The humorous depiction of Astro, the dog from “The
Jetsons” who takes daily walks on a treadmill, is no longer
far from reality as pet owners continue to look for ways to
use technology to not only make their lives easier, but also
to make their pets’ lives more luxurious.
A recent meme circulating on social media sums it up:
Captioned “Sometimes I wonder if I spoil my cat, seeing him in with his iPad in his yurt,” the image features
a cat fixated on the screen display while cozied up in a
kitty-sized tent. The hilarity of the meme underscores the
way pets are living in this day and age, which gives grocers
plenty of ways to fetch more sales.
Pet Aisles Get Smart
The techie mentality is trickling into the pet retail world.
Manufacturers are beginning to offer high-tech items to
help grocers move their pet aisles into the digital age.
For example, Nestle Purina has technology in the
works that will futurize pet aisles
with digital touchscreens that shoppers can interact with to find the
best products for their pet, and then
have those products highlighted in
the aisle with under-shelf lighting.
Additionally, Freshpet is testing a
“smart” refrigerator for its fresh pet
food that can alert retailers when
needs to be repaired, and even when it is time to restock
Referencing Samsung’s smart refrigerator TV ad that
reminds its owner they’re almost out of milk, Scott Morris,
president and co-founder of Secaucus, N.J.-based Fresh-
pet, says, “We’re using some of that technology to move
toward a smart fridge” for retailers. It will be able to warn
them “when the temperature is off, the lights aren’t work-
ing, or the compressor that generates the cold air is using a
lot of energy, which means it may break down soon. It may
also be able to tell us if something is out of stock and needs
to be reordered.”
The pet aisles of many supermarkets are growing
more and more reminiscent of the perimeter of the store
as refrigerators begin to become a mainstay. With the
demand for premium, fresh pet food on the rise, grocers
need to start thinking more critically about refrigerator
placement in pet departments to keep up with the needs
of their shoppers.
Retailers can take a page out of Target’s book when
looking at how to modernize their pet food sections.
According to Morris, the mega-retailer is exceptionally
good at bringing in newer items and authorizing them
early on, as well as merchandising and supporting them
in high-profile locations such as endcaps.
Target has also been using refrigerated display cases
for premium foods for several years. The trend has clearly
caught on, evident in the success of Freshpet: The company had zero refrigerators in stores in 2006, and today
it has 18,000.
“Refrigerators help retailers’ aisles look good and even
grab attention,” Morris says. “You see a fridge with a big
header and it draws you down the aisle, and I’ve seen evidence of that over the years.”
Competing With E-Commerce
With e-commerce on the rise, some consumers are turning to online shopping to avoid lugging heavy bulk bags
of dog food and kitty litter to and from their cars. However, this does not mean there is no hope for brick-and-mortar grocery stores. Building enticing pet sections that
A retailer with a well-
established pet department
needs to have an in-store
experience that’s better than
it’s ever been.” —Joe Toscano, Nestle Purina PetCare
Pets are no strangers to the age
of technology. Over the past several years,
the boom in high-tech pet products has led to
the creation of devices that allow pet parents
to keep an eye on their furry friends—and
even dispense treats—while they are at work.
Today’s pets are also outfitted with collars
that translate “meows” and “barks” into
English, GPS pet trackers and even Fitbit-type
devices to keep tabs on an animal’s activity.
Quarterly Pet Report