Delivered March 28th, 2020. Contributors: Amos T., Marvel I., Lourdes W. and
Pet Food and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Recent studies suggest that following the COVID-19 pandemic, high-disposable income pet parents such as baby boomers are concerned about the "quality of pet food" they purchase and prefer local brands. They search online for information on their pet products but are less likely to make purchases online when compared to other generational buyers with less disposable income.
Value Quality Pet Food
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, high-disposable income pet parents (such as baby boomers who have high disposable income) have displayed significant interest in the "quality of pet food" they purchase.
A 2020 survey of pet parents "buying pet food" amid the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that about 83% of baby boomers exhibit a significant degree of concern on the quality of pet food they are buying.
The study reveals that as age increases, the likelihood of pet parents to exhibit concerns about the quality of purchased pet food increases.
Those that are most concerned with the quality of their pet products are more likely to make purchases with online pet suppliers such as Chewy.
Although none of the uncovered resources reveal why boomers are concerned about the quality of their pet food and prefer to buy from Chewy, online resources on ways to keep "pets safe and happy" during the pandemic period recently recommended Chewy pet products. Chewy has high-value pet food products.
Consumers who have strong concerns about the quality of purchased pet food products are those who value local brands or locally-owned pet product establishments.
These consumers are worried about their pet contracting the coronavirus following the COVID-19 pandemic. It is logical to assume that the fear of coronavirus makes them prefer local brands since there are claims that the virus causing COVID-19 pandemic originated outside America (the virus originated from China to be specific). A significant volume of the pet food sold in America gets sourced from China and is "sold at many US stores." It is logical for American baby boomers to try to avoid pet foods sourced from China at this time to prevent spreading the virus to their pets.
Online Information on Pet Products
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, some insights surrounding how pet parents are buying pet food reveals that more than half of baby boomers and other pet owners are "browsing" online resources to discover information on new pet products.
In terms of the type of online sources of information, baby boomers exhibited a preference for brand or company websites when looking for information or learning about pet products.
Following the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, people across the United States (including boomers) have gone into quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease. Consequently, they have increased how they depend on the internet and online resources to support their day to day activities.
The study examines insights surrounding how pet food buying by high-disposable income pet parents is being affected in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources reviewed include credible news and media resources like USA Today, intelligent polling or survey resources like Civic Science, the website of pet food providers, among other resources. A limited number of resources published pet food buying insights specific to high-disposable income pet parents. Consequently, the study included resources that disclosed information on high-disposable income pet parents even where the resources also analyzed data on pet parents with lower income. The study considers high-disposable income people with plenty of money as including baby boomers and retired people. None of the resources comprehensively analyzed the reasoning behind uncovered insights, along with their importance and potential impact. The study has included other insights that seem to be connected with the pandemic to understand the reasoning and potential impact. For instance, high disposable income pet parents are concerned about their pets contracting the coronavirus following the COVID-19 pandemic and are opting for local pet products. The study considers it logical that the fear of coronavirus makes boomers prefer local brands. There are claims that the COVID-19 pandemic causing virus (coronavirus) originated outside America (the virus originated from China to be specific). Consequently, avoiding international pet products brands, especially those from China, may keep their pets safer.
Pets and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Insights surrounding how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting pets owned by high-disposable income pet parents in the United States are not publicly available. A Pew Research Center survey indicated that about 70% of people aged over 50 years in the US feel the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant issue. Other studies indicate that people aged over 60 years are at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus. This implies that baby boomers and retired people are most likely to adhere to COVID-19 pet management guidelines as they are at a higher risk. Based on this assumption, the possible insights surrounding how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting pets owned by high-disposable income pet parents in the United States, include reduced direct contact with their owners, adjusted exercise schedules, adjusted mode & frequency of veterinary attention and increased pet stress.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) reports that pets that get in contact with persons infected by this virus should be isolated. AKC suggests that although there is minimal chance of pets transmitting the virus to humans, pet owners should be careful about petting and that they should observe hygiene more seriously.
Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) instructs that persons with COVID-19 should avoid actions that involve direct contact with pets, including petting, kissing and sleeping in the same location.
Adjusted Exercise Schedule
The American Kennel Club (AKC) acknowledges that physical and mental exercise are extremely important for dogs and dog owners alike. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, AKC encourages dog owners to first confirm local regulations before they take their dogs out.
The Star reports that AVMA has instructed veterinarians to suspend all routine animal care so that they have time to treat critical illness and injuries.
The Star further reports that CDC has demanded that medical supplies be used carefully in view of the COVID-19 threat. AVMA has assured pet owners that normal vaccination schedules will resume once the COVID-19 crisis is over.
One Green Planet highlights that pets can get stressed by a number of things, including being in new situations, hearing new noises, sensing new smells, facing people, and change in the routines they’re accustomed to.
To determine insights surrounding how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting pets owned by high-disposable income pet parents in the United States, your research team studied on pet industry reports, such as reports by the American Pet Products Association but they did not have information on this subject. The team thinks this is because the COVID-19 is new and not many studies have been done on how it is affecting the pet industry. Your research team went further to study pet industry survey reports from research firms like Pew Research but this did not have this information either. The team thinks this is because the COVID-19 is new and not many studies have been done on how it is affecting the pet industry. Your research team then found a report by Pew Research showing that people in the age range where baby boomers and retired persons fall feel that COVID-19 pandemic is a crucial issue. The team also found a report by ABC News indicating that people aged over 60 years are at a higher COVID-19 risk. We based on the Pew research findings and the ABC News report to assume that baby boomers and retired will adhere to COVID-19 related pet management guidelines. This formed the basis for the insights in this brief.
Pet Owners Attitudes on Pet Health and Immunity
Disposable income spent on pets in America has steadily increased in the USA, with 1 in 7 owners not electing to scrimp on their pets food, healthcare and other maintenance such as grooming, boarding, clothing and pet sitters. During the great recession, many Americans cut back on spending for themselves, but little changed on spending for their pets. Americans, especially older Americans, are concerned about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their pets. The Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) were considered the first to begin treating their pets like children. CDC and other organizations, such as the NAARP, have issued recommendations to ensure that older Americans take proper precautions around their pets.
In 2018 The American Pets Products Associations stated that Americans spent a total of $23.04 billion on pet food, $14.39 billion on supplies/OTC medicine, $15.73 billion on vet care, $2.19 billion on live animal purchases and $5.24 billion on pet services like grooming and boarding.
In 2017, Baby Boomers spent more than any other generation on their pets. In 2018, Boomers were the only group to spend more than 1% of their total income on their pets. Other generations have also increased spending at least 0.92% of total spending on pets.
In 2018, Boomers decreased their pet food spending by 25%. Their average pet food spending per consumer unit (CU) decreased by $84.19 to $264.73.
However, according to Business Insider, the price of pet food has increased from an average $1.71 per pound in 2011 to $2.55 per pound in 2017, which demonstrates a positive trend in pet nutrition. Moreover, pet owners are treating their pets more like children and want them to have the best quality nutrition similar to what they eat.
Overall, the spending on veterinarians has increased. Veterinary care remains the second highest source of pet ownership spending, next to nutrition, at $18.1 billion in 2018 and continues to show stronger growth than any other category at a rate of 6.1 percent per year.
Competitive pricing for shots and other preventative maintenance has decreased, which is one of the main drivers for increased veterinarian visits. Pets are also screened for many human diseases such as digestive issues, allergies, and diabetes, to name a few.
The federal Consumer Expenditure Survey shows that between 1996 and 2012, our human health care spending jumped by almost 50 percent while pet medical spending surged by 60 percent. At the same time, the percentage of physicians increased by 40 percent while the supply of veterinarians nearly doubled.
Pet grooming is important to pet health because owners, especially older owners, may struggle with procedures such as anal gland expression, nail trims as well as minor skin and hair problems such as hair mats, dry skin and dandruff. On average, in 2016, pet owners spend about $200 per year on grooming.
Suggested Guidance for COVID-19
The CDC published several best practices for homes with household animals, stating that "people with COVID-19 and in-home isolation should be advised to limit interaction with household animals. Specifically, while a person infected with COVID-19 is symptomatic, they should maintain separation from household animals as they would with other household members, and avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sleeping in the same location, and sharing food."
Illnesses that can transmit from animals to people are called zoonotic diseases. According to the CDC, more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people are spread from animals and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people are spread from animals.
The CDC has pointed out that there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can become sick with or spread COVID-19 after contact with their skin or fur.
While there was a lot of information about the Baby Boomer attitudes toward pet health and immunity, we were not able to find any specific information about people with high-disposable income. We focused our search on trusted media sites and industry reports such as Business Insider and the American Pets Products Associations but most of the information was focused on the average Baby Boomer pet owner.
"According to the APPA, Americans spent a total of $23.04 billion on pet food, $14.39 billion on supplies/OTC medicine, $15.73 billion on vet care, $2.19 billion on live animal purchases and $5.24 billion on pet services like grooming and boarding.
When the Great Recession hit, Americans cut back on spending and tightened their belts. However, spending on pets barely declined."
"There are illnesses that can transmit from animals to people. Those are called zoonotic diseases, and the CDC posits that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people are spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people are spread from animals. "
"In addition to other prevention measures, people with COVID-19 and in-home isolation should be advised to limit interaction with household animals. Specifically, while a person infected with COVID-19 is symptomatic, they should maintain separation from household animals as they would with other household members, and avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sleeping in the same location, and sharing food.
Suggested Communications with Community Veterinarians
At this time there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can become sick with or spread COVID-19.
At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of companion animals."
"Boomers dominated in 2017, with 1.28% of all their expenditures being spent on their pets. In 2018, they are still the only group to spend more than 1% of their total on their pets. However, every other group had an increase. In fact, all CUs under 90 yrs old now spend at least 0.92% of total spending on pets. This is an amazing balance and bodes well for the future."
"Coming in at $18.11 billion, veterinary care remains the second highest source of spending in the pet care community, surpassing growth in any other category at a rate of 6.1 percent. The frequency of vet visits has likely increased as well thanks to lower prices, making care more accessible to a broader audience. As a result, the trend of pet insurance is projected to increase with pets living longer and requiring more complex and extended medical care."
"Data from the federal Consumer Expenditure Survey shows that between 1996 and 2012, our own health care spending surged by almost 50 percent while pet medical spending jumped by 60 percent. During the same period, the percentage of physicians increased by 40 percent while the supply of veterinarians all but doubled. "