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Feeding Fido could mean big business for the food sector

According to a recent report by Narrative Research, 18% of Canadians have gotten a new pet since the start of the pandemic. In other words, more than 6.8 million new pets were adopted since March 2020. That number can be added to the more than 16 million cats and dogs Canadians had in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Feeding these domestic animals can cost $20 to $60 a month. It can add up.

Furthermore, more than 38% of Gen Zs have adopted a pet since March. These adoptions were likely due to boredom, wanting companionship, and because people have been forced to spend more time at home. So why not have a new pet. Makes sense. Odds for young adopters to adopt more animals in the future are very high. The pet economy is looking very different than before COVID-19, and chances are, it is going to last a while.

All of this will be compounded by how our society has become more domesticated due to lockdowns and physical distancing restrictions. Spending more time at home allows someone to think having a pet is possible.

When you think about it, the pet economy can represent a tremendous growth potential for the food service industry. Pets are already influencing the market. With lockdowns in effect in many regions of the country, curbside pick-up and drive-throughs are incredibly busy. Pets can easily accompany humans on their journey to pick up a coffee, a meal or a snack. And some are treating their pooch along the way.

At many Tim Hortons locations, early unofficial reports suggest one Timbit is often given immediately after purchase to a pet riding in the back of the car. Some operators will offer dog biscuits or treats, but nothing official. Before the pandemic, 91% of Canadians considered their pets to be a member of their family. That was before the pandemic. After almost ten months of on-and-off lockdowns, the relationships many Canadians have with their pets may have reached new levels. Food service should take notice. A greater number of pets will influence choices their owners will make when picking a restaurant in the future.

Having a menu for pets could be critical to attracting new consumers in the future. It will not be for all, but for outlets with high traffic, accommodating pet owners and their friendly companion can only help. Once we leave our lockdown-heavy period, this could be an opportunity for restaurant operators to reengage or recommit to a new market.

Helping people prepare pet food at home could also be of value. Not only would a new pet owner get the proper information to feed their pets, but the food industry could assist existing pet owners with improving a pet’s diet, and perhaps allow the pet owner to save some money. Meal kits for pets if you will. With the pandemic, food operators have thought outside the box for humans, so there is certainly room for pets.

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