Sizzling Stock: Aquatic Food
Fish Food Sales Steadily Swim Ahead
With hobbyists focused on providing the best for their finned friends, sales of aquatic foods are steadily increasing.
“Across the board, the overall trend in sales of all foods is increasing for us,” said Patrick Donston, owner of Absolutely Fish in Clifton, N.J. “It goes without saying that with more fish tanks and aquariums in houses, more people need food.”
The nutritional trends seen in the human market and other pet segments are dipping into the fish food category, experts reported, as hobbyists use all the tools at their disposal to care for their tank inhabitants.
“Aquatic consumers are still very passionate about their pets, love to talk to other fish keepers and are always on the lookout for products they think will help their fishy friends respond favorably,” said Chris Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif.
Asher Getzoff, inventory product specialist for Wet Spot Tropical Fish in Portland, Ore., agreed.
“The hobby’s in a better spot than it’s ever been before,” Getzoff said. “We live in a very health-conscientious world now in terms of what people are feeding themselves, as well as their dogs and cats. It makes sense that people would start paying more attention to what’s going on with their fish, too.”
One trend that is taking off in the aquatic diets segment is the inclusion of probiotics.
“The probiotic trend is a hot one now,” Clevers said. “We continue to bring out diets with probiotics that we find can provide a benefit to the fish and/or the aquatic environment.”
To make sure the probiotics a company uses actually benefit the fish, Clevers recommended that retailers “require some test data or actual use experience before recommending them as options for consumers looking for probiotics.”
The types of foods fish keepers are choosing are also shifting.
“The overall market may not be experiencing as rosy of sales growth in flakes or pellets as we are seeing,” said Kelly J. Randall, marketing director of Omega Sea in Painesville, Ohio. “The American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey shows flake purchases for freshwater fish owners up ever so slightly year-over-year—77 percent in 2014 versus 79 percent in 2016—and down for saltwater fish owners—75 percent versus 69 percent. The APPA data also indicates that younger fish owners buy flakes less and pellets more than their older counterparts.”
The rise in frozen food purchases and variety can be attributed to the trend of fish keepers wanting to prevent boredom, according to industry insiders.
“People are using more and more frozen food as part of their feeding regiment, and they feel the need to mix up what they feed their fish to avoid the fish becoming bored with their food,” Clevers said. “They are becoming more ingredient conscience—especially for koi foods and larger freshwater fish foods—and they are always on the lookout for something new.”
Fish keepers new to the hobby are also driving food trends.
“Most of our saltwater customers are from the younger generation these days,” said Juliane Chambers, assistant manager for Aquarium Center in Clementon, N.J. “The older generation was really into it. But now, a lot of millennials are getting into it, and they are more specific. They ask more questions, and they don’t like run-of-the-mill stuff. They like to go outside of the box.”