Panic buying for pandemic puppies is only part of the reason for the lack of pet food
Lately, the cat hasn’t been drawn into it much. Pet food is the latest pandemic product falling victim to shortages and panic buying.
Companies like Nestle Purina and FreshPet have major production barriers that have resulted in some pet food shelves and refrigerators across the country being empty.
The causes are manifold. Manufacturers are juggling extreme winter weather, a surge in animal ownership, COVID-19 cases that can cause factory delays, and overzealous shoppers stocking up on toilet paper like they did in March.
“Honestly, we’re just struggling to keep up,” Freshpet president Scott Morrison told NJ Advance Media.
Freshpet is a healthy pet food company with around 500 employees, headquartered in Secaucus. A canvas of Union County shops found one Freshpet refrigerator half full and another practically wiped clean.
On a profit call this week, CEO Billy Cyr admitted that the company spent the first quarter of 2021 “digging out of a trade inventory hole we dug.” He estimated it would take at least the middle or end of April for the refrigerators to fill up completely.
When asked about bottlenecks in their stores, spokesmen for Wegmans Food Markets and Stop & Shop first pointed out the disruption caused by the recent snowstorms.
“We are running out of some wet cat food products due to the winter weather challenges across the country over the past few weeks,” Wegman spokesman Marcie Rivera wrote in an email to NJ Advance Media. “Manufacturers are unable to produce and distribute that many cases, which creates bottlenecks across the industry. We are working with our suppliers to secure as much product as possible and hope to have more products on the shelves again soon. “
For Freshpet, where almost all production takes place in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the winter weather that hit the northeast has derailed production.
“If you run right on the sidelines and suddenly have to stop production, we’ve lost two days to a couple of different blizzards and that just kills you,” said Morrison.
Of course, the rapid demand for pet food is also a major factor. By now, most are familiar with the idea of “pandemic puppies” – the rise in pet adoption among those who are suddenly home all the time and need a companion.
With many new pandemic pets driving demand, it’s only natural that supply would decline. During the pandemic, this often led to panic buying that only exacerbated supply problems.
“When people feel that there is some scarcity and then they start buying a lot, the problem is just a balloon,” said Morrison.
The Pet Food Institute, a trade association representing most American pet food manufacturers, strongly recommends that pet owners provide feed for at least two weeks, but only purchase what they need regularly “to help minimize the additional burden on distribution. “
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