Petco Opens In-Store Exhibition Kitchen

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Petco Opens In-Store Exhibition Kitchen

By Patrycja Malinowska - 05/10/2019

Petco took its year-old strategic partnership with JustFoodForDogs to the next level today with the opening of a first-of-its-kind pet food kitchen inside its newly remodeled flagship store in New York City’s Union Square.

The 1,300-square-foot open health and wellness kitchen adds an experiential element to the store, with shoppers able to watch and smell 2,000 pounds of fresh, human-grade food being made daily. “When you come into the JustFoodForDogs kitchen you’ll see really high-end stainless steel cooking appliances,” Petco’s co-chief merchandising officer, Nick Konat, told P2PI. “They have a sign up that shows you what formula they’re cooking that day.”

Shoppers can buy product made fresh that day from the cooler or choose from a wider selection of veterinarian-created formulas in various sizes stocked in the freezer section. Both Petco and JustFoodForDogs employees are on hand to engage and advise shoppers on the best options to suit the nutritional needs of their pets.

The partnership is in line with Petco’s focus on pet nutrition, with JustFoodForDogs presented as offering the only food on the market proven healthy by two independent universities, who conducted year-long feeding trials proving their recipes boost the immune system of dogs in a healthy way. The brand opened its first public kitchen where trained chefs cook food from fresh, whole ingredients exclusively for pets in 2010, and operates an existing lineup of stand-alone kitchens in California and Seattle, with more under construction in Boston and Chicago.

“We saw a very shared commitment to pet health and nutrition so there was a natural affinity based on our strategy and values,” Konat says.

The retailer already carries the brand’s freshly frozen product in some 50 stores and will expand that to 100 locations over the next few years. Shelf stable products such as dry jerky, supplements, tetrapack complete meals and DIY home kits have a larger footprint across some 1,000 Petco stores. Based on how well the in-store kitchen attracts new shoppers, drives traffic and lifts sales, the concept will expand to more Petco locations somewhere into the double-digit range in the next three to four years, Konat says.

“This is really another step in our journey to become the most trusted partner in pet nutrition,” Konat says. “Half of consumers who shop pet food are confused or lack confidence that they have the best food.”

The retailer in November had announced bold new nutrition standards and by May 1 had removed SKUs that fall below those standards from its assortment to simplify the shopping experience for concerned pet parents. Eliminating brands such as Nestle-Purina’s Beggin’, Friskies, Fancy Feast and Whisker Lickin's; Mars Inc.’s Pedigree and Sheba; and J.M. Smucker Co.’s Big Heart Pet’s Milk-Bone put hundreds of millions of dollars of sales at risk, but shoppers have responded favorably.

“We are growing in the light of all that challenge … doing what’s right for pets is good for our business,” Konat says. Petco has worked with key vendor partners to introduce new formulas that meet its standards across every price point, and has welcomed completely new brands incuding Champion Petfoods’ Acana and Orijen. And it sounds like the retailer is open to more partnerships as a way to differentiate from online players as well as those in the grocery, mass and independent channels.

“Overall, our competitive position is to be the complete provider of solutions for pets across not just nutrition but veterinary, grooming, dog training and supplies,” Konat says. "Our goal and plan is to have the best product and best partnerships and brands in the industry across all categories and price points. Any pet need, we’re going to have a solution."