15 Sep 2021

Pet food shortages causing angst for fussy felines

6:47 am on 15 September 2021

It's not just toilet paper and flour - pet food shortages have exacerbated over New Zealand's Covid-19 delta outbreak, clearing out supermarket shelves faster than normal.

Cat food is running low at this Pak’nSave

Cat food is running low at this Pak’nSave Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Global shipping challenges have led to less pet food in the aisles for some months, but shoppers say the items are becoming even more limited as they race in over high alert levels.

Watties managing director Neil Heffer said his company's seen demand rise for their cat food brands, such as Chef, in recent weeks.

"We've seen demand for cat food in particular up - almost 20 percent on this time last year," Heffer said.

"We think that's related to scarcity of supply. We're quite fortunate in that we are able to produce all of our pet food locally, but unfortunately for some of our competitors they have to bring in pet food from overseas, and obviously with global shipping constraints and challenges in global supply chains, that has led to some shortages on shelves.

"That scarcity we expect will probably give some people some cause for concern, so they might be buying a little bit more than they ordinarily do."

Watties did not shut over alert level 4, but had to socially distance staff, provide PPE and have work bubbles.

A spokesperson from Mars, who have brands such as Whiskas, Iams, Dine and Royal Canin said they had seen an increase in pet populations all around the world in the last 12-24 months.

Pet food shortages are running high over the Covid-19 delta outbreak in Aotearoa at this Pak’n Save.

Pet food shortages are running high over the Covid-19 delta outbreak in Aotearoa at this Pak’n Save. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

"The challenges of Covid-19 and lockdowns have seen more people welcome pets into their families, recognising the benefits of companionship and enjoyment that pets bring us. This has put pressure on pet food manufacturing capacity world-wide, and also pressure on supply chains to get the products to market.

"In addition, global shipping challenges have meant delays in getting some pet food products to NZ (similar to the challenges many other products and industries are facing). While there may be delays in the supply of particular products, and therefore times when you are unable to get your favourite brand or product, there is not a shortage of pet food in NZ and there are plenty of options for pet parents to keep their favourite furry friends well fed.

"We know this can be frustrating for pet parents, and we are all doing our best to get our pets' favourite foods back in stock as quickly as we can."

New Zealand Pet Food Manufacturers Association chief executive Richard Brake said shortages can be stressful for pet owners.

"In our industry, our pet parents feel those out-of-stocks quite acutely. In the relationship with the animal they've got used to a certain brand or certain flavour and, when that's not available, it does cause a bit of angst. Usually pets don't like change too much."

Foodstuffs New Zealand head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird said the global supply chain had been "lumpy" for about 18 months.

"Depending on how long this goes on for, we expect intermittent delays on some imported goods to continue for some time. To make sure all New Zealanders get what they need, we encourage everyone to #shopnormal."

Woolworths New Zealand, which operates Countdown supermarkets, did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

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