By Kristen Levine, president of FWV Fetching
If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that we better get comfortable with unpredictability. Rather than create detailed projections for where the pet industry will land in 2022, it’s more telling to examine how the pandemic has accelerated changes in how we care for our pets.
Since 1988, FWV Fetching client the American Pet Products Association (APPA) has collected and published the pet industry’s most comprehensive consumer research study about pet ownership, pet care practices, and preferences in the consumption of product and services by America’s pet owners. The 2021 – 2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey released in late Q2 2021 was indeed reflective of the consistently unpredictable nature of life during the pandemic, with more pet parents favoring the stability and safety of online storefronts vs. brick-and-mortar retailers. One thing is certain for the pet industry: Spending is up, and pet parents, more than ever before, are willing to sacrifice a bit more of their paychecks to provide premium care and services for their pets.
Highlights from the National Pet Owners Survey
In summation, the Survey findings bode well for the pet industry. Below are some of the highlights that were particularly noteworthy.
Pet ownership is up. Fourteen percent of respondents brought home a new pet during the pandemic. Although the term “pandemic puppy” has been frequently tossed about as of late, in fact, saltwater fish and birds are among the most popular types of pets purchased during the pandemic, in addition to cats and dogs.
Spending has increased. Thirty-five percent of respondents stated they spent more on their pets in the past 12 months than during the previous period.
Millennials are the largest segment of pet parents. As millennials outpace Boomers and Gen X as pet parents, it’s no surprise that online retailers are gaining a stronger sales foothold than brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, online shopping among pet owners increased by 20% as compared to pre-pandemic times.
Perhaps even more interesting is how Millennials are shaping the evolution of pet care and pet care services.
Pet Services Trends to Watch
After a steep revenue decline in pet services (as much as 45%) at the beginning of the pandemic, this corner of the pet industry has not only rebounded, but it is thriving within a digital revolution. Pet care, at its core, is extremely hands-on. So how are pet care services prospering during a hands-off movement?
Digital medical services, such as veterinary telemedicine, are making strong inroads. While most pet parents probably aren’t yet using these services, it’s likely they will become more common practice in the near future.
Convenience and accessibility play a huge role in pet parents’ behavior, so telemedicine services like Fuzzy are gaining popularity. And for those who still favor in-person visits but need accessibility and flexibility, walk-in clinics like EasyVet are becoming more appealing.
Also exciting is the emergence of online companies that are reimagining everything from how people can secure funds for expensive veterinary procedures like Cuddly.com and how to find a pet sitter with online services like Trustedhousesitters.
Companies like Cuddly aren’t merely helping crowdfund veterinary services to improve pets’ lives but are actually helping save the lives of pets that may have otherwise been euthanized in avoidance of costly procedures.
MARS Petcare has also launched a new, innovative service for lost pets called For Paws. The app will initially launch in Bangalore and eventually roll out to other cities globally. The technology uses facial recognition to help locate lost pets.
Pet Product Trends to Watch
An increase in pet product spending naturally accompanies an increase in pet ownership. However, unlike years past, we’re not merely seeing an increase in spending for traditional pet products, such as food, litter, leashes and the like. Rather, premium pet products are becoming the household norm.
Specific categories benefiting from the pandemic era include premium pet foods and treats and wellness products. The wellness category is showing never-before-seen products, such as toothpaste for cats and earplugs for dogs with noise aversion.
The Survey also found that 51% of pet parents are willing to pay more for ethically sourced and eco-friendly products. FWV client, ökocat, for example, makes cat litter upcycled from wood, pulp and paper remnants, resulting in planet-friendly products that are cleaner and healthier for your cat, family and home. Although it seems this market share becomes more competitive every year, the demand for high-quality products among pet parents is increasing at a similar cadence.
Pet Insurance Trends to Watch
It’s taken a few years to transition pet owners from thinking of pet insurance as a luxury item to a necessity. However, that day has finally arrived. Pet insurance is on the rise – nearly doubling among cat owners. When pet parents have insurance, they can opt for the best treatment available, instead of choosing treatment based on their available funds. This is great for veterinarians and really great for pets!
The future of pet care will be shaped by the younger generations of pet parents who know how to leverage technology and community to create convenience and accessibility for pet care services.
This is a big win for the advancement of up-and-coming brands, as well as long-standing brands rolling with the trends. However, the big winners are pets that are benefiting from a shifting global view of how to help pets not just co-exist with their human companions but live their best, healthiest and happiest lives together.