Pet insurance, one of the newest financial products to be offered by supermarkets, is growing quickly. The growth comes in response to the rising cost of veterinary care that's been fueled by advances in medical treatment for pets — and a willingness on the part of pet lovers to pay for the services.
Last year, people spent an estimated $195 million in premiums for pet insurance in the U.S., up from $161 million in 2006, said Laura Bennett, chief executive officer of Embrace Pet Insurance, in a pet industry trends report. The growth is expected to continue in 2008.
In some markets, shopping for pet insurance is just as easy as buying groceries. PetFirst Healthcare, a Jeffersonville, Ind.-based insurer, has teamed up with Kroger, Spartan Stores, Meijer and Big Y to make health insurance information available through cards and brochures displayed on kiosks, at checkout lines and in the pet care aisle. Close to 3,000 supermarkets distribute PetFirst insurance literature, and the company plans to pursue similar partnerships with other chains, said Katie Grant, the company's vice president of marketing and business development.
“We've always had our eye on working with grocery retailers,” she said. “The main advantage for us was frequency of exposure.”
The company pays some retailers rent for the space. Other stores with a property and casualty insurance license charge PetFirst a commission based on sales, Grant said.
In 2007, consumers spent $10.1 billion on veterinary care and that figure is expected to jump to $10.9 billion this year, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reported.