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Wagging the dog: Amazon disrupts pet market with new brand

Premium private label pet food available online exclusively to Prime members

With the launch last week of Wag, its private label dry dog food, Amazon is living up to its promise to grow its pet business overall — and is posing a greater threat to pet market players both online and in-store.

While the Wag brand is kicking off with dry dog food, Amazon plans to expand the selection to include other pet supplies. The brand is available only to Amazon Prime subscribers, who pay monthly or annual fees in exchange for fast delivery. Initially Wag will be offered in multiple varieties that can be ordered in three different sizes (5-, 15- and 30-pound bags) and include flavor options such as chicken, turkey, beef and more.

“Pet products are among the fastest-growing online retail categories and Amazon is leading the way,” said David Sprinkle, research director for market research firm Packaged Facts, which published the report “Amazon Strategies and the Amazon Shopper.” “The scariest part for competitors is that recent news indicates the e-commerce juggernaut is still coming on strong and unabated in the U.S. pet industry, reaffirming its commitment to pet products and now pet food.”

According to Packaged Facts, Amazon’s pet product sales reached $2 billion in 2017, up 40% from the previous year. That number will almost inevitably continue to grow with Wag, reportedly the first step in a major expansion of Amazon’s pet products business. Wag joins Amazon’s list of private label brands in more than 70 markets available for purchase only by Amazon Prime members. Though priced to compete in the premium tier of the dog food segment, Packaged Facts notes that Wag’s cost slightly undercuts the cost of similar competing meat-first, grain-free premium brands such as Blue Wilderness.

Amazon’s current $2 billion, though, is a drop in the bucket of the $72.1 billion that U.S. pet owners will spend this year on animals, care and supplies, according to the American Pet Products Association. About $30 billion of that total goes to pet food.

Amazon leads all online pet product retailers with 55% of customers who purchased pet products online, according to the U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2018-2019 from Packaged Facts, followed by Chewy at 26%, PetSmart at 19%, Petco at 17% and Walmart/Sam’s at 14%.

Prior to the launch of Wag, Amazon already offered a wide selection of nonfood pet products and as of its Whole Foods acquisition last year, it began offering the retailer’s Whole Paws pet food online. (No word yet on whether Wag will eventually appear in Whole Foods stores, although its premium branding would make it a good fit.)

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