The Pet Industry and the Pandemic: A Conversation with Kristen Levine
As we all adjust to the new normal, those of us in the agency world are remaining vigilant about what’s working and what isn’t. With this in mind, we shift our focus to animal marketing. How is it that the pet and animal health industries continue to thrive, even during an economic downturn?
In honor of May’s National Pet Month, we’ll spend some time looking at this sector and what the future might hold through the lens of our veteran expert and President of FWV Fetching, Kristen Levine, who was recently featured in the Associated Press.
Q: Kristen, can you give us a sense of the current industry landscape?
A: Despite all of the economic uncertainty, research shows that pet parents continue to care for and spend money on their pets. The early “essential” designation for pet business professionals and pet supplies by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Amazon is a good indicator of this.
Our pets are valued family members, and we want to provide the best life possible for them. When our wallets tighten, we continue to buy them the products they need and sometimes even frivolous items, too – simply because we love them.
Q: Last quarter, you attended the largest pet product show of the year – Global Pet Expo (GPE). How was it different this year given the emergence of COVID-19?
A: This year, there was an exciting vibe with new leadership from the American Pet Products Association (APPA) organizers. Steve King has come on board as the new CEO and, along with the new VP of Marketing Diane Tiberio, they are borrowing across industry experience and injecting new innovative ideas. I’m feeling really good about it.
On the flip side, the elephant in the room was definitely COVID-19. Travel restrictions and related fears dampened show attendance, leaving some exhibitor booths vacant and minimizing overall traffic. Many of us are frustrated by the pandemic’s effects on international supply chains, but the predominant feeling was camaraderie: we’re all in this together.
Also on the positive side, my colleagues and I noted the slower pace gave us more time to engage and have truly meaningful conversations with attendees. Despite the slightly reduced attendance, it was really productive. We are already forging new partnerships.
Q: Tell us about some of your favorite new products.
A: Nestlé Purina has a super revolutionary new product for felines – Purina Pro Plan LiveClear. It’s the first and only cat food that reduces allergens in cat hair and dander. It has been in development for more than 10 years, and I was super impressed.
Merrick is bringing back seasonal dog food recipes. There are so many fun can options to choose from like Earth Day Delight, Sizzlin’ Summer Supper and Pawlicious Picnic. Pet parents are sure to find a flavor their pup will love.
I also found an interesting dental product for dogs this year. TEEF tackles dental disease by balancing mouth bacteria, and one of the cool things is that it’s a powder you simply add to your dog’s water each day. This seems really easy, and I’m looking forward to giving it a try with my dog Chilly.
Q: What are the takeaways?
A: Customers want to stay connected with brands and be assured they can continue to rely on the products they’ve come to know and trust – especially with the increased focus on the wellbeing of pets while so many people are working from home.
We experienced a similar situation in the 2008 financial crisis and are already seeing comparable trends in 2020. Petco, PetSmart and Chewy are all reporting increased revenue, and we have received feedback from our pet product clients that sales are up on their end as well. This is good news for all of us in the pet and animal health space!