Petflation 2024 – February Update: Drops to +3.5% vs 2023

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 23, but turned up again in Jan>Feb 24. The CPI increased slightly in February to +3.2% from +3.1% in January. However, Grocery inflation continues to slow. After 12 straight months of double-digit YOY monthly increases, grocery inflation is now down to +1.0%, 12 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. At 3.5% in February, it is still 9% above the national rate, but down from +52% in January. We will look deeper into the numbers. The 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 24 vs 23 which will include Pet Segments and relevant Human spending categories. Plus
    1. CPI change from the previous month.
    2. Inflation changes for recent years (22>23, 21>22, 20>21, 19>20, 18>19)
    3. Total Inflation for the current month in 2024 vs 2019 and vs 2021 to see the full inflation surge.
    4. Average annual Year Over Year inflation rate from 2019 to 2024
  • 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 February 22 to February 24. 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 year-end numbers and those from 12 and 24 months earlier are included. We also included and highlighted (pink) the cumulative price peak for each segment. In February, Pet prices were up 0.3% from last month as lifts in Vet, Services & Supplies overcame a -0.9% drop in Food.

In Feb 22, the CPI was +10.4% and Pet prices were +7.0%. Like the CPI, prices in the Services segments generally inflated after mid-2020, while Product inflation stayed low until late 21. In 22 Petflation surged. 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 Nov, all but Food & Vet fell. In Dec, Supplies & Vet  drove prices up. In Jan/Feb Pet prices grew despite 2 drops by Food & 1 by Vet. Now, Total Pet and all but Food are at their pricing peak.

  • 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, dipped in Oct>Dec, then rose Jan>Feb 24, but 33% of the 20.8% increase in the 50 months since Dec 2019 happened in the 6 months from Jan>Jun 2022 – 12% of the time.
  • Pet Food – Prices were at or below Dec 19 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>Feb. 99% of the 21.7% increase occurred in 22 & 23.
  • Pet Supplies – Supplies prices were high in Dec 19 due to tariffs. They then had a “deflated” roller coaster ride until mid-21 when they returned to Dec 19 prices and essentially stayed there until 22. They turned up in Jan 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 Mar, but set a new record in May, then continued the rollercoaster ride with lifts in Dec>Feb, back to May prices.
  • 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 prices got on a rollercoaster in Mar>Jun. They turned up Jul 22>Mar 23 but the increase slowed in April and prices fell in May. They rose again Jun>Aug, fell in Sep>Dec, then spiked in Jan>Feb.
  • Veterinary – Inflation has been consistent. Prices turned up in Mar 20 and grew through 21. A surge began in Dec 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, grew Sep>Dec, fell in Jan 24, then set a record in Feb.
  • 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 prices turned up and grew through February to a new record high. Prices are at a record high for all segments but Food and Petflation has been above the National CPI since Nov 22.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to the Year Over Year inflation rate change for February and compare it to last month, last year and to previous years. We will also show total inflation from 21>24 & 19>24. Petflation fell to 3.5%, down from 4.7% in January. It is now only 9% higher than the National rate. In January, it was +52%. The chart will allow you to compare the inflation rates of 23>24 to 22>23 and other years but also see how much of the total inflation since 2019 came from the current pricing surge. We’ve included some human categories to put the pet numbers into perspective.

Overall, Prices were +0.6% from January but were +3.2% vs February 23, up from +3.1% last month. Grocery inflation is down again, to +1.0% from +1.2%. 2 of 9 categories had a price decrease from last month – Pet Food & Medical Services. There were also 2 in January. That’s 3 consecutive months for Pet Food. The national YOY monthly CPI rate of 3.2% is up but still only 53% of the 22>23 rate and 41% of 21>22. The 23>24 inflation rate is below 22>23 for all categories. In our 2021>2024 measurement you also can see that over 65% of the cumulative inflation since 2019 occurred in all but 2 segments – Medical Services & Haircuts – both Services categories. Service Segments have generally had higher inflation rates so there was a smaller pricing lift in the recent surge. Pet Products have a very different pattern. The 21>24 inflation surge provided 97.9% of their overall inflation since 2019. This happened because Pet Products prices in 2021 were just starting to recover from a deflationary period. Services expenditures now account for 64.1% of the National CPI so they are very influential. Their current CPI is +5.0% while the CPI for Commodities is +0.7%. This clearly shows that Services are driving most of the current 3.2% inflation.

  • U.S. CPI– Prices are +0.6% from January. The YOY increase is 3.2%, up from 3.1%. It peaked at +9.1% back in June 2022. The targeted inflation rate is <2% so we are still 60% higher than the target. After 12 straight declines, we had 2 lifts, a stable month, 2 consecutive drops, now 3 lifts – not good news! The current rate is 47% below 22>23 but the 21>24 rate is still 18.0%. That is 78.9% of the total inflation since 2019. Inflation was low in early 2021.
  • Pet Food– Prices are -0.9% vs January and +2.6% vs February 23, down from 4.8%. However, they are still 2.6 times the Food at Home inflation rate. The YOY increase of 2.6% is being measured against a time when prices were 20.7% above the 2019 level, but that increase is still 1.5 times the pre-pandemic 1.7% increase from 2018 to 2019. The 2021>2024 inflation surge has generated 91.8% of the total 24.5% inflation since 2019.
  • Food at Home – Prices are up +0.1% from January, but the monthly YOY increase is 1.0%, down from 1.2% last month and radically lower than Jul>Sep 2022 when it exceeded 13%. The 26.2% Inflation for this category since 2019 is 15% more than the national CPI and is in 3rd place behind Vet & Pet Services. 79.8% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>24. This mirrors the national CPI, but we should note that Grocery prices began inflating in 2020>21 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 1.0% from January and 0.9% vs February 2023. They still have the lowest increase since 2019. As we noted, prices were deflated for much of 2021. As a result, the 2021>24 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 Feb 23. Prices fell in March, bounced back in Apr/May to a new record high, fell in Jun>Aug, grew in Sep>Oct, fell in Nov, then grew again in Dec>Feb back to the May record level.
  • Veterinary Services – Prices are +0.9% from January, but they are +7.9% from 2023, again the highest rate in the Pet Industry. Plus, they are still the leader in the increase since 2019 with 36.3% compared to Pet Services, 26.4% and Groceries, 26.2%. For Veterinary, relatively high annual inflation is the norm. However, the rate has increased during the current surge, especially in 23 & now 24, so 69% of the cumulative inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>24.
  • 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 fell -0.02% from January, but they are +1.1% vs last year. Medical Services are not a big part of the current surge as only 39% of the 14.7% 2019>24 increase happened from 21>24.
  • Pet Services – Inflation slowed in 2020 but began to grow in 2021. In 2024 prices have surged, +1.0% from January but +5.2% vs last year. However, inflation is still well below the +8.0% back in March 23. Now, 78% of their total 19>24 inflation has occurred since 2021. In December, it was only 49%. BTW: They have the 2nd highest 19>24 rate.
  • Haircuts/Other Personal Services – Prices are +0.3% from January and +3.9% from 23. 3 of the last 4 months have been <4.0%. Inflation has been rather consistent as 59% of the inflation from 19>24 happened in 60% of the time.
  • Total Pet– Petflation is 68% lower than the 22>23 rate and now only 9% higher than the U.S. CPI. For February, 3.5% is still the 8th highest rate since 1997. Vs January, prices grew +0.3% as all but Pet Food had strong lifts. A Jan>Feb price increase has happened every year but 2018 since 1997, with an average lift of 0.4%. In terms of Petflation, 2024 started just as we should have expected with 1 exception. Veterinary & Pet Food are still the Petflation leaders since 2021 but Pet Services replaced Pet Food in the #2 spot for Petflation since 2019.

Now, let’s look at the YTD numbers.

The inflation rate for 22>23 was the highest for 5 of 9 categories – 4 Pet – Pet Food, Services, Vet & Total Pet, plus Groceries. The 23>24 rate is much lower for all but Veterinary, Pet Services & Haircuts. It actually has the 2nd highest rate in Veterinary. 21>22 still has the highest rate for the National CPI & Pet Supplies. The average annual national inflation in the 5 years since 2019  is 4.2%. Only 2 of the categories are below that rate – Medical Services (2.8%) and Pet Supplies (2.3%). It comes as no surprise that Veterinary Services has the highest average rate (6.4%), but all 6 other categories are +4.6% or higher.

  • U.S. CPI – The 23>24 rate is 3.1%, the same as January, but down 50% from 22>23 and 60% less than 21>22. It is also 26% below the average YOY increase from 2019>2024, but it’s still 72% more than the average annual increase from 2018>2021. 79% of the 20.6% inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>24. Inflation is a big problem that started recently.
  • Pet Food – Ytd inflation is 3.7%, down from 4.8% in January and 75% less than the 22>23 rate. However, it is still 16% higher than 21>22 and 2.3 times the average rate from 2018>2021. Pet Food has the highest 22>23 rate on the chart but has fallen to 2nd in the 21>24 rates. Deflation in the 1st half of 2021 kept YTD prices low then prices surged in 2022 and especially in 2023. 91% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>24.
  • Food at Home – The inflation rate has slowed remarkably. At 1.1%, it is down 90% from 22>23, 86% from 21>22 and even 69% from 20>21. However, it is still 32% higher than the average rate from 2018>20. It has the 2nd highest inflation since 2019 and beat the U.S. CPI by 16%. You can see the impact of supply chain issues on the Grocery category as 79% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>24.
  • Pets & Pet Supplies – Prices increased in Jan & Feb, but the 2024 inflation rate of 0.7% is only higher than the -3.5% deflation in 20>21. Supplies have the lowest inflation since 2019. The only significant increases were ≈6.2% in 22 & 23. The 2021 deflation created a unique situation. Prices are up 12.1% from 2019 but 113% of this increase happened from 2021>24. Prices are up 13.7% from their 2021 “bottom”.
  • Veterinary Services – Inflation was high in 2019 and steadily grew until it took off in late 2022, peaked in 2023 and now continues at the start of 2024. On the chart they are #1 in inflation since 2019 and since 2021. At +6.4%, they have the highest average annual inflation rate since 2019. It is 1.5 times higher than the National Average but 2.3 times higher than the Inflation average for Medical Services. 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. Ytd it is 0.8%. Except for 19>20, it has been between 2.4>3.0%. We are still seeing the impact of 2023 when prices actually deflated (-0.3%). This was the only deflationary year since the US BLS began tracking this category in 1935.
  • Pet Services – After falling in late 2023, prices have surged in 2024. The Ytd 23>24 inflation rate of 5.0% is 2nd to Veterinary in the Pet Industry. It is 38% less than 22>23 and 17% below 21>22. However, it is still 1.7 times higher than the 2018>21 average rate. Also, for the first time, Pet Services prices have inflated over 20% vs 2019 and 2021.
  • Haircuts & Personal Services – The services segments, essential & non-essential, were hit hardest by the pandemic. The industry responded by raising prices. Ytd inflation is 4.0%, which is 29% below the 20>21 peak but still 21% above the 18>20 average. Consumers are paying 25% more than in 2019, which usually reduces the frequency.
  • Total Pet – Ytd Petflation is 4.1%, down from 4.7%. It is 62% less than 22>23 but 80% higher than the 2018>21 average rate. It is also still 1.3 times the national CPI. Petflation is slowing in 2024. This is primarily being driven by drops in Pet Food Prices. Veterinary prices are still 8.7% higher than last year and inflation in Supplies and Services actually increased in February.

Petflation is slowing, but it is still strong, with the 8th highest rate for February in history. It is also still higher than the National CPI. Back In 2021 it was only half of that rate. One fact is often ignored in the headlines – Inflation is cumulative. Pet prices are 21.0% above 2021 and 25.6% higher than 2019. Those are big lifts. In fact, in February prices for all segments but Food are the highest in history. Food prices are only 1.3% below their May peak and only Supplies prices (+12.1%) are less than 25% higher than 2019. Since price/value is the biggest driver in consumer spending, inflation will affect the Pet Industry. Non-Vet Services will be the least impacted as it is driven by high income CUs. Veterinary will likely see a reduction in visit frequency. The product segments will see a more complex reaction. Supplies will likely see a reduction in purchase frequency and some Pet Parents may even downgrade their Pet Food. Both segments will see a strong movement to online purchasing and private label products. Some direct evidence of this impact is apparent at GPE 24 where a record number of exhibitors are offering OEM services. Strong inflation has a widespread impact.