As the end of 2022 swiftly approaches, it’s only natural that we once again turn our attention to the coming year, in hopes of divining the types of opportunities and challenges facing our businesses. But this practice has become fraught over the past few years, and today it can be difficult to predict what will happen over the next several weeks, much less the next 12 months. Still, there are several trends that we can look at to begin forming some type of picture of what we can expect in 2023.

   

The Return of Innovation

Many of the supply chain woes that significantly slowed new product development throughout 2021 and into 2022 have finally abated—for the most part, at least. Hopefully, this will reignite the high level of innovation that has long characterized the pet industry and helped drive it to new heights over the past two decades.

   

Global Pet Expo Returns to Full Strength

One of the most important events on the pet industry calendar, Global Pet Expo is ready to return to full strength after going virtual in 2021 and hosting a somewhat smaller show in 2022. In fact, exhibitor registrations for next year’s show are already outpacing the 2022 edition—thanks, in no small part, to the return of international exhibitors. This is great news for pet retailers, as Global Pet Expo traditionally serves as the industry’s unofficial launch platform for new products.

   

Mergers & Acquisitions

The end of 2022 saw a flurry of M&A activity in the pet industry, particularly among manufacturers. Rover’s Wellness, Bravo! Pet Food, Ark Naturals and, of course, Champion Petfoods are just a handful of the major vendors that were acquired by other companies over the past few months, and all indications are that transactions like these will continue reshaping the marketplace next year. While the impact of this activity will vary from case to case, it can often be generally disruptive and tends to suppress innovation and competition.

   

What’s Missing?

Unfortunately, when we look at the factors that could potentially drive the next wave of success for the pet industry, it appears that we are still lacking a new difference-making product trend on par with grain-free food and treats. While the most prominent current trends, like CBD/hemp and raw-alternative foods, have been a boon for independent pet stores, they simply have not had the broad impact we saw with the rise of grain-free. Clearly, the growing focus on pet health care should be considered on that level, but it is a complex category that requires much more than simply stocking the right products.

While all the factors above will inevitably have some impact on businesses across the pet industry in the months ahead, there will be many other forces at play—both internal and external—that will ultimately help decide success or failure for pet stores. The question is, will you see them coming? Better break out that crystal ball.