The rising ownership of cats and dogs during the lockdown has led to a run on pet food and warnings of a nationwide shortage of supplies that is likely to last all year.
Sainsbury’s sent an email alert to customers who buy pet food regularly to apologise about a “national shortage of dog and cat food pouches”.
It said: “We think this issue will be ongoing through the year, but we hope to get them back on to shelves as quickly as possible.”
The email urged customers to opt instead for pet food in other forms while it tried to resolve the problem with pouch supplies.
“In the meantime we have plenty of cans and trays available,” customers were told. “These are recyclable, so you can do your bit for the environment too,” Sainsbury’s added.
A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said: “We are seeing an increased demand for pet food pouches and are working hard to maintain stock levels. We continue to offer a range of canned and dry options.”
Morrisons said it was also working closely with suppliers who were investing in increasing their capacity. It said in a statement that it may not have full availability for several months.
“That being said, we do have enough stock to support all our customers and their new pets and so there is no need for people to buy more than they need,” it said.
Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket, said it had experienced particularly strong demand for branded cat food pouches and that it was working closely with its suppliers to meet it.
Andrew Opie, the director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Exceptionally high demand is putting pressure on supplies of food pouches for pets. Retailers are working with suppliers to address and rectify the issue and will do everything they can to minimise the impact on customers.”
Demand for pets has soared during the pandemic as animals have helped make up for the lack of human contact. Growth in pet food sales has reflected this trend in the UK and elsewhere.
There has also been a shortage of pet food in the US. The Animal Medical Center, a non-profit animal hospital in New York, said last month that a combination of the pandemic, increased pet ownership and major snowstorms had led to shortages among popular pet food brands.