Petco opens in-store kitchen for pets

Discussion
Photo: Petco
May 13, 2019
Tom Ryan

Petco last week opened a 1,350-square-foot “health and wellness kitchen” for pets at its flagship New York City store in a partnership with JustFoodForDogs. Trained chefs will cook fresh, human-grade food exclusively for dogs and cats in the kitchen.

JustFoodForDogs, founded in 2010, operates 10 standalone kitchens largely on the West Coast. Petco already sells JustFoodForDogs products in about two-thirds of its stores.

Created by a team of in-house veterinarians, all JustFoodForDogs offerings are formulated with fresh, whole food ingredients that are USDA-certified for human consumption in recipes nutritionally balanced for pets. The company can prepare custom diets for pets with health challenges. The meals cost $6 to $12 and popular offerings include combinations such as beef and russet potato; chicken and white rice; and turkey and whole wheat macaroni.

Featuring state-of-the-art stainless steel appliances, the Petco kitchen will operate similarly to JustFoodForDogs’ existing kitchens with chefs producing 2,000 pounds of food daily, seven days a week. Nutritional consultants from JustFoodForDogs will be in-store to guide consumers with their selections based on their pets’ needs.

Petco opens in-store kitchen for pets
Photo: Petco

Pet spending has doubled between 2005 and 2018 to more than $72 billion with much of the growth driven by pet-doting Millennials, according to the American Pet Products Association. Trends toward both prepared food offerings as well as healthy, unprocessed foods overall are also spreading from humans to their pets.

“The ability to provide fresh, made-before-your-eyes pet food with real, unprocessed human-grade ingredients is game-changing, both for Petco and for the pets and pet parents we serve,” said Petco Co-Chief Merchandising Officer Nick Konat in a statement.

In May, Petco became the first major retailer of pet food to remove all foods containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. The removed items accounted for about $100 million of Petco’s $4 billion in annual sales.

JustFoodForDogs is set to open three more standalone kitchens this year, including locations in Boston and Chicago. Plans are in place for the company to add more in-store pantries and kitchens in Petco stores nationwide over the next four years.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the expansion opportunity of JustFoodForDogs inside and outside of Petco’s locations? Do you see the broader trends toward healthy foods and prepared foods extending to pets across the entire channel?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Kudos to a Chief Merchandising Officer for recognizing that retailers need to offer these kinds of experiences to bring the magic back to physical retail."
"I could certainly see myself venturing into the store to check this out however, the price point is just too high even for my beloved Nicklaus."
"On the upside, at least I know that my dog would enjoy and appreciate his $12 meal more than my three-year-old son does his ridiculous $12 cheese quesadillas..."

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19 Comments on "Petco opens in-store kitchen for pets"


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Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Wait — “The meals cost $6-$12?” For real? I can see some publicity value in this, but it isn’t a sustainable business model.

Tom Erskine
BrainTrust
12 days 11 hours ago

We’ll spend an insane amount of money on our pets, that much is certain! But more importantly, kudos to a Chief Merchandising Officer for looking past typical space efficiency metrics like sales per square foot and recognizing that retailers need to offer these kinds of experiences to bring the magic back to physical retail.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I admire and congratulate Petco for their continued push for healthier options for pet parents. And while this is an interesting concept, I believe it will put the “healthier eating for pets” movement to the test. More than $6 per meal is a lot to bite off for most consumers.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

It appears like a stretch. One may be able to serve great coffee in a bank but not dog food in a pet supply store. Call me back in three years and let me know how it went.

Rob Gallo
BrainTrust

I like the experiential aspect but question the long-term viability. There already seems to be some backlash against the new, very expensive dry dog foods (i.e. grain-free, etc.) as they have limited research regarding the long-term benefits. And as expensive as these foods are, they’re a fraction of the price of what’s featured at the in-store kitchens.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Several thoughts come to mind. First, people are obsessed with their pets, so the occasional “special meal out” is a fun idea that will get people to the store. Second, customers will make make “dates” to meet their friends with their pets for a social outing. Third, this is a fun way to build something into the brand story. Finally, all of this is about differentiation. This turns a visit to the retail pet store into an experience.

John Hyman
Guest
12 days 9 hours ago

So what you are framing is more like a date night and less like a sustained food resource? At $6 and more, a “dining out” special event would make sense.

David Dorf
BrainTrust

While I don’t think this will go into every store, it’s great that Petco has realized some owners are willing to spend more on their pets. This really differentiates them, and sets them apart from the pack.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Unless your pet is ill, and $6 to $12 daily meals is what it needs to get well, that’s a lot of money. But someone is buying the food because JustFoodForDogs has been in operation for nine years.

I think it would be cool if Petco offered classes to teach pet parents how to cook those healthy meals for Fido at home. I’ve attempted this many times for our little furry guys; it would be nice to have more than a recipe from a random website.

LAURA RAMIREZ
Guest

My first thought was that pet owners were going to figure this out on their own, if they haven’t already. I mean, the interwebz removes the educational barrier and allows for DIY. It’s tricky if Petco offers classes (potentially cannibalizes dog food sales) though, as almost everyone is pointing out, cooking meals for your pet, if other than a tiny dog or cat, is time and cost prohibitive. Until they can offer pet meals at “fast food” pricing and convenience, I think this is strictly experiential (which is a good thing).

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

IDK, my daughter cooked meals for her big dog for a long time to get her through a stomach issue. I’ve done it for my little guys, but I like to cook and they (really) like to eat. 🙂 I don’t always trust recipes I find online but I would trust JustFoodForDogs recipes. The canned food they eat isn’t $6.00 a can, but it’s expensive.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

For those to whom pets are “children”, this is a great experience. “Happy Meals” indeed?

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

On the upside, at least I know that my dog would enjoy and appreciate his $12 meal more than my three-year-old son does his ridiculous $12 cheese quesadillas when we go out!

This partnership seems like a great grab for JustFoodForDogs, but honestly it would be a huge disconnect at my local Petco. Yes Petco needs to focus on improving their in-store experience, but putting in a state-of-the-art kitchen for dogs in seems like putting 20″ chrome spinners on your 1995 Dodge Caravan — there is a lot of other baseline work that needs to be done first.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust
Strategically, this is a brilliant idea — shoppers will get sucked into the concept of chefs cooking high-grade food for their beloved pets and feel that by making a purchase, they are doing something special for their little friend. I looked at the food a couple of weeks ago in our local store. It’s an absolute gimmick. Rice and pasta are NOT quality pet food ingredients, even the Petco employee that asked if I need help said so when I pointed out what I was seeing. “A team of in-house veterinarians” is nothing more than marketing spin. I have deep experience in this area (surprising but true) and know that most vets are inept at animal nutrition. I do not believe any vet working for a corporation has even a field practitioner’s level of knowledge of real nutrition which is borne out by the ingredients. So for the animal’s sake — this is not good. Long term: $6-$12 for a meal is not going to be a sustainable business when so many people are looking… Read more »
Lee Kent
BrainTrust

We do love our pets, me included, and we do spend a lot on them. My dog has always had stomach issues and I could certainly see myself venturing into the store to check this out however, the price point is just too high even for my beloved Nicklaus. While I believe they are on a right track for services offerings, I also think this one may need some tweaking. For my 2 cents.

James Ray
Guest

I admire the creativity and think it’s an idea well worth trialing in a market like NYC. $6-12 will be fine as an occasional experience, but not likely to become recurring dining.

What I’m really curious about is if the kitchen is human food grade; will pet owner and pet order and eat their meals? Perhaps there are many pet owners cooking for the pets at home already and I just don’t know it?

David Naumann
BrainTrust

It is conceptually a great idea. Two-thirds of U.S. households have a pet. It is a big spending category — $75 billion in 2019 (according to the American Pet Products Association). I know a lot of people that cook their pet’s meals and some of these people will appreciate the convenience of having Petco prepare these meals for them.

However, it seems very expensive. It will be interesting to see how this test does. If they can find a way to lower the prices (maybe by half), it might be very successful.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
BrainTrust

Interesting that Millennials are driving this initiative! In the right markets, it’s a great way to connect with pet people. For mass appeal the convenience and cost need to be addressed.

Steve Dennis
BrainTrust

The headline is wrong. They didn’t open these stores for pets. They opened them for pet parents.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Kudos to a Chief Merchandising Officer for recognizing that retailers need to offer these kinds of experiences to bring the magic back to physical retail."
"I could certainly see myself venturing into the store to check this out however, the price point is just too high even for my beloved Nicklaus."
"On the upside, at least I know that my dog would enjoy and appreciate his $12 meal more than my three-year-old son does his ridiculous $12 cheese quesadillas..."

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