Meijer Rolls Out Pet Health Insurance

Meijer is rolling out a pet health insurance program, displaying it within its pet departments, the company told SN last week. As various financial product offerings take hold in supermarkets, pet insurance has special appeal because of the 58 million households with pets frequenting supermarkets more than twice a week, said Brent Hinton, chief executive officer, PetFirst

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meijer here is rolling out a pet health insurance program, displaying it within its pet departments, the company told SN last week.

As various financial product offerings take hold in supermarkets, pet insurance has special appeal because of the 58 million households with pets frequenting supermarkets more than twice a week, said Brent Hinton, chief executive officer, PetFirst Healthcare, Jeffersonville, Ind. PetFirst provides the program to Meijer, as well as to Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Spartan Stores, also Grand Rapids.

New and remodeled Meijer stores feature standalone pet departments near the grocery products, said spokesman Frank Guglielmi.

“Our pet department has become much more robust in the last few years. Pet insurance is a logical addition to the pet department, providing as many choices as possible for the customers,” he said.

The pet insurance rollout is expected to be chainwide by early summer, he said.

At Kroger, which has had the program for almost a year, “it is becoming increasingly popular with customers,” said spokeswoman Meghan Glynn. Kroger displays the offering at the checkouts.

“It is part of the products and services that Kroger Personal Finance offers, and we continue to introduce new services that are meaningful to consumers,” she said.

The PetFirst policies offered at Meijer cost a flat $24.95 a month for dogs and $21.95 a month for cats, regardless of the age of the animal, said Katie Grant, PetFirst's vice president of marketing and business development. The insurance pays a 90% reimbursement for accidents, illnesses and routine care, including annual exams, prescription flea control, behavior training, spay/neuter services, diagnostics, heartworm protection, teeth cleanings and vaccinations.

At retail, PetFirst is marketed through in-store displays containing literature that directs shoppers to either a website to a toll-free number to order the insurance. Sales are then tracked and credited to the retailer, Grant said. No transaction takes place in the store.

“The financial relationship depends upon the retailers. For retailers that are P&C [property and casualty insurance] licensed, we can pay commissions. For those that are not, we pay rent for the space we utilize in the store,” she said. Grant did not specify how Meijer, Kroger or Spartan were reimbursed for carrying the program.

“Pet insurance has grown 25% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] for the past five years. With companies like Purina launching this spring, the market will only continue to grow. People are looking for convenient solutions to help manage their costs — including veterinary care,” Hinton said.

To a certain segment of the population — especially those that regard pets as family members — pet health insurance is going to be very attractive, said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys, New York. “There's an emotional attachment that goes beyond the rational,” he said.

“It's one of those things that allows a store to form an emotional bond without having to create an entirely new section,” he said.

“Consumers have been very receptive,” Hinton said. “In the U.S., education about pet insurance is a pivotal part of acceptance because it's still a relatively new concept. There was a time when the concept of offering bottled water in a grocery setting seemed unusual. Pet insurance at the grocery store is simply another huge convenience for the pet owner.”