45 Pet Product News International
Frozen Foods Heat Up
Specialty marine food options help pet specialty retailers
keep market share and grow their bottom line.
BY E THAN D. MIZER
When it comes to marine food offerings, the market is going upscale, and customers are interested in variety, quality and availability, according to industry insiders. While more traditional food options in the form of flakes and pellets
are still popular, frozen offerings are increasingly
The shift toward frozen offerings is particularly
evident among specialty marine retailers.
“We rely on a lot of frozen diets,” said Kreig
LeBlanc, manager and co-owner of Aquariums
West in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“Frozen offerings make up the bulk of our foods.
We have no shortage of combinations.”
LeBlanc added that, in his experience, more ad-
vanced customers want frozen foods for their fish.
Other retailers echoed this sentiment.
“I sell more frozen and PE Mysis than any other
food,” said Steven Bayes, owner of Reefers Direct
Aquatics in St. Cloud, Fla. “Our favorite food here
would be the LRS [frozen food blends] from Larry’s
Reef Services. … With Larry’s LRS, finickier fish are
more willing to eat food versus a pellet or a flake.
Overall, it’s made everything a little bit easier.”
Dry foods still have a place on store shelves, and
some customers prefer these foods, but sales of fro-
zen offerings are growing rapidly.
“The dry foods tend to be more useful in terms of
convenience,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve always pushed
the frozen food selection quite heavily. Probably 90
percent of the food sales we do are frozen. People
come in and they’ll buy a mixed case of frozen food.”
LeBlanc keeps a wide variety of frozen and flake
offerings on-hand, as his store’s specialty status has
made it the go-to location in his area for marine and
“A lot of people will come a great distance to
stock up, so we always have a really good selection
of frozen foods, and we make sure we have the quantities they want,” he said.
Attracting a wide variety of specialty hobbyists
from a larger geographic area has other advantages, too, as they’re more likely to make additional
purchases and are more inclined to spend on related products.
“We do have people that come from farther
away to get some foods,” said Donna Harris,
co-owner of Blue Reef Aquatics in North Las Vegas,
Nev. “It gets people in the store. Maybe they’ll buy
something else because they’ve come all the way
for a pack of food. Customers that buy that type
of food for their fish are more likely to spend more
money on other things, too.”
Increasingly, customers want to offer their fish
a variety of food options, and Bayes said he often
recommends flake and pellet diets to supplement
Chris Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in
Hayward, Calif., concurred that there is strong consumer demand for variety.
“The most prevalent current trend with consumers is to feed their fish a mix of foods to avoid having
their aquatic pets get bored with a specific food,” he
Clevers recommended that pet specialty retailers focus on offering quality products they’ve used
themselves to help aquarists succeed in the marine
hobby long term.
“After all, a consumer with a fish that has problems or a consumer that can’t keep fish alive [creates]
another reason for them to walk away from the hobby we all love and enjoy,” he added.
Frozen food offerings are viewed as premium products, according to
independent pet specialty retailers, and customers are often willing
to pay the higher price tags that come with them.
“Sometimes, people definitely just want to look for the
cheapest [option] if they only have something simple or they’re
new to the hobby,” said Kreig LeBlanc, manager and co-owner of
Aquariums West in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “But for
the most part, most customers are really into their hobby and their
fish, and they don’t have any problem spending a little bit more
money for quality food that’s going to be nutritious and help the
overall health of their animals.”
The sweet spot in terms of price point is $20, LeBlanc added,
and this is commonly what customers are looking to spend. He uses
shelf talkers and a lot of signage to ensure customers can differenti-
ate food offerings on the shelves.
“For us, $20 relates to three 3.5- or 4-ounce packets of food,”
LeBlanc said. “That’s a really common number people will purchase.
The same thing applies to the dried foods, too. … Frozen foods are a
big mover. They’re definitely not a loss leader, that’s for sure. We do
very well on the frozen foods.”
For Steven Bayes, owner of Reefers Direct Aquatics in St. Cloud,
Fla., 90 percent of his customers are willing to pay a higher price for
frozen and premium foods, but there are limits.
“People aren’t going to pay more than 20 bucks,” he said.
“They’d like to be around the $10 mark, and sometimes they have
sticker shock at the beginning with the frozen food being at 20
bucks, but once they see what’s in it and that we use it, it sells itself
Customers at Blue Reef Aquatics in North Las Vegas, Nev., look
for premium offerings, said co-owner Donna Harris, and she sees
them focusing on foods in the $18 to $25 price range.
“Once you get past the $25 mark, it gets a little intimidating
even for the people that spend money on their fish,” she added.
As marine hobbyists have become more sophisticated and
retailers have moved to focus on specialty products to meet their
needs, frozen offerings have started to become the expected norm.
“People expect a high-quality food,” LeBlanc said. “We’re a
specialized store, so most of our customers expect to see a more