How is competition from big-box stores and internet retailers
affecting the pelleted food segment?
“The internet is probably our biggest competitor for pelleted foods.
Really the only thing you can do is offer good customer service so
people want to come in. Having fish helps, because people come
in and our employees have worked here forever and know the fish.
Customers know the employees, and it becomes very social and ed-
ucational. That’s when they’re more apt to want to purchase from us
and not search elsewhere.”—Kelly ParsoNs, manager for Denny’s
Pet World in Kirkland, Wash.
“I don’t think people are buying food as much online now. The big-box stores
are our main competition. I go with companies that can give me a good price
so that I can stay competitive. I really try to support companies that support
me as a small business. We get eaten alive by the internet and big-box stores,
so I really try to support people that aren’t killing me online.”—KatIe VelIe,
manager for Nahacky’s Aquarium in Melbourne, Fla.
“When we’re dealing with fish food, in general I don’t believe there’s much
competition because the price point doesn’t really warrant the need for
major competition. … You’ve got to be price sensitive on the bigger tickets,
but I don’t find there’s competition in pellet foods. As an independent
retailer who’s been around the block a few times, my goal is to sell product
that I know I can compete on.”—HowIe BerKowItz, ownerof Aquaridise
in East Brunswick, N.J.
VARIETY IS KEY
The two big selling points for pelleted offerings are convenience and
“Fish should be fed a variety of foods,” said Howie Berkowitz, owner
of Aquaridise in East Brunswick, N.J. “By offering the variety on the shelf,
it’s easy to say to the customer who’s got a marine aquarium and doesn’t
want to feed frozen because it’s inconvenient that not all of his fish are
going to like this one food. By having the variety, you’re allowing the
customer to take two or three different foods and offer a larger selection
to their fish.”
While flake foods are still popular, the ease of use that pelleted
offerings provide can be a big selling point.
“A lot of people will buy both pellets and flake foods,” said Kelly
Parsons, manager for Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash. “Pellets are
cleaner and a little easier to feed if your fish are getting a little bigger,
In choosing between the myriad offerings from manufacturers, she
focuses on listening to her customers.
“We do definitely have a limited amount of space, and every
manufacturer always has something new,” she said. “We try to look at
the benefits [of products], and if they’re substantially different or if it’s
something customers are requesting, we’ll look at adding it. We try to
fulfill customers’ desires, and if there’s something different and new
that’s really good, then we would go for that.”
Pelleted offerings are increasingly popular across the board and continue to capture market share from
other food options, according to industry participants.
“Given that pellets are now used by more than 40 percent of freshwater fish keepers and 60 percent
of marine fish keepers—based on the most recent American Pet Products Association (APPA) pet owners
survey—there is a huge audience of users out there that retailers need to be sure they are targeting and
providing the offering they are looking for,” said Chris Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward,
Calif. “Gone are the days when pellets were a distant thought in the minds of aquarium keepers.”
Pelleted foods are taking a larger share of the market. Still, there is a ceiling to how much many
customers will spend on these products.
“The sweet spot is around $10 for a 2.5-ounce can of food,” said Katie Velie, manager for Nahacky’s
Aquarium in Melbourne, Fla. “There are a lot of people that have large tanks, but there are even more
people who have smaller tanks, and they’re not as willing to buy a large container. Anything under $10 is an
On the other hand, many customers focus less on price and more on meeting their fish’s needs.
“Honestly, people don’t even really look at price when they’re looking at food,” said Kelly Parsons,
manager for Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., about her customers. “They just assume they need it,
and they purchase it. Price point doesn’t seem to really affect their buying decisions.”
Well-educated staff who know the benefits of different dietary options will help set the tone and keep
customers coming back to the store for repeat sales opportunities.
“Being in retail for 34 years, I firmly know that what sells well is what your employees get behind and
recommend,” said Howie Berkowitz, owner of Aquaridise in East Brunswick, N.J. “My staff seems to be
behind New Life Spectrum. It’s my No. 1 selling pelleted food by far. If you get behind it and you recommend
it, eventually it will become a staple, and you’ll have the repeat sales.”
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