Petflation 2023 – December Update: Turns up to +5.1% vs 2022

Inflation turned up in December. The monthly Consumer Price Index peaked back in June 2022 at 9.1% then began to slow until turning up in Jul/Aug 2023. Prices fell in Oct>Dec, but in December the CPI actually increased to +3.4% from +3.1% due to a big monthly price drop back in 2022. However, Grocery inflation continues to slow. After 12 straight months of double-digit YOY monthly increases, grocery inflation is now down to +1.3%, 10 consecutive months below 10%. As we have learned, even minor price changes can affect consumer pet spending, especially in the discretionary pet segments, so we will continue to publish monthly reports to track petflation as it evolves in the market.

Petflation was +4.1% in December 2021 while the overall CPI was +7.0%. The gap narrowed as Petflation accelerated and reached 96.7% of the national rate in June 2022. National inflation has slowed considerably since June 2022, but Petflation generally increased until June 2023. It passed the National CPI in July 2022 and at 5.1% in December, it is still 50.0% above the national rate of 3.4%. We will look 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 23 vs 22 which will include Pet Segments and relevant Human spending categories. Plus
    1. CPI change from the previous month.
    2. Inflation changes for recent years (21>22, 20>21, 19>20, 18>19)
    3. Total Inflation for the current month in 2023 vs 2019 and now vs 2021 to see the full inflation surge.
    4. Average annual Year Over Year inflation rate from 2019 to 2023
  • YTD comparisons (Since it is December, this month’s YTD numbers are the annual inflation rate.)
    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 December 21 to December 23. We will use December 2019 as a base number so we can track the progress from pre-pandemic times through an eventual recovery. This chart is designed to give you a visual image of the flow of pricing. You can see the similarities and differences in segment patterns and compare them to the overall U.S. CPI. The current year-end numbers from 12 and 24 months earlier are included. We also included and highlighted (pink) the cumulative price peak for each segment. In December, Pet prices were up from last month as lifts in Vet & Supplies overcame drops in Food & Services.

In December 21, the CPI was +8.5% and Pet prices were +4.5%. Like the CPI, prices in the Services segments generally inflated after mid-2020, while Product inflation stayed low until late 21. In 22 Petflation took off. Food prices grew consistently but the other segments had mixed patterns until July 22, when all increased. In Aug>Oct Petflation took off. In Nov>Dec, Services & Food prices continued to grow while Vet & Supplies prices stabilized. In Jan>Apr 23, prices grew every month except for 1 dip by Supplies. In May Products prices grew while Services slowed. In June/July this was reversed. In August all but Services fell. In Sep/Oct this was reversed. In November, all but Food & Veterinary Services fell. In December Supplies & Vet  drove Total Pet prices up 0.7% vs Nov. Petflation has been above the CPI since Nov 22.

  • U.S. CPI – The inflation rate was below 2% through 2020. It turned up in January 21 and continued to grow until flattening out in Jul>Dec 22. Prices turned up Jan>Sep, then dipped in Oct>Dec, but 35% of the 19.4% increase in the 48 months since December 2019 happened in the 6 months from January>June 2022 – 12.5% of the time.
  • Pet Food – Prices were at or below Dec 2019 levels from Apr 20>Sep 21. They turned up and grew, peaking in May 23. In Jun>Aug they dipped, grew Sep>Nov, then fell in Dec. 93% of the 23% increase has occurred since 22.
  • Pet Supplies – Supplies prices were high in Dec 19 due to added tariffs. They then had a “deflated” roller coaster ride until mid-2021 when they returned to Dec 19 prices and essentially stayed there until 2022. They turned up in January and hit an all-time high, beating the 2009 record. They plateaued Feb>May, grew in June, flattened in July, then turned up in Aug>Oct setting a new record. Prices stabilized in Nov>Dec but turned up in Jan>Feb 23. They fell in March, peaked at a new record in May, then continued their rollercoaster ride with a big lift in Dec.
  • 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 it got on a rollercoaster in Mar>June. It turned up again July 22>Mar 23 but the increase slowed to +0.1% in April. Prices fell -0.3% in May, turned up again, peaking in Aug, then fell in Sep>Dec.
  • Veterinary – Inflation has been consistent. Prices turned up in March 20 and grew through 21. A surge began in December 21 which put them above the overall CPI. In May 22 prices fell and stabilized in June causing them to fall below the National CPI. However, prices rose again and despite some dips they have stayed above the CPI since July 22. In 23 prices grew Jan>May, stabilized Jun>Jul, fell in Aug, then grew Sep>Dec to a new high.
  • Total Pet – Petflation is a sum of the segments. In Dec 21 the price surge began. In Mar>Jun 22 the segments had ups & downs, but Petflation grew again from Jul>Nov. It slowed in Dec, grew Jan>May 23 (peak), fell Jun>Aug, grew in Sep/Oct, then fell in Nov. In December big increases in Veterinary & Supplies overcame drops in Food & Services to push Total Pet close to their May 23 high point. Petflation has been above the CPI since Nov 22

Next, we’ll turn our attention to the Year Over Year inflation rate change for December and compare it to last month, last year and to previous years. We will also show total inflation from 21>23 & 19>23. Petflation rose to 5.1%, up from 4.3% in November and it is now 1.5 times the National rate. The chart will allow you to compare the inflation rates of 22>23 to 21>22 and other years but also see how much of the total inflation since 2019 came from the current pricing surge. Again, we’ve included some human categories to put the pet numbers into perspective.

Overall, Prices were -0.1% from November but were +3.4% vs December 22, up from +3.1% last month. Grocery inflation is down again, to +1.3% from +1.7%. 4 of 9 categories had a price decrease from last month – National CPI, Groceries, Pet Food & Services. There were 5 in November. That’s 4 months in a row for Pet Services. The national YOY monthly CPI rate of 3.4% is up but still only 52% of the 21>22 rate. The 22>23 inflation rate is below 21>22 for all categories but Veterinary Services. In our 2021>2023 measurement you also can see that over 65% of the cumulative inflation since 2019 occurred in only 4 segments – Total Pet, Pet Food, Pet Supplies and Veterinary – All Pet. We should also note that the segments with the lowest percentages are Haircuts, Pet Services and Medical Services. Service Segments have generally had higher inflation rates so there was a smaller pricing lift in the recent surge. Services expenditures account for 62.3% of the National CPI so they are very influential. We also see that Pet Products have a very different pattern. The 21>23 inflation surge provided 94.1% of their overall inflation since 2019. This happened because Pet Products prices in 2021 were just starting to recover from a deflationary period.

  • U.S. CPI– Prices are -0.1% from November. The YOY increase is 3.4%, up from 3.1%. It peaked at +9.1% back in June 2022. The targeted inflation rate is <2% so we are still 55% higher than the target. After 12 straight declines, we had 2 lifts, a stable month, 2 consecutive drops, now another lift – not good news! The current rate is 48% below 21>22 but the 21>23 rate is still 10.0%. That is 51.5% of the total inflation since 2019, but down from 54% last month.
  • Pet Food– Prices are -0.1% vs November and +5.1% vs December 22, down from 5.6%. However, they are still 3.9 times the Food at Home inflation rate. The YOY increase of 5.1% is being measured against a time when prices were 17.0% above the 2019 level, but that increase is still 1.5 times the pre-pandemic 3.4% increase from 2018 to 2019. The 2021>2023 inflation surge has generated 91.3% of the total 23.0% inflation since 2019.
  • Food at Home – Prices are down -0.5% from November. The monthly YOY increase is 1.3%, down from 1.7% in November and radically lower than Jul>Sep 2022 when it exceeded 13%. The 25.3% Inflation for this category since 2019 is 30% more than the national CPI and remains 2nd to Veterinary. 52% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>2023. The pattern mirrors the national CPI, but we should note that Grocery prices began inflating in 2020>2021 then the rate accelerated. It appears that the pandemic supply chain issues in Food which contributed to higher prices started early and foreshadowed problems in other categories and the overall CPI tsunami.
  • Pets & Supplies– Prices were up 1.4% from November and 0.1% vs December 2022. They still have the lowest increase since 2019. As we noted, prices were deflated for much of 2021. As a result, the 2021>2023 inflation surge accounted for 100% of the total price increase since 2019. They reached an all-time high in October 2022 then prices deflated. 3 months of increases pushed them to a new record high in February. Prices fell in March, bounced back in Apr/May to a new record high, fell in Jun>Aug, grew in Sep>Oct, fell in November, then grew sharply in December.
  • Veterinary Services – Prices are up +1.2% from They are +10.8% from 2022, again the highest rate in the Pet Industry. Plus, they are still the leader in the increase since 2019 with 30.9% compared to Food at home at 25.3%. For Veterinary Services, relatively high annual inflation is the norm. However, the rate has increased during the current surge, especially in 23, so 66% of the 4 years’ worth of inflation occurred in the 2 years from 2021>2023.
  • Medical Services – Prices turned sharply up at the start of the pandemic but then inflation slowed and fell to a low rate in 20>21. Prices grew 0.4% from November but are -0.5% vs 22. Prices have now deflated for 8 straight months. Medical Services are not a big part of the current surge as only 39% of the 2019>23 increase happened from 21>23.
  • Pet Services – Inflation slowed in 2020 but began to grow in 2021. December 23 prices were -0.02% from November and only +0.7% vs 22, which is down 50% from 1.4% last month but an amazing 91% drop from 8.0% in March. Now, only 49% of their total 17.0% inflation since 2019 occurred from 21>23.
  • Haircuts/Other Personal Services – Prices are up 0.1% from November and +3.7% from 2022, 2 consecutive months below 4.0%. Inflation has been rather consistent as 48% of the inflation from 19>23 happened from 21>23.
  • Total Pet– Petflation is 53% lower than the 21>22 rate, but still 1.5 times the U.S. CPI. For December, +5.1% is the 4th highest rate since 1997 (2022: 10.9%; 2008: 9.7%; 2007: 5.5%). Vs November, prices grew in Vet & Supplies so Total Pet was +0.7%. An Nov>Dec price increase has happened in 6 of the last 7 years so it was no surprise. Veterinary & Food are still the Petflation leaders, but all segments have an influence. Pet Food has been immune to inflation as Pet Parents are used to paying a lot, but inflation can reduce purchase frequency in the other segments.

Now, let’s look at the YTD (Year-End) numbers

The inflation rate for 22>23 is the highest for 2 of 9 categories – both Pet, Pet Food and Veterinary Services. The 22>23 rates for Haircuts, Pet Services & Total Pet are slightly below 21>22. However, the CPI, Pet Supplies, Medical Services and Food at Home are significantly down from 21>22. The average annual national inflation in the 4 years since 2019  is 4.5%. Only 2 of the categories are below that rate – Medical Services (2.7%) and Pet Supplies (2.4%). It comes as no surprise that Veterinary Services has the highest average rate (6.5%), but 3 other categories are over 5% – Groceries (5.8%), Pet Food (5.3%) & Total Pet (5.1%).

The U.S. government began tracking inflation in 1913. It is a critically important measurement as pricing affects spending behavior and the economy. Moreover, the income of over 90 million people is directly tied to changes in the CPI. The US BLS began tracking pricing in Total Pet and the individual industry segments in 1997. Here are some 2023 comments.

  • U.S. CPI – The 2023 rate was 4.1%, the 3rd highest since 1997, trailing 2022 (8.0%) and 2021 (4.7%). It was down 49% from 21>22 and 8.9% less than the average increase from 2019>2023, but it’s 60% more than the average annual increase from 2018>2021. 65% of the 19.2% inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>23. Inflation is a big problem that started recently.
  • Pet Food – Inflation was 10.6% in 2023, edging out 2022 (10.2%) for 2nd place. The top spot still belongs to 2008 (11.1%). Pet Food has the highest 22>23 & 21>23 rates on the chart. Deflation in the 1st half of 2021 kept YTD prices low then prices surged in 2022. 96% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>23.
  • Food at Home – The 2023 inflation rate slowed from 11.2% in 2022 to 5.0% but was the 3rd highest rate since 1997 (also trailing 2008’s 6.4%) It also still beat the U.S. CPI by 22%. You can see the impact of supply chain issues on the Grocery category as 67% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>23.
  • Pets & Pet Supplies – Prices increased in December, but the 2023 inflation rate was only 2.6%, 6th highest since 1997. 1st place belongs to 2022 (7.7%). Supplies’ prices deflated significantly in both 2020 & 2021 which helped to create a very unique situation. Prices are up 10.1% from 2019 but 105% of this increase happened from 2021>23. Prices are up 10.6% from their 2021 “bottom”.
  • Veterinary Services – At 9.4%, 2023 beat 8.8% in 2022 and is now the highest inflation rate in history for Veterinary Services. On the chart they are #1 in inflation since 2019 but they have only the 2nd highest rate since 2021. At +6.5%, they have the highest average annual inflation rate since 2019. Inflation was high and consistent, around 4% from 2019>2021. It took off in 2022 & worsened in 2023. Strong Inflation is the norm in Veterinary Services.
  • Medical Services – Prices went up significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, but inflation slowed in 2021. In 2023 prices have generally been deflating and finished the year at -0.3%, the only deflation in any segment. It was also the only deflationary year since the US BLS began tracking this category in 1935.
  • Pet Services – The January 2023 increase of 8.4% set a new monthly record. Prices have dropped Sep>Dec and they finished the year at 5.7%, tied for 2nd place with 2008. 2022 is the winner at 6.3%. Their price surge started in 2021 when inflation jumped to 4.7% from 2.5% in 2019 & 2020. It appears to have ended in late 2023 but prices are still +20.6% vs 2019.
  • Haircuts & Personal Services – The services segments, essential & non-essential, were hit hardest by the pandemic. The industry responded by raising prices. The 4 highest inflation years since 1997 were 2022 (5.4%), 2021 (5.1%), 2023 (4.9%) and 2020 (4.4%). Consumers are paying 21% more than in 2019, which usually reduces the frequency.
  • Total Pet – The Nov>Dec price lift was normal, so it had little impact on the annual numbers. Petflation in 2023 was 8.0%, 2nd place all time to 8.9% in 2022. It only finished 2nd because the rate slowed significantly in the 2nd half of the year. In the 1st half it was 44% higher than the 2022 rate. There was a mixture of roller coaster patterns, but inflation slowed somewhat for all segments during the 2nd  half. However, all did end up with high annual inflation rates and Veterinary even set a new record. 2023 Petflation is about double the CPI. In 2021 it was 43% below the CPI.

Petflation is slowing, but it is still strong, with the 4th highest rate for December and the 2nd highest annual rate in history. It is also double the CPI. In 2021 it was only half of that rate. Even if it slows to 0%, you can’t ignore the fact that inflation is cumulative. Pet prices are 17.7% above 2021 and 22.2% higher than 2019. Those are big lifts. Since price/value is the biggest driver in consumer spending it is likely to affect the Pet Industry. The Services segment will be the least impacted as it is driven by high income CUs. Supplies and Veterinary will likely see a reduction in purchase frequency. Food is the most needed segment so the response will be complex. It could include a movement to online shopping, switching to private label or even downgrading the quality of food. We’ll see what happens.

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