By mid-year, 2019 has already been quite a year in the pet medications market. With Chewy and Walmart entering the online prescription space, and Petco teaming up with Express Scripts to add online pharmacy fulfillment to its wheelhouse of pet services offerings, the activity shows no sign of slowing.
In the new report, Pet Medications in the U.S., 6th Edition, market research firm Packaged Facts estimates that the online channel accounted for 15% of pet medications sales in 2018, but that number is sure to swell in the coming years. On top of this, Walmart’s planned expansion of its brick-and-mortar pet market presence is bringing PetIQ vet clinics into as many as a thousand Walmart stores by 2023 and will, in all likelihood, also spur a prescription pet medications surge through its in-store pharmacies.
Walmart’s leap into the veterinary space is part of a larger trend, with Petco also building out its veterinary market presence. The pet specialty mega-retailer announced in August 2019 that it had essentially doubled the number of full-service, in-store clinics via the addition of three new regional veterinary partners—Global Veterinary Partners, VitalPet, and VetnCare—and is planning to expand the number of clinics provided by its existing partners—Thrive and the Pet Vet.
Traditional veterinary clinics are on an upswing as well, the overall upshot being increased access to pet medications for consumers and a heightened focus on pet health in general. At the same time, veterinarians are avidly re-thinking their prescription medications strategy, with a growing number adding their own online pharmacies to help stave off the online competition. And with Chewy and Walmart—and likely soon also Amazon—jumping into the online prescription pet medications space, the competition is only going to get fiercer.
From a marketer perspective, developing innovative new products is a must, given that the lifespan of pet medications is limited by patent expirations. Patent expiration is not only a driving force in new product development, it also provides for a potentially robust generic drug market. To date, generics have played only a limited role in the pet medications space market, but the segment appears to be poised for heady growth by allowing pet owners to save money on pet medications just as they do on their own.
Overall, the pet medications future looks bright. With sales reaching $9 billion in 2018, up almost 9% from the previous year, the market is expected to handily surpass overall pet market growth for the foreseeable future, spurred by a continued intensive focus on pet wellness, ongoing advances in veterinary medicine, and online and brick-and-mortar expansion of pet medication and veterinary service availability and options.