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Pet Food and Supplies Fulfillment Guide

Geoff Whiting

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Our recent post on how to ship pet food and supplies focused on best practices for small or irregular pet supply shipments. But, if your eCommerce brand caters to the enormous online pet market, you need fast and reliable pet food and supplies fulfillment. In this guide, we’ll dig into the eCommerce fulfillment needs of a growing pet brand, and we promise we’ll cover the kitty litter, too.

pet food and supplies fulfillment

Special handling: bulky and heavy product fulfillment

One of the challenges of pet food and supplies fulfillment is getting heavy packages of kibble or cat litter to your customers undamaged. Keeping pet food containers sealed is essential. One small hole in a 30-pound package of dog food will render the whole bag unsalable, and a leaking cat litter container drains your profits. 

Look for a pet food 3PL like Red Stag Fulfillment that has these qualifications:

  • Expertise in safely handling bulky merchandise
  • Excellent inventory management to ensure pet food is shipped well before its sell-by date
  • Kitting for subscription fulfillment
  • Fast, accurate order processing and delivery.


Your customers count on you to deliver their pet food and supplies when they need them. Well-run fulfillment is the secret ingredient to great customer experience.

Experience our industry-leading fulfillment accuracy

What’s different about a pet food 3PL?

On the outside, fulfillment warehouses look very similar: big, boxy buildings with lots of loading docks. And inside, you’ll see racks of shelving stacked with products in most 3PLs. 

But that’s just the externals. Operationally, 3PLs vary in the services they offer and in their experience handling niche products. Here are two things that every pet food company needs in its fulfillment partner.

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How to deliver heavy pet food shipments safely

Most online pet food orders will be heavy — a bulky bag of dry food or a case of canned food — so you need a pet food 3PL with processes in place to move heavy merchandise. That can lead to ripped dry food bags and dented cans, which equals lost revenue and profits for your company.

Ask your 3PL about their typical package weight and their workflow for storing and shipping bulky items.

Storing and fulfilling perishable pet foods

Even shelf-stable canned and dry pet foods have expiration dates. Your 3PL must understand how to handle products that have sell-by dates. If you have a shipment of kibble pushed to the back of the shelf while newer shipments get processed to fill orders, the older stock may become unsalable. Even worse, outdated items could get picked to fill a customer order.

If you sell pet food that needs refrigeration, you must work with a food-certified fulfillment center that can store and ship frozen or refrigerated food products. 

Dog in treats

Pet supplies fulfillment

Many pet supplies fall into the most common category of eCommerce products: small and light. The bulk of online orders weighs under 1 pound. So, if you only sell cat toys, dog clothing, or other small items, your product line will work well in a fulfillment warehouse with expertise in packing and shipping small packages.

However, many pet supplies fall into hard-to-ship categories:

  • Cat litter, large bags of dry food, or packages of canned foods are often extremely dense and heavy.
  • Cat scratching and perching furniture is often oversized and awkwardly configured for shipping.
  • Cages and crates may be light for their dimensions, resulting in dimensional weight shipping charges.

In addition to expertise in shipping heavy products, here are two things to look for in your pet supplies 3PL.

The secret to dimensional weight and oversized shipping

Delivery companies apply a surcharge to packages that are lightweight but large. For these items, you’ll pay for the dimensional weight rather than the actual weight of the box. 

For example, let’s take an acrylic dog crate that can’t be folded for flat-pack shipment. The crate’s dimensions are 26” x 20” x 23”, and the box weighs 50 pounds. But, because of the size of the crate, you’ll pay for an 87-pound box when you ship via FedEx or UPS. The DIM weight will be 73-pounds if sent by USPS.

A 3PL with experience working with packages subject to dimensional weight pricing (like Red Stag Fulfillment) can help you keep your shipping costs manageable in several ways:

  • Help come up with packaging hacks to reduce box dimensions
  • Negotiate more favorable DIM factors with major carriers (a DIM factor is a number applied to the formula that determines dimensional weight; a higher DIM factor equals a lower dimensional weight number)
  • Use package consolidation to combine products for an order so you save on shipping charges.

Let’s take the acrylic dog crate as an example. First, let’s say that your fulfillment company has negotiated a better DIM factor with the delivery company, bringing the dimensional weight down from 87 to 80 pounds. 

Next, you can ship an additional 30 pounds of products inside that crate without further shipping charges because your actual weight would still be below the dimensional weight. If the same customer ordered a dog bed and a box of chew toys, your 3PL could use kitting to place those items securely inside the crate to ship for free.

Red Stag Fulfillment DIM Weight Calculator

Fulfillment metrics: volume and SKU breadth

When looking for a pet supplies fulfillment partner, it’s critical to review how the 3PL’s operations match your fulfillment metrics. Some fulfillment warehouses have a minimum order volume per month; if you don’t meet that, you may incur additional charges. 

Another crucial metric is SKU breadth. Some fulfillment centers primarily work with clients who have a small number of SKUs, and others can process orders for thousands of different SKUs. So, if your brand makes cat litter in two varieties and sizes, you might need a different 3PL than a company that carries 500 SKUs of dog apparel.

What to look for in a pet food and supplies fulfillment partner

A 3PL that can handle pet food and supplies fulfillment will provide some essential operational capabilities, plus add-on services that you need to keep your customers happy.

pet food and supplies fulfillment

FIFO order picking

First in, first out (FIFO) inventory management picks the oldest goods first when filling orders. That is critical for pet food fulfillment.

Expertise in oversized and heavy shipping

Many pet foods and supplies ship in bulk or are bulky or heavy by design. The best 3PL for a pet food and supplies brand is one experienced in heavy goods fulfillment.

Kitting and subscription fulfillment

Many consumers set up subscriptions to get regular deliveries of pet food and supplies. Kitting packs standard subscription packages ahead of the shipping date at a special kitting station. That reduces picking time, increases order accuracy, and allows you to add special promotions to your subscription boxes, if desired. Not every warehouse offers kitting, but it’s essential to subscription fulfillment.

Fast order processing

Speed is essential to pet food and supplies fulfillment, and not just because pet food is perishable. Your customers need to get their orders quickly, so Fluffy’s litter box gets a refill, and Sparky gets the chew toy he needs to keep him from eating your shoes. 

Reliability

Timely order processing is critical to subscription fulfillment and pet food shipping. Because pet supplies are essential to so many families, your customers need to be able to trust that you’ll deliver what they need at the speed you promised.

pet food and supplies fulfillment

Red Stag Fulfillment for pet food and supplies

Red Stag Fulfillment is an excellent choice for pet food and supplies fulfillment. We offer same-day order fulfillment to get your shipments out fast, and our accuracy rates beat the industry standard. Our expertise in oversized and heavy shipping means we will keep your products safe in our warehouse and pack them properly for delivery to your customers.

Plus, our fulfillment guarantees mean that if we make a mistake with inventory or order processing, we pay you to make you whole. Top-notch fulfillment is the secret ingredient to grow your pet food and supplies company. We’d love to help.

Find Out How Red Stag Fulfillment Can Grow Your Business

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