by Daniel Granderson
March 1, 2018
A recent trend in the U.S. pet medications market has seen veterinarians trying to counter the loss of their pharmaceutical sales by moving onto their competitors’ turf. Veterinarians now increasingly sell their pharmaceuticals online. As a result e-commerce operations are a steadily growing channel for pet medications, representing about 12% of the $9 billion American pet medications industry, according to Packaged Facts in the report Pet Medications in the U.S., 5th Edition.
“There no doubt about it, sales in the digital realm continue to grow at a rapid pace and will become an increasingly important segment for both veterinarians and pet parents alike,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.
Packaged Facts’ National Pet Owner Survey revealed that 40% of pet owners buy pet products online. And among those purchasing pet products online, the percentage who have made a purchase in the last seven days has increased annually, with 35% in 2017 compared to just 14% in 2013.
While pet owners have no need to make weekly pet medication purchases, the opportunity to sell them pet medications online is clearly a big one. Because of their small size and low shipping costs, pet medications are particularly well suited for sale via the Internet, which is an excellent medium for delivering the kind of information consumers need to make informed choices.
As a result of all this, investment firms have recognized online pet medications sales as an opportunity. Last year, Vets First Choice, which fulfills prescriptions for home delivery and creates online stores for veterinarians, announced that it had raised $223 million from an investment group led by investment firms Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) and Hillhouse Capital Group. And competitor VetSource counts VCA as a major investor and client, and also fulfills home-delivered prescriptions for the likes of distributors Henry Schein, Patterson, MWI and Merritt Veterinary Supplies. Meanwhile, e-commerce players Amazon, Chewy.com, 1-800-PetMeds and others are all active purveyors of pet medications online.
Beyond just online retailing of pet medications, Packaged Facts forecasts that pet medications will be one of the highest growth areas of the petcare industry during the next decade, as animal health companies develop new blockbusters that are still on patent—and thus somewhat resistant to price competition. With new products, the veterinary channel will continue to be critical to the industry, as animal health companies understand that the veterinarian will continue to hold considerable sway over pet owner decisions, especially for products that require a prescription. At the same time, as more ethical and prescription products migrate to OTC, there’s no denying that e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores alike will make pet medications a dynamic market in which to do business.
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