Amid pandemic, top CEOs say digital transformation is accelerating. Where it’s headed? Less clear

Amid pandemic, top CEOs say digital transformation is accelerating. Where it’s headed? Less clear

In the end, there was really only one question to ask an all-star panel of CEOs assembled for a Fortune CEO Initiative virtual event held Tuesday about leadership in challenging times:

How has the novel coronavirus pandemic affected business?

“Acceleration of the future,” Intel CEO Bob Swan offered, rather succinctly, after silently listening to his peers’ responses. “Clarity of the future? Not so sure.”

Swan joined Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, and HP CEO Enrique Lores in an hourlong discussion led by Fortune‘s own chief executive, Alan Murray.

The other tech executives were in strong agreement with Swan. All said corporations—their executives, partners, employees, and shareholders, across all industries—were seeing the pace of change dramatically accelerate, but only some of the CEOs were willing to guess the direction of that change.

“We are in a point of time which is really going to be defining for our lifetime,” said Lores, citing examples in health and education. “We are talking about the future of work, but we’re experiencing it today.” The HP CEO added as way of an example that he has spent “more than 1,000 hours in video conferences in the last three months.”

His peers knowingly chuckled.

Business change comes in many forms. Reflecting on their own companies, the executives described shifts in their supply chains, in the geopolitical landscape, and in the “very personal” (to use Lores’ words) ways individuals are working from homes they share with pets, family members, and furniture not intended for full-time productivity.

“This is the most unprecedented situation,” said Nadella. We’re running a massive experiment at scale.”

The Microsoft CEO took pains to say that he didn’t want to proclaim that the present situation is our collective future: “It’s a little bit too early, I think.” But he did offer three examples of clear change.

The first: How we collaborate. Meetings are transactional, Nadella said; real work happens around them. As white-collar work shifts to virtual spaces, “we’re burning up a lot of the social capital that we all built working together,” he said. We’re able to stay productive because we built social capital working in physical spaces, but there’s more cognitive load in the virtual environment. That needs to be addressed, he said.

The second: How we learn. “Corporations are about learning and knowledge creation,” Nadella said, but the old mechanisms for achieving that are disappearing. Businesses need better ways to upskill and re-skill employees for a new operating environment, he said.

The third: How we achieve well-being. “We just can’t measure productivity in the narrowest way,” Nadella said. According to Microsoft’s own research, most people—especially younger workers—are “burnt out” after 30 minutes on a video call. How do you combat that in a world of back-to-back virtual meetings?

And then there’s the matter of the big picture. “We need to have better measurements” for corporate innovation in this pandemic environment, Nadella added, so as not to lose sight of long-term goals. “You can be productive burning down a backlog,” he said. “But are you creating new?”

Sweet, whose professional services company is focused on helping companies achieve digital transformation, warned that companies are great at acquiring transformational technology but often fail at changing or simplifying how they work in response to it.

“This is the largest behavioral change at one time in history,” she said of the pandemic. “It exposes a lot of the flaws in companies.”

Sweet offered a statistic to underscore her point: Artificial intelligence spend among corporations has accelerated by 60%, but only 3% of executives also invest in employee training for the capability.

“How do we build into this acceleration the ability to be more responsible businesses?” she asked.

Swan said the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustice protests, and changing geopolitical dynamics will continue to influence the trajectory of global business.

“The interconnect of these three things is changing virtually everything,” the Intel chief said. “At the most simple level, it’s going to accelerate the role that the CEO plays…to be in the here and now.”

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Fauci is optimistic we’ll see COVID vaccine breakthroughs by early Fall

Fauci is optimistic we’ll see COVID vaccine breakthroughs by early Fall

Anthony Fauci told Facebook, Inc. ‘s Mark Zuckerberg that he expects results for a clinical trial on monoclonal antibodies by late summer or early fall, underscoring the speed at which the government has been working to quickly approve and roll out treatment for the novel coronavirus.

A monoclonal antibody is a laboratory-produced protein that can potentially be used to treat sick patients as well as for prophylaxis. Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, described them as “precise bullets” that can be developed from antibodies from other people who’ve been infected and used as a treatment to fight the virus at multiple stages.

“What we really need are drugs that, when given early, can prevent a symptomatic person from requiring hospitalization or very dramatically diminish the time that they’re symptomatic,” Fauci said during the Facebook Live interview on Thursday. Monoclonal antibodies can be administrated intravenously or through a shot.

Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, also said that the nation needs to “regroup” and “call a time out” as cases continue to surge across the U.S. Too many states skipped over certain guidelines as they jumped to reopen their economies.

“That is a recipe for getting into trouble,” Fauci said.

Zuckerberg, chief executive and co-founder of the social-media company, was critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic, saying “it’s really disappointing that we don’t have adequate testing, that the credibility of top scientists and the CDC are being questioned.”

Facebook has sought to remove misinformation on its platforms, but the struggle was illustrated during the event as several users’ comments scrolled next to the interview questioning the utility of vaccines. One pressed for “therapeutics or God created supplements.”

Fauci and Zuckerberg also discussed the importance of wearing masks, developing an effective vaccine, getting children back in school and young people’s role in stopping the spread of the virus

“Young people are intimately and heavily involved with what is going on with this pandemic,” Fauci said, pointing to the surge in younger people testing positive in the newest hotspots. “Consider your responsibility to yourself, but also the societal responsibility.”

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Sophie Grégoire Trudeau talks resilience and connection in the time of isolation

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau talks resilience and connection in the time of isolation

The coronavirus has infected more than 11 million people globally, but the virus’s impact on mental health has been felt by the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who have been forced into isolation to stop its deadly spread.

The mental health impact of the pandemic is a form of collective trauma, says Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, a women’s and mental health advocate, mother of three, and wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Grégoire Trudeau recently launched a podcast, WE Well-being, to discuss mental issues and dispel the continuing stigma around them.

In conversation with Arianna Huffington at Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Health conference, Grégoire Trudeau—who contracted and recovered from COVID-19 in March—spoke about her own struggles with an eating disorder and the resilience of the human mind to adapt and overcome its traumas through connection with other people.

“We’re all one trauma away from one another. One life event happens, one traumatic thing happens, you don’t know where you could find yourself the next day. And look at what’s happening now. We’re all in one very similar trauma—experiencing this virus, this pandemic,” said Grégoire Trudeau. “So we have to adapt to this situation and use our creativity to connect with one another and tell our own stories. We’re all connected through our traumas.”

Speaking about her own self-care regimen these days, Grégoire Trudeau said she’s careful about her media and social media diet: “We become what we consume…Why is it that we can’t put our screens away for 10 minutes to be in silence? When we slow down, we gain perspective.” She said she practices meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, being in nature, and exercise to “recalibrate her internal self.”

Grégoire Trudeau said she’s inspired by how the pandemic has been a trigger for empathy and creativity, and ended the conference on an optimistic note: “Having studied empathy and development in babies, we tend to be happy. Our true nature is to be loved and understood for who we are. And we want to express freely our own creative selves. And in situations of fear and stress and anger and divide, I think human goodness is being triggered and ignited.”

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Why go public amid a raging pandemic? Albertsons CEO explains

Why go public amid a raging pandemic? Albertsons CEO explains

Grocery giant Albertsons had big plans to go public in 2015, in what would have marked one of the year’s biggest IPOs. But the grocery giant backed out of its plans, put off by a turbulent retail sector.

Today, as Albertsons and its competitors navigate a global pandemic, the 2015 retail landscape looks tame by comparison. “We are operating in industry that is transforming so rapidly,” says CEO Vivek Sankaran, who joined the company in April 2019 from PepsiCo.

But this time around, the uncertainty and tumult didn’t stop Albertsons from debuting on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ACI. The IPO ended up being relatively disappointing for the retailer: The company priced its shares at $16, below the $18 to $20 range it had previously been seeking. (The company’s shares closed at $15.45, down nearly 3.5%.) The second-largest grocery chain in the U.S. behind Kroger is backed by private equity firm Cerberus, which invested in 2006 and has been looking to exit.

In the last few months, Sankaran has overseen an explosion of the company’s online business as consumers radically change the way they shop. In April, for example, the company reported that its e-commerce sales that month were up 374% over the previous year.

Fortune spoke with Sankaran about Albertson’s IPO and how COVID-19 has impacted the company, which runs more than 2,000 stores under its eponymous brand as well as the likes of Vons, Jewel-Osco, Acme, and Safeway. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity:

Fortune: The company initially announced its intention to go public in 2015. Why the delay, and why move forward now? 

Sankaran: It didn’t work out in 2015. At that time, we brought Albertsons and Safeway together, so the company has spent the last several years getting that integration right, and modernizing the company—putting technology in every aspect of it. There’s been a lot of work to strengthen the company and to get everything right from the governance aspects so we’re ready to be a public company. We felt we were ready from a business and performance standpoint. And surprisingly after a few turbulent weeks, the markets seem to be ready.

You ended up pricing below your target range. What happened?

It’s so difficult to predict what’s happening in the stock market. There’s so much volatility. Some of our investors have been with us for 15 years, so we’ve got to monetize some of that. And we are long-term oriented. We want investors to stay with us for that kind of duration to create value.

How has COVID-19 changed your strategy? 

COVID has accelerated our strategy. We pride ourselves on our fresh assortment—our meat and seafood, all of the prepared foods we have behind the counter, the depth and variety of what we provide in our stores. That was always the case. When you’re cooking at home that becomes even more important. You open your refrigerator five days after you went to the grocery store, you want that cucumber to be firm and that’s the advantage we have. Our e-commerce business is growing rapidly. We have so much more headroom there.

What is the role of the physical store going forward? 

Your question may come from this notion that everyone is going to buy online, and you may not need a store. I don’t think that’s a reality. It’s not a reality in countries where online has been around for a long time that have even higher density than America.

Also, recognize that a store, at the end of the day, is just another point of inventory. There’s service, there’s ambiance. But it’s also good inventory close to your home for us to bring it to you, or for you to pick it up. So we’re using our stores as a nice foundation for the omnichannel business.

What have been the hurdles with e-commerce?

It’s in the early stages of its evolution—not only for us, but for the industry as a whole. We’re all trying to learn how to meet customer expectations, frankly how to change customers’ expectations. It’s such a dynamic environment, and I think that’s what you have to accept if you want to be in the e-commerce business. You’re always piloting, always trying new things and investing behind it. It’s a big part of our growth agenda. The piece that’s been the most gratifying and somewhat surprising is the amount of new business when you open up e-commerce. 

How have customers been shopping differently? What do you view as permanent and what’s just a blip? 

Nothing is ever permanent. That’s a dangerous mindset to get into. They’re all coming to the stores less often but buying more when they come to the store. There are two things driving that one. One is safety, or the perception of safety. And the second, is they’re cooking more at home. They’re buying a lot more fresh, baking more at home. More cookies at home, they’re drinking more at home.

People, I think, are enjoying the time they have at home with families. I think some of that will stick. People are rediscovering that, by the way, we can get a lot of work done without having to commute two ways and spend those hours. As these things stick, at-home consumption sticks. It’s hard for me to imagine that all of this just goes away and people jump back to restaurants and their old way of life in an instant.

Are people stocking up to the same extent? Do you view that as an indicator of where we are in terms of a recovery? 

People stocking up was more in the months of March and April. We’re starting to see a lot more steadiness. People are engaging more in produce and fresh products, and the supply chains have come along nicely to support that.

What’s been the biggest challenge in making sure your employees are safe? 

It’s my No. 1 priority. I spend time on that every day, on keeping our associates and customers safe, and being there for our communities. We are always learning and innovating on how to keep people most safe.

In the early days, we couldn’t get sanitizer. One of our colleagues ended up getting sanitizer in bulk drums and we converted one of our beverage plants to get it into bottles to get it to our stores. Now those things are stabilized. It’s not so much a supply problem. At this point, my message to people is: You start thinking you can relax, but you simply cannot relax when it comes to COVID. 

Where are we in terms of recovery? 

It’s really unfortunate to see cases spiking up again in this country. I don’t think we’re anywhere at a place where we can declare victory or let alone seeing a path to victory over the virus. That’s how I see it.

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U.S. demand for TV saw a significant drop as George Floyd protests began

U.S. demand for TV saw a significant drop as George Floyd protests began

As protests spread across the United States in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, despite the coronavirus pandemic’s continued presence, national demand for television declined.

Total demand in the U.S. for all television series dropped nearly 18% during the period of May 15 to June 4, with a sharp drop occurring between May 31 and June 4—days after Floyd’s death on May 25—data research firm Parrot Analytics found. Total demand during May 15 to May 24, which the firm measured across all streaming and linear TV platforms using piracy consumption data, social media popularity, and other measures, remained relatively stable.

Parrot Analytics

“In the days following George Floyd’s killing, as protests against systemic racism and police brutality spread across the U.S., audiences’ attention was drawn away from their usual content consumption,” said Karina Dixon, director of global insights for Parrot Analytics. “Normally market level and global demand is relatively stable. A 17.8% drop in total U.S. demand over a three-week period shows just how much this tragedy has captured the American public’s attention.”

In the same period from May 15 to June 4, the demand for TV worldwide saw a nearly 8% drop. Parrot attributes this trend to protests expanding across the globe—including in London, Seoul, Sydney, and dozens of other major international cities—as well as the opening up of more countries and states following strict coronavirus lockdown measures.

Parrot Analytics

Despite the decrease in demand for overall television content, certain shows addressing socially relevant topics saw a huge surge in interest as the protests were beginning. U.S. demand for Netflix series Dear White People and When They See Us grew 329% and 147%, respectively, during the week of May 27 to June 2, the firm found.

That interest is also reflected across other mediums as Americans grapple with issues of race and police brutality. The books How to Be an Antiracist, White Fragility, and So You Want to Talk About Race all remain in Amazon’s top 10 bestsellers list after previously selling out of stock. In the podcast space, race-oriented podcasts 1619 by the New York Times and Code Switch by NPR rank in the top 10 most popular shows on Apple’s podcast app.

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It’s no fluke how BTS fans raised $1 million in 24 hours

It’s no fluke how BTS fans raised $1 million in 24 hours

Never underestimate the stans.

In about a day, fans of the South Korean music group BTS, known as Army, have matched the group’s donation of $1 million to various charities supporting racial justice. 

On Saturday night, BTS revealed their donation to Variety, which appears to be one of the largest celebrity checks written thus far to the U.S. Black Lives Matter movement. On Sunday night, Army (which stylizes its name in all caps) followed up by pitching in more than $1 million. At the time of this article’s publication, the total reads $1.2 million—and it’s still rising.

Using hashtags #MatchAMillion and #MatchTheMillion, the fan-led fundraiser was spontaneously organized through social media after Army learned of BTS’s donation, with no direction from the music group itself. One in an Army, a charity program within the community with a history of running fundraising campaigns, served as central command.

“We’ve run big projects before, but the amount of support for this project is overwhelming,” a program spokesperson stated in a press release. “We’re so proud that Army have once again channeled their power for good and are making a real impact in the fight against anti-black racism.”

Their success may come as a surprise to some, but to those familiar with BTS’s fan organizations, it’s anything but—the groups were able to move quickly because the structures and practices for this scale of collective action have long been in place. Army has been known to rally to trend hashtags to promote new work from the group and stream music videos in concentrated sessions to rack up views. A foundation of dedicated Twitter accounts announce hashtags, monitor and report statistics, and disseminate information. 

A 24-hour deadline carries unusual distinction among BTS fans as a benchmark for achievement. It has proved effective: The group’s hit single “Boy With Luv” holds the world record for the most viewed YouTube video in 24 hours, the fandom holds the record for the most tweets under a single hashtag in 24 hours, and the group itself holds the record for most No. 1 chart spots held by a Korean album in 24 hours.

So the BTS fandom is used to mobilizing with hairpin agility. Consider the following example from last night: Less than an hour away from reaching $1 million, fans were discussing the hashtag they should use to celebrate their success. At first, they circulated #ArmyMatchedAMillion. But then a few fans suggested #2MforBLM “to make it not about us and show priority for the cause,” as one wrote. Within minutes (and thanks to myriad retweets) most of the community knew of the change of plans—and minutes later, when the $1 million goal was hit, #2MforBLM began trending worldwide.

A charitable ethos has been in place, too. A week before BTS’s donation was revealed, One in an Army had set up a channel for fans to split donations between organizations for racial justice—the group’s donation only galvanized its use. Over the past few years, fans have donated toward causes around the world, addressing such problems as environmental degradation, homelessness, and pediatric cancer; they have also adopted a zoo of animals such as whales, koalas, and Hoseok the deer, a creature in Germany christened after group member J-Hope.

The #MatchAMillion campaign now has a permanent page on One in an Army’s website. “Black Lives Matter isn’t something that has a time limit,” said the One in an Army spokesperson. A powerful grass-roots organization doesn’t, either.

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Trump administration delays update to economic forecast as 2020 election nears

Trump administration delays update to economic forecast as 2020 election nears

The White House has taken the unusual step of deciding not to release an updated economic forecast as planned this year, a fresh sign of the administration’s anxiety about how the coronavirus has ravaged the nation just months before the election.

The decision, which was confirmed Thursday by a senior administration official who was not authorized to publicly comment on the plan, came amid intensifying signals of the pandemic’s grim economic toll.

The U.S. economy shrank at a faster-than-expected annual rate of 5% during the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. At least 2.1 million Americans lost their jobs last week, meaning an astonishing 41 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since shutdowns intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus began in mid-March.

Trump argues that the economy will rebound later this year or in 2021 and that voters should give him another term in office to oversee the expansion. But the delay of the updated midyear economic forecast, typically released in July or August, was an indication that the administration doesn’t want to bring attention to the pandemic’s impact anytime soon.

“It’s a sign that the White House does not anticipate a major recovery in employment and growth prior to the election and that it has essentially punted economic policy over to the Fed and the Congress,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist for the consultant RSM.

The senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, maintained that the underlying economic data would be too uncertain to convey a meaningful picture about the recovery.

But the political stakes of a weakening economy are hard to overstate, especially in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that are critical to the president’s reelection.

According to an AP-NORC poll conducted in May, 49% of Americans approve of how the president is handling the economy. That has dipped over the last two months, from 56% who said so in March.

Still, the economy remains a particular strong point for Trump. Before the outbreak began, and even as the virus started sending shock waves through the economy, approval of how he had handled the issue was the highest it’s been over the course of his presidency.

Since then, views on the economy have reversed dramatically.

The May poll found that 70% of Americans call the nation’s economy poor, while just 29% say it’s good. In January, 67% called the economy good.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and liberal economists swiftly seized on the report’s delay to argue that Trump is seeking to avoid putting his administration’s imprint on bad economic news in the months before the Nov. 3 vote.

“This desperate attempt to keep the American people in the dark about the economy’s performance is not only an acknowledgement that Trump knows he’s responsible for some of the most catastrophic economic damage in American history, but also a sign of how stunningly out of touch he is with hard working Americans,” said Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman.

While the economic forecast is being delayed, updated information about the nation’s budgetary situation will still be released as expected this summer, the senior administration official said. A significant decline in tax receipts, as well as outlays from almost $3 trillion in coronavirus-related aid bills, is sure to produce a multitrillion-dollar government deficit for the budget year ending Sept. 30.

Paul Winfree, a former Trump White House director of budget policy, doubted that the holdup on the economic update was on Trump’s radar.

“Honestly, I don’t think the president thinks about the publication of the mid-session review and the politics around it,” Winfree said.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, noted that the law requires the White House to update its budget forecast. That responsibility is even more important given the uncertainty in the economy and the trillions of dollars in aid that have already changed the trajectory of government spending, she said.

“By staying silent on how to reallocate those federal dollars under an unprecedented economic downturn, the executive branch is doing a disservice to taxpayers and avoiding tough discussions we need to have about the new fiscal reality,” she said.

Jason Furman, who led the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration, said the Trump administration pointing to economic uncertainty as the reason to put off the forecast doesn’t hold weight.

Trump has repeatedly predicted improvement in the third and fourth quarters of this year, and the president just this week predicted 2021 is going to be “one of the best years we’ve ever had.” White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett said earlier this week that a double-digit unemployment rate was possible in November.

“You have to make decisions on incredibly uncertain information right now,” Furman said. “They are out on TV every day making economic forecasts and predictions about what’s going to happen in the economy.”

The Trump team’s economic projections, like those from earlier administrations, have tended to be overly optimistic. Last year’s review estimated that the economy would grow more than 3% last year, but the actual gains were a far more lukewarm 2.3%.

It similarly claimed that growth under Trump would cause the budget deficit to fall as a share of the economy. That estimate could never have anticipated the outbreak of the coronavirus that forced more than $3 trillion in aid as the deficit is on course to reach new highs.

In 2017, the Trump administration criticized the Obama administration for rosy expectations of growth during the Great Recession more than a decade ago. An updated forecast in the mid-session review could make the Trump White House a similar target for criticism.

Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Biden, said a timely update on the state of the economy is more important than ever.

“The idea that you’d abrogate that responsibility now is pretty serious fiscal malpractice,” Bernstein said. “They don’t like the numbers they’d have to write down. This is a White House that is in denial about the trajectory of the economy.”

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Why the pet industry hopes Americans will start treating their cats more like dogs

Why the pet industry hopes Americans will start treating their cats more like dogs

Humans worshipped cats in pharaonic times and have been their servants, one way or another, almost ever since then. But until recently, the felines have not been getting that kind of deference in the modern-day United States from a pet products industry more focused on their canine counterparts.

It’s easy to see why doggos get so much attention from pet stores and manufacturers. Among U.S. pet owners, spending per dog last year was $1,381, while for cats it was $908, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Most cats are much smaller than most dogs, so they consume less food. Cats are much more difficult to coax into a visit to the vet. And there are fewer cat owners to cater to: 43 million U.S households have a cat, but there are 63 million with a doggie.

Still, industry players, from big-box retailers to foodmakers to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, are hopeful that they can eventually get pet owners to spend on their cats like they spend on their dogs—and thus expand an underexplored market. Those folks are seeing promising signs in some product lines: An AlixPartners analysis of APPA’s data found that expenditures on vitamins, treats, toys, and grooming aids are all seeing significant growth among cat owners. (For more, see “It’s a dogfight at America’s pet stores as COVID-19 upends the $96 billion industry.”)

Right now, cats account for only about 7% of the $7 billion spent annually on pet treats. Food makers think they can shake that up—not least because, in the era of Instagram and sheltering in place, teaching old cats new tricks is more rewarding for their owners. “You have cat parents who want to reward and engage their cats in new and different ways,” says Rob Ferguson, interim SVP for pet food, pet snacks, and supply chain at J.M. Smucker, which earlier this year launched cat treats under its Rachael Ray Nutrish brand. It remains to be seen whether cats feel the same way, but the industry is prepared to feed the beast, so to speak. “The cat treats market has been ‘doggified,’” says David Sprinkle, an analyst with research firm Packaged Facts.

Cat food has not seen the kind of proliferation of innovation dog food has seen. While dogs are omnivores who can be persuaded to eat such health food staples as quinoa and broccoli slaw, cats are mini-carnivores related to lions and tigers, with fairly limited dietary interests. “Cats…don’t gravitate toward natural food quite as well—they like the sound of a can,” says PetSmart CEO J.K. Symancyk. Of course, foodmakers know that convincing the owners of a food’s healthfulness is more important than convincing the cat: Smucker last year launched grain-free Meow Mix.

Cats…don’t gravitate toward natural food quite as well—they like the sound of a can.

PetSmart CEO J.K. Symancyk

In the startup world, new ventures in the pet space have also predominantly focused on dogs. Leonid Sudakov, president of Kinship, a $100 million investment fund set up by Mars Petcare, thinks that focus has something to do with Silicon Valley bros being more likely to own dogs than cats. But exceptions are beginning to emerge. Despite its name, JustFoodforDogs, which makes “human-grade” food, has a small but growing menu for cats. CatPerson, a startup that sends boxes of treats and supplies to cat servants, launched in March. And Kinship has put money into a Chinese company called Mollybox, a subscription service for food and supplies focused on cats, because he thinks they will spur the next big boom in pet products. (For more, see “10 big business deals that are changing the pet industry.”)

The coronavirus pandemic could also bolster veterinary spending on cats. Felines visit the vet far less often than dogs because of how traumatic leaving the house can be for them (and, these days, for their owners). Americans currently spend $650 per year per dog on vet visits, compared to $374 per cat. But the growing use of telehealth and virtual consultations could narrow that gap.

“Cats have been a strong No. 2 for a long time,” says Steve King, CEO of the APPA. That comment that would likely elicit a hiss from any feline that could be bothered to react. But if they cared, cats might find solace in the fact they could be catching up.

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