The Cost of High Prices
How high is too high?
That is the question several readers asked me after reading my September column that focused on the luxury end of the pet food business and concerns about the quality of the product.
While ignoring the premise of the column—which was to bring to light that potentially unsavory whistleblowers can cause a great deal of damage to a brand through negative articles usually dispersed through the Internet—they focused on how higher price points may actually be hurting the pet industry over the long haul.
Is it possible, one correspondence said, that the never-ending search for higher prices will eventually come to hurt the pet industry over the long haul? Will these higher prices discourage consumers from owning a pet or getting a second one? Do animals—and their owners—really need all of these extra goodies, or are they simply marketing tools designed to increase prices?
The answers may be that we have reached a brick wall in terms of raising pet food prices. While suppliers are endlessly looking for ways to increase their price points on items, as well as bring line extensions to market, they may be losing focus on their original task: to offer consumers a healthy and reasonably priced alternative for the pet food needs.
That can be quite dangerous, especially with signs that pet ownership may have peaked as animal-happy Baby Boomers start to move beyond their pet-owning years. The last thing this industry wants to do is make potential pet owners question whether they can afford an animal in their home.
There are already signs that this is taking place. With veterinary prices skyrocketing, many consumers say that the price of pet ownership is climbing. Adding in much higher-priced pet food may help the bottom line of the suppliers that offer them, but they could also create pushback from consumers who are ready to draw a line in the sand.
If that happens, it could just mean that they will look for lower-priced alternatives. Or they may say that pet ownership is no longer in the family budget. That is not something we want to even give shoppers a chance to think about.