Petflation 2022 – August Update: Prices increase to +10.1% above 2021

Inflation continues to make headlines. There have been year over year increases in the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) larger than we have seen in decades. August prices fell -0.04% from July, but the CPI was still up +8.3% vs 2021, down from +8.5% last month. Food at Home (groceries) prices continue to surge, up 13.5% over 2021. That’s 6 straight months of double-digit YOY monthly percentage increases. These are the first 10+% increases since 1981. As we have seen in recent years, even minor price changes can affect consumer pet spending, especially in the more discretionary pet segments, so we will continue to publish monthly reports to track petflation as it evolves in the marketplace.

Total Pet prices were 4.1% higher in December 2021 than in December 2020, while the overall CPI was up 7.0%. The gap narrowed as Petflation accelerated and reached 96.7% of the national rate in June. National inflation has slowed since July but Petflation has increased, passing the National rate in July and is +10.1% in August. This is 21.7% higher than the national rate of 8.3% and the 2nd highest Petflation rate ever, trailing only +10.3% in January 2009. We need to look a little deeper into the numbers. This and future reports will include:

  • A rolling 24 month tracking of the CPI for all pet segments and the national CPI. The base number will be pre-pandemic December 2019 in this and future reports, which will facilitate comparisons.
  • Monthly comparisons of 22 vs 21 which will include Pet Segments and relevant Human spending categories. Plus
    1. CPI change from the previous month
    2. Inflation changes for recent years (20>21, 19>20, 18>19)
    3. Total Inflation for the current month in 2022 vs 2019
    4. Average annual Year Over Year inflation rate from 2019 to 2022
  • YTD comparisons
    1. YTD numbers for the monthly comparisons #2>4 above

In our first graph we will track the monthly change in prices for the 24 months from August 2020 to August 2022. We will use December 2019 as a base number in this and future reports so we can track the progress from pre-pandemic times through an eventual recovery. Inflation is a complex issue. This chart is designed to give you a visual image of the flow of pricing. You can see the similarities and differences in patterns between segments and compare them to the overall U.S. CPI. The current numbers plus those from 12 and 24 months earlier are included as are the year-end numbers for 2020 & 2021.This will give you some key waypoints for comparisons. (Note: Some key peaks and valleys are also highlighted.)

The pandemic hit home in early 2020. In August, the national CPI was only +1.1% and Pet prices briefly stopped deflating. There are 2 different patterns between the Services and the Products segments. Veterinary and Services prices generally inflated after mid-2020, similar to the overall CPI. Food and Supplies prices generally deflated until late 2021. After that time, Petflation took off. Pet Food prices consistently increased but the other segments had mixed patterns until July, when prices in all segments increased. In August Petflation accelerated, especially in the Products segments.

  • U.S. CPI – The inflation rate was below 2% through 2020. It turned up in January 2021 and continued to grow until flattening out in Jul/Aug 2022. 44% of the overall 15.3% increase since 2019 happened from Jan>June 2022.
  • Pet Food – Prices stayed generally below December 2019 levels from April 2020 to September 2021, when they turned up. There was a sharp increase in December but 88% of the 13.0% increase has happened since January.
  • Pet Supplies – Supplies prices were high in December 2019 due to the added tariffs. They then had a “deflated” roller coaster ride until mid-2021 when they returned to December 2019 prices and essentially stayed there until 2022 when they turned sharply up reaching a new all-time pricing high in January, beating the 2009 record. Prices plateaued from February to May but turned up in June. The CPI flattened in July but turned up in August.
  • Pet Services – Normally inflation is 2+%. Perhaps due to closures, prices increased at a lower rate in 2020. In 2021 consumer demand increased but there were fewer outlets. Inflation grew in 2021 with the biggest lift in Jan>Apr. Inflation was stronger in 2022 but got on a rollercoaster in March, now with slight increases in Jul/Aug.
  • Veterinary – Inflation has been generally consistent in Veterinary. Prices began rising in March 2020 and increased through 2021. Then a pricing surge began in December which pushed them past the overall CPI. In May prices fell and stabilized in June. Then strong increases in July & August again put them above the National CPI.
  • Total Pet – The blending of the different segment patterns made the Pet Industry appear calm. That ended in December 2021 as prices surged in all. After mixed up and downs, in Jul/Aug inflation grew in all segments.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to the Year over Year inflation rate change for the month of August and compare it to last month, last year and to previous years. We’ve added some human categories to put the pet numbers into perspective.

Overall, Prices were basically flat vs July but were up 8.3% vs August 2021. The Grocery increase is now 13.5% which is a big negative but there is another area of concern. Only 3 of 9 categories had increases over 1% from last month, but they are all “Pet”. The National CPI rate is slowing but Petflation, especially in Products, is getting worse.

  • U.S. CPI – Prices are down 0.04% from July. The YOY increase is +8.3%, down from +8.5% in June. The targeted inflation rate is <2% so we are still 4 times higher than the “target”. However, a 2nd slight decline is a good start.
  • Pet Food– Prices are +1.7% vs July and 13.1% vs August 21. The YOY increase is being measured against a time when prices were at 2019 levels, but that increase is over 3 times the pre-pandemic 3.9% increase from 2018 to 2019.
  • Food at Home – Prices are up 0.7% from June. The increase from 2021 is 13.5%, which is the largest increase in any month since 13.6% in March 1979 and the largest August monthly increase since 23.4% in 1973. Inflation for this category since 2019 is the highest of any category on the chart and is 45% more than the national CPI.
  • Pets & Supplies – Prices grew 1.5% from July to a new record high. They moved up to 2nd from 3rd in terms of monthly increase over 2021 for industry segments but still have the lowest increase since 2019.
  • Veterinary Services – August prices grew 0.8% from July. They are up +10.0% from 2021 and now trail only Food in the Pet Industry. They also remain 2nd in the increase since 2019 with 17.8% compared to Food at home at 22.3%.
  • Medical Services – Prices sharply increased at the start of the pandemic in 2020 but then inflation slowed and fell to a low rate in 2021. In 2022 prices are turning sharply up again, +30% vs the pre-pandemic 2018>19 rate.
  • Pet Services – Inflation slowed in 2020 but began to grow in 2021/22. Prices are +0.1% from July and +5.7% vs 2021. Prices are still below the May peak but have turned up in July & August after falling in June.
  • Haircuts & Other Personal Services – Prices are +0.7% from July and +4.4% from 2021. They are +15.7% since 2019.
  • Total Pet – Petflation is strong, 4 times the rate of last year and is again ahead of the National CPI. All segments increased prices in August, but inflation is primarily being driven by Food & Veterinary. Inflation can cause reduced purchase frequency in Supplies, Services and Veterinary. Super Premium Food has been generally immune as consumers are used to paying big bucks and it is needed every day. We’ll see if consumers are willing to pay the new high prices for food and buy the more discretionary products/services at the same frequency as they did in the past.

Now here’s a look at Year-to-Date numbers. How does 2022 compare to previous years…so far?

The increase from 2021 to 2022 is the biggest for 7 of 9 categories. The average annual increase since 2019 is 3.8% or more for all but Pet Food & Pet Supplies. This is due to deflation in the 1st half of 2021.

  • U.S. CPI – The current increase is still almost double the average increase from 2019>2022, but almost 4 times the average annual increase from 2018>2021. Inflation is a big problem that started recently.
  • Pet Food – Inflation is growing stronger, especially after deflation in the 1st half of 2021.
  • Food at Home – The 2022 YTD inflation beat the U.S. CPI by 32.5%. You can see the impact of supply chain issues.
  • Pets & Pet Supplies – Prices have been at record levels since January. Although the 2021>22 increase is being measured against a deflationary 2021, it is significant and just slightly behind Veterinary & Food in the Pet Industry.
  • Veterinary Services – Trails only Food at Home in inflation since 2019 and is the only segment on the chart with a 3+% inflation rate each year throughout the pandemic and recovery. No matter what, just charge more.
  • Medical Services – Prices went up significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, but inflation slowed in 2021. In 2022 there is another pricing surge as the inflation rate is 39% higher than pre-pandemic 2018>19.
  • Pet Services – February & May set records for the biggest year over year monthly increases in history. Prices seem to be becoming more stable, but the current August YTD increase of 6.0% is still the largest in history. Demand has grown for Pet Services while the availability has decreased, a formula for inflation.
  • Haircuts & Personal Services – The services segments, essential & non-essential were hit hardest by the pandemic. After a small decrease in March, prices turned up again. The YTD rate is just behind 2020>21 but still 89% more than 2018>19. Consumers are paying 15% more than in 2019. This usually reduces the purchase frequency.
  • Total Pet – We have seen basically two different inflation patterns. After 2019, Prices in the Services segments continued to increase, and the rate accelerated as we moved into 2021. The product segments – Food and Supplies, were on a different path. They generally deflated in 2020 and didn’t return to 2019 levels until mid-year 2021. Food prices began a slow increase, but Supplies remained stable until we neared yearend. In 2022, everything changed as Food and Supplies prices turned sharply up. Food prices continued to climb. Supplies pricing stabilized then grew in Jun>Aug. The Services segments have had some ups & downs, but both are inflating now. The net was a August YTD CPI increase vs 2021 for Total Petflation of 7.7%, 92.8% of the high 8.3% National rate. It was only 72.5% in March.

Petflation is growing stronger. Will it impact spending? Let’s put it into perspective. The 7.7% current YTD increase in Total Pet is far below the 8.9% record set in 2009 but 5 times larger than the 1.5% avg since then. Although pet spending continues to move to higher income groups, the impact of inflation varies by segment. Supplies is the most affected as many categories are price sensitive. Super Premium Food has become widespread because the perceived value has grown. Higher prices generally just push people to value shop. Veterinary prices have strongly inflated for years, resulting in a reduction in visit frequency. Spending in the Services segment is driven by higher incomes, so inflation is less impactful. We’ll just have to wait and see the overall impact on Pet Spending of the continued strong Petflation.