The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on almost every industry — none more than health care. In the face of supply chain disruptions, business closures and equipment shortages, animal health took a back seat to human health when COVID-19 first hit the U.S. But for all the disruptions, the animal health industry managed to respond with remarkable innovation and growth.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the pandemic’s global impact on the animal health industry — and a look at what they may indicate for our future.
1. Supply Chain Disruptions Inspired Veterinary Innovation
At the onset of the pandemic, many nonessential veterinary clinics closed temporarily while supplies were diverted to human hospitals and health systems. There were shortages of everything from surgical masks and personal protective equipment to hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Amid the confusion and ever changing regulations, it was a critical time for veterinary practices to mitigate risk while keeping their doors open.
In response, many veterinary practice owners and managers innovated and implemented new strategies such as smart inventory management, curbside veterinary care, home delivery, telemedicine and alternative payment plans to ensure that pets could continue receiving care and veterinarians could safely continue their important work.
2. Pet Owners Are Multiplying — and Spending More on Their Pets
Unlike during previous recessions, animal health experienced a boom, thanks in part to millions of Americans working from home alongside their pets. Pet adoptions increased so much that shelters, rescues and breeders were even reporting animal shortages in 2020, as isolated individuals adopted pets to satisfy their desire for company.
As a result of the uptick in pet ownership and an increased willingness to invest in those pets, pet-related medicine sales grew in 2020. This trend was bolstered by the fact that pet owners in lockdown had more time to focus on their pets and by veterinary hospitals’ success in pivoting to continue their services. In many instances, proper care for animals and pets became essential to the mental well-being of their humans.
3. The Pandemic Has Stimulated Existing Industry Trends
With quarantines and limited in-person contact forcing customers online, the pandemic has accelerated trends and purchase patterns in the direction they have been heading for years.
The truth is, spending on pets over the past quarter-century has increased year after year. An increasing number of pet owners — particularly millennials and members of Gen Z — consider their pets as members of the family and are more willing to pay costs for health care treatments and medication. The global animal health market is projected to reach $88.6 billion by 2028 (a compound annual growth rate of 9%), kindled by new pet owners and a variety of technological veterinary advancements.
4. Manufacturers Need to Optimize Supply Chain and Demand-Planning Capabilities
The animal health manufacturers who have emerged from the first year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic in favorable positions have done so via superior supply chain capabilities. With demand for animal health care at an all-time high by both veterinarians and consumers, there’s no time like the present for manufacturers to optimize demand-planning strategies to avoid supply chain disruptions.
As a master distributor, EPiQ Animal Health partners with manufacturers to chart a course through logistical crises, pandemic-related or otherwise. We keep an eye on trends in the industry so we can help our manufacturer partners react in real time.