cat food,” “dry dog food,” “canned kitten food,” etc.

In its report, DataWeave found that Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Mars and Nestlé Purina combined accounted for nearly half of the share of products in the top 10 search results in 2022. In 2021 and 2022, Hill’s led this share of search at 26% and 21%, respectively. General Mills’ and Mars’ share remained stagnant at 7% and 10%, respectively, in 2021 and 2022. Nestlé Purina’s share of search saw the only notable growth from 12% in 2021 to 16% in 2022.

DataWeave also noticed that newer, small-scale pet brands are quickly gaining more share by utilizing trending keywords like “grain-free,” “low-fat,” “diabetic” and more, to differentiate themselves from the giants and gain consumer visibility. These brands include JustFoodForDogs, Stella & Chewy’s, Tiki Pets, VICTOR Super Premium Pet Food and Open Farm.

For some brands, share of search varied between dog food and cat food. According to the report, General Mills had a lower share of search for cat food at 10% compared to dog food at 28%. Mars and Nestlé Purina had relatively the same share of search for both cat and dog food at 26% and 25%, and 21% and 19%, respectively. At 39%, Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s share of search for dog food outpaces its cat food share at 35% in terms of search visibility.

According to DataWeave, tracking share of search through e-commerce retailers is also important to help brands maintain their visibility and leadership in the pet market.

On retailer sites, brands’ products often experience varying search visibility. Nestlé Purina has high visibility on Chewy, Amazon and Pet Supplies Plus, but has low share of search on PetFlow and Pet Supermarket, whereas Hill’s Pet Nutrition has the highest search visibility on PetFlow, PetSmart and Pet Supermarket. General Mills has the most consistent share of share for pet care brands across e-commerce retailers.

As consumers continue to turn to e-commerce for their pet food and supplies purchasing needs, it will be increasingly important for pet companies to optimize their online performance in order to stay top dog in the market.

Read more about pet retail trends.