Pet owners may have noticed that Mittens’ and Fido’s favorite foods have run scarce, as the industry is incurring both shipping woes and a shortage of the aluminum used to package the food.
Grocery stores and pet stores throughout the country are noticing it’s difficult to stock all of the usual brands, as items are just not available.
The shortage is being felt locally, according to several local pet store employees. The issues, they said, is more acute with canned or wet food rather than dry food products.
“It’s all away across the board,” said Brian Mixon, manager of Pet Supplies Plus in Milford. “Your larger brands, like Purina for cats and Pro Plan for dogs, we still have stock, but a lot of popular flavors are not available. In a smaller store like we have, you really notice it when you usually have five items from one vendor but you only have one.”
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What’s causing a pet food shortage?
Courtney Hardy, manager of Pet Supplies Plus in Natick, said distributors have told them there are several issues leading to the shortage. A lot of pet food comes from overseas and they’re getting held up at Customs. Even then, a lot of manufacturers aren’t able to get what they need to can the food because of a nationwide aluminum shortage that is also affecting the beer industry. There is also a shortage of drivers to deliver products to stores throughout the country, she said.
“Some reps are telling me if I see it available to stock up because they don’t know when it’ll be available again,” Hardy said.
When will your favorite brands be back on shelves?
Don’t expect the shortage to get better anytime soon, said Dan Lavalle, manager of Pet World, in Natick. He said distributors expect it to continue for at least a couple of more months.
“It’s been a challenge the past couple of months,” he said. “It could take some time into the first quarter of next year before the canned food is back. They (manufactures) will do a run on some foods that are popular and stop making it so they can make other products, but they’re trying to keep the best selling SKUs (unique bar code numbers for each product) available.”
It’s not just pet stores. Grocery stores that carry more mainstream brands are also feeling the pinch, according to Wegmans supermarkets spokeswoman Marcie Rivera said.
“We are experiencing supply issues with some pet food products,” she said. “Suppliers all around the world are being faced with an array of challenges affecting their businesses, causing a domino effect on retailers and customers. Raw material and labor shortages, as well as transportation constraints are impacting businesses the most, and it’s expected to last well into next year. While we may not have every variety in stock, we will have options available in every category.”
Transitioning a pet to new food
Tatnuck Pet Supply of Worcester owner Julie Ann Johns said her store specializes in smaller-brand food than is seen at grocery stores and has not seen as much as a shortage as others. However, when she is out of a brand, she has been testing out other brands to see if they are popular.
She offered up some advice to help transition pets to a new food.
“The key for transitioning is, it’s really a seven-day process,” she said. “Mix in some of the existing food into the new food each day, adding more new food each time. Cold turkey, it’s a little harder. Just put it out and they’ll eat something when they’re hungry.”
Hardy said the best way to prevent a pet from getting used to one food is to have a rotational diet. She said she rotates four or five foods for her cats, so if one food ran out, it wouldn’t matter.
“A rotational diet really helps them not get stuck on one food, and it’s healthier for them,” she said.
Another tip, from Mixon, is if the preferred food is available, buy as much as possible.
“If you see it, buy it, because if you don’t I guarantee the next day it won’t be there,” he said. “I’ve seen our pet food aisle 95% full and two days later it was empty.”
Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or [email protected] For up-to-date news, follow Norman Miller on Twitter @Norman_MillerMW or on Facebook at facebook.com/NormanMillerCrime.