The U.S. pet industry saw pet spending at $72.56 billion in 2018, according tothe American Pet Products Association (APPA), with this number being anincrease of 4.4 percent over 2017’s $69.51 billion. And APPA estimates petspending will reach $75.38 billion in 2019, a growth of another 3.9 percent.Can the industry expect another 4 percent increase for 2020, which would meanconsumer pet spending would hit $78.4 billion? It’s possible, but it’s notgoing to be without its challenges.

For Dogs and Cats

These are turbulent times, with the most impactful obstacle being consumerfallout from multiple reports by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)regarding possible diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). From January2014 to April 2019, the FDA received 524 reports of DCM, with 515 in dogs andnine in cats. Although the FDA has reported in the past that an average of 10to 15 percent of dogs and cats in the United States will be diagnosed withsome form of heart condition yearly, it has yet to find a causative scientificlink between ingredients or a dietary link to the development of DCM.

This year will see independent retailers continuing to take a hit in pet foodsales, and the 16 brands topping the list of the FDA’s DCM reports will beattempting to improve their damaged reputation in the public eye. Alsoimpacted by the FDA investigation are other grain-free pet food manufacturers,wholesale distributors and even farmers of pulses, such as peas and lentils.In fact, American Pet Nutrition decided to stop manufacturing its grain-freepet food brands, Elevate and My Little Wolf/Lion, in October. And since lastJune, many independent pet outlets have reported losing a sizeable percentageof customers who have stopped visiting their store as a result of the thirdFDA status report.

Some manufacturers are focusing on grain-inclusive pet food in an attempt toappeal to consumers who are staying away from grain-free offerings. Thatshould have a positive impact, but these manufacturers are going to have aslow, uphill climb before they can regain consumer trust. In the meantime,retailers are scrambling to find a way to appease customers who had beenpreviously feeding their dogs a grain-free diet. A possible outcome in 2020from the grain-free debate might be the trend of pet parents feeding a varietyof foods, rotating among and between several manufacturers and food varieties.The goal would be to create a nutritional balance and to avoid problems causedby long-term exposure to a specific protein source, which some people believemight lead to the development of food allergies or intolerances.

In the treats sector, the FDA once again caused a stir in 2019 when itreleased a warning for consumers to avoid buying or feeding pig ear treats todogs as it coordinated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) to investigate 154 human cases of salmonella. During themultistate investigation, testing conducted by the Michigan Department ofAgriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) revealed that samples of pig ear pettreats collected from Pet Supplies Plus tested positive for several strains ofsalmonella from several vendors, including Lennox Intl Inc. In addition, BJ’sWholesale Club stores were found to be selling pig ears that also testedpositive for salmonella.

Unfortunately, there’s always going to be a risk associated with raw food andbody-part treats, especially with the pet industry having no control over howconsumers handle these products once they leave the pet store. Raw food isgoing to remain as popular as ever in 2020, along with raw-coated kibble andfreeze-dried food. The key to these categories succeeding lies inmanufacturers being committed to quality and safety. With food and treats,consumers are gravitating toward products with human-grade, non-GMOingredients that are free of chemicals and preservatives.

When it comes to product innovations, one sector that we can expect to seechanging in 2020 is cat litter, thanks in part to consumers demanding moresustainable alternatives. Multicat, lightweight and health-monitoring littershould remain solid categories among cat owners, as they fill those consumerneeds. And while wood, paper and corn will remain popular sustainable sources,cat litter made of tofu is an innovation that has been booming in Asia andsome parts of Europe.

Other innovative products, especially those involving smart technology, aretransforming pet care in new and exciting ways. GPS/health collars and micro-chipped controlled feeders are going to become more commonplace as pet ownerssearch for products that add safety, convenience and peace of mind. Pet ownershave been using smart devices for themselves, so it’s only been a matter oftime before they incorporate pet tech into their home. After all, pets beingpart of the family is no longer a trend but the norm.

While high-tech has been a buzzword for much of this century, the industryshould see the fastest growth in these smart products this year as pet parentsdiscover how pet tech strengthens their bond with their fur babies. Thebiggest push might be how consumers learn how many of these products enablethem to monitor the health and well-being of their pets via data recorded ondigital monitoring devices that can be synched to the pet parent’s smartphoneapp.

Arguably the most popular trend in 2019, and a category that even the mostpessimistic analyst couldn’t help but notice, cannabidiol (CBD) products willlikely continue to garner immense attention in 2020. Having already expandedbeyond dogs to now include cats and even horses, CBD-based products come inmany forms and can be found in both health and treats aisles in retail outletsacross the country.

Although the category has been called “The Wild West of the pet industry,” CBDpet products are not disappearing any time soon, and many retailers aregravitating toward brands that offer both human and pet lines to coincide withthe previously mentioned trend of consumers wanting their pet’s lifestyle tomatch their own. Thus, as CBD becomes more prevalent with people, it willsurely do so on the pet market as well.

Transparency and third-party testing are two major factors in distributors,retailers and consumers determining what CBD brands and products to trust in,especially due to the importance of these products containing little-to-notetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive compound inmarijuana that’s responsible for its psychological “high” effects. Alreadyunder scrutiny from the FDA, which last month issued warning letters to 15companies for illegally selling products containing CBD in ways that violatethe Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act, it’s only a matter of timebefore the pet CBD market faces strict regulations. Until then, it’s unlikelythat this warning will reduce consumer demand for pet CBD products.

Spotlighting Other Sectors

Bearded dragons remain at the top spot among reptile enthusiasts, and thisspecies should hold that title for much, if not all, of 2020. Yet the motto of“bigger is better” is no longer applying to reptile hobbyists. Be it spacelimitations or the cost to keep these exotic pets, consumers appear to beenthusiastic about pint-sized herps like geckos, chameleons and smallerspecies of turtles and tortoises.

A surprising trend that might continue to grow is consumer interest in insectsas pets. Insects, spiders and other invertebrates are finding immensepopularity at consumer reptile shows, and manufacturers such as ZooMed havetaken advantage by producing pet insect products. The company has a Creatureslineup, which even offers a Creature Habitat Kit, a starter kit that includessubstrate, décor and an insect guide to help new bug keepers understand whatit takes for their pet invert to flourish.

Tarantulas and scorpions are always in the spotlight, but isopods (an order ofcrustaceans that contains more than 10,000 different species) are climbing thepopularity ladder. Jeannie Younger, founder of Creative Ectothermic Solutions,is one of several members of the pet community who have noticed the increaseddemand among hobbyists.

According to Younger, isopods are detritivores, which means they consume deadorganic material. In the wild, they can typically be found in leaf litter,under wood and rocks, and generally in moist areas. Once only viewed as feederbugs, isopods are being valued as detritivores in a home terrarium that isdesigned for another species of animal like a reptile, spider or amphibian,where they are a secondary inhabitant acting as a bioactive terrarium cleanupcrew. However, these tiny critters are fast becoming stars on their own, asthey’re extremely low maintenance and easy on the wallet compared to otherherps and invertebrates. Due to their attractive shell colorations, and basedon their rarity, species such as Montenegro, Black Evil and Blonde Ducky arein high demand.

In the aquatic sector of the industry, the excitement stems from GloFish,which is launching its betta after more than a decade of the company offeringits unique forms of fish on the market. Since 2003, when the company’sfluorescent zebrafish was approved by the FDA, it has been extremely popularwith children, making it a way to introduce them to the aquarist hobby, aswell as with aquarium owners who are looking to jazz up their establishedaquariums with a colorful species.

Entering 2020 with more than 20 different lines—between species and colorcombinations—GloFish has made a splash with each new form. The tetras, barbsand even sharks appear bright under normal white light and then fluorescebrilliantly under a blue light. But when the tropical fish are exposed toblack light in a completely dark room, their colors pop in a stunningbeautiful fashion.

As with any kind of pet, no matter the species of animal, education is ofextreme importance. In addition to teaching the public that GloFish aregenetically modified livestock—not dyed—and that worked with the USDA and theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s the industry’s responsibility to be sureconsumers know that these fish have the same specific tank requirements andlist of compatible tankmates as their ordinary brethren of the same species.

And, according to the crystal ball, education is key regarding all areas ofthe pet industry, be it pet foods, treats or accessories. The more knowledgewe have, the better we can match the most appropriate product for consumerswho want the best for their pet.

Source: Glenn A. Polyn US Pet Age

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