Pet Food Industry

Part
01
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Part
01

Pet Food Purchasing

With pets in over 70% of American homes, pet-ownership cuts across all demographics. Consequently, where information specific to pet-owners is unavailable, we have used sources pertaining to the American public in general. However, we needed to narrow this down somewhat to provide meaningful insights. Therefore, since Millennials are "the primary pet-owning demographic," owning 35% of all pets in the US, we will focus on the purchase journey specifically for this generation.

Educating Themselves

  • Most Millennial pet owners distrust pet stores to properly educate them, with 63% stating that they know more about cats and/or dogs than pet store employees.
  • Veterinarians are still the information source of choice among dog (60%), cat (49%), and horse owners (70%), but the internet is nearly as important to the owners of most pets (42-52%) and is the primary source of information for small animal and reptile owners (61% and 71%, respectively).
  • However, while the internet is a common place to learn about new brands (32% of pet owners), new brands are most commonly discovered while browsing in a store (58%), followed by TV ads (39%) and recommendations from friends and relatives (31%) or veterinarians (25%).
  • Those who discover new pet brands online most often come across the company websites (63%), Facebook pages (47%), or product review sites (43%).

Choosing a Brand / Pet Food Preferences

  • The general Millennial stress on the importance of sustainability and animal welfare carries over into their buying habits for their pets, with 99% willing to pay more for "fully transparent products."
  • Additionally, as noted by Packaged Facts, "a greater degree of transparency on the part of pet food marketers will be key to winning and keeping pet owner trust, with 'clean' labels that tout ingredients sourced in a safe, sustainable, and ethical manner playing a big part in pet owners’ decision-making process."
  • This trend is sometimes referred to as the "mindful choices" trend and includes wanting 100% traceability on ingredients.
  • As Euromonitor notes, the new generation of pet owners "is trading up to foods that match their own dietary trends, including premium and less processed pet food."
  • Personalization, already a trend in the non-pet space, has become important to pet-owners in choosing their brands as well; this desire is expressed in, among other examples, the practice some have of mixing real food with their pet food.
  • Apart from these, one of the greatest motivating factors for Millennials in choosing a brand is price, largely because the 2009 Great Recession and high college debt have forced them to live more austere lives than prior generations.

Brand Loyalty

  • Millennial pet owners are less concerned about brand loyalty, being more likely than other ages to have tried a new brand of dog food within the last 30 days.
  • As noted by Nathan Richter, a senior partner at Wakefield Research, "Younger shoppers are quite discerning when it comes to the products they consider good enough for their pets. Whether it’s food or clothing and accessories, their preferences differ depending on whether they are shopping at large versus small retailers, or online versus in-person. This is not the generation that is looking for one-stop-shop convenience, so retailers need to be sure they have an optimal mix of high quality and specialty products."

Where They Buy

  • 77% of Millennial pet owners (up from 40% in 2017) prefer to buy at least some items online than in-store, such as toys (40%), accessories (32%), and pet food (31%).
  • As a result, 2018 alone saw a 53% increase in online sales of pet consumables.
  • However, most prefer to shop for treats, bedding, and clothing in-store, with most preferring smaller, local pet stores to large chains, and 51% of pet owners (not limited to Millennials) state that they don't plan to ever shop online for their pet needs.
  • Pet stores have capitalized on "non-medical pet services such as grooming, boarding, and training" which require an in-person visit to draw customers.
  • When shopping for their pets online, Millennials are likely to add something to the cart for themselves, typically pet-themed merchandise like calendars (43%), clothing (e.g., t-shirts; 42%), cups or mugs (37%), door signs or welcome mats (33%), and paintings or posters (32%).
    • Interestingly, men are more likely to buy pet-themed merchandise than women (86% to 79%).
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Pet Owner Psychographics

The "ideal buyer" for pet supplies is a Millennial who spends nearly waking hour consuming media and values inclusion, sustainability, transparency, and animal welfare. To this persona, pets are considered legitimate family members, to the point where most would take a pay cut if they could just bring their pet to work every day. While native to an online environment and naturally prone to researching pet health there, his or her most common source of pet health information is still their veterinarian.

Selecting our "Ideal Buyer"

  • Creating a psychographic profile requires narrowing one's buyers to one or more demographic types (e.g., age, sex, race, income, marital status) and building a typical buyer persona for each. However, with pets in over 70% of American homes, pet-ownership cuts across all demographics.
  • Due to the constraints of a single Wonder request, we cannot build multiple personas; therefore, we will build a persona based on the most common demographic profile for a pet owner.
  • Since Millennials are "the primary pet-owning demographic," owning 35% of all pets in the US, and, unlike Boomers, are "on their way up" in terms of purchasing power, our ideal pet owner will be from this generation. Where generational breakdown is not available, we will use general pet-owner statistics.

Media Consumption

  • The average Millennial spends an astonishing 18 hours a day consuming media in one form or another.
    • 93% of Millennials watch YouTube and another 72% use other free streaming video sources, with 50% watching at least one online video a day.
    • 60% watch one or more subscription streaming services like Netflix.
    • 46% watch pay TV.
    • Millennials spend an average of 5.4 hours a day on social media, and over 66% "embrace brands on social media."
    • Interestingly, Millennials are 112% more likely to share online ads than any other generation.
  • When asked why they prefer online viewing, 56% say they want immediate access, 49% do it while multitasking, and 44% like being able to watch in convenient locations.
  • In terms of how they spend their media time:
    • 22% is spent watching traditional TV shows.
    • 17% is dedicated to YouTube, online classes, or video games.
    • 14% is spent watching sports and movies.

Researching Health Information

  • Most Millennial pet owners distrust pet stores to properly educate them, with 63% stating that they know more about cats and/or dogs than pet store employees.
  • Veterinarians are still the information source of choice among dog (60%), cat (49%), and horse owners (70%), but the internet is nearly as important to the owners of most pets (42-52%) and is the primary source of information for small animal and reptile owners (61% and 71%, respectively).
  • Notably, nearly all pet owners (97%) have a favorable opinion of their current vet.

Spending Habits

Like other Millennials, Millennial pet owners show some distinctive patterns in their spending compared to prior generations. They likely spend more per year on (quoted verbatim):


Conversely, they spend less per year than prior generations in the following (again, quoted verbatim):


Regarding their pets, the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey found the following basic expenses for cat and dog owners:

Surgical Vet Visits $426 $214
Routine Vet $212 $160
Food $259 $228
Food Treats $76 $58
Kennel Boarding $229 $120
Vitamins $58 $54
Groomer/Grooming Aids $73 $43
Toys $48 $31

Attitudes and Values

In general, Millennials — and by extension, Millennial pet owners — commonly share the following attitudes and values:
Sources
Sources