The pet industry has been growing, surviving and thriving consistently over the past years and during the recent economic downturn, while other industries have faltered and suffered.
The pet industry, often called 'recession resistant', has thrived as baby boomers, the largest consumer group in history, have adopted pets and, for the first time, treated them as full-fledged members of the family.
With baby boomers aging and coming into their senior years, this potential market for the pet industry will begin to fade, creating a situation where the consistent growth of our industry will begin to level off in coming years.
As we wrote in our Top Pet Industry Trends for 2013 article, 'the coming years will see a shift in who purchases pet business products and services; moving from the present day (baby boomer) market of women, ages 25-55, to the upcoming market of women currently between the ages of 8-51. This next generation of purchasers of pet products and services include the 13th Generation or GenX, who are presently 31-51 years old, and the Millennial Generation or GenY who are presently 8-30 years old.'
Add to that information shared by Pet Business Magazine in 2011 showing 'the average U.S. pet owner is 48 years old.' However the article goes on to state that the 'average pet-owner age reported in the 2009-2010 edition of the survey was 47 years old, and in 2003-2004 that age was 46,' showing that there is a decline in pet ownership among these younger generations.
In addition, the article states that in 'a study conducted by The Nielsen Company last year, pet-owning baby boomers significantly outspend pet owners categorized as Gen-Xers or Millennials. For example, baby boomers spent an average of 80 percent more on pet food than Millennials did in 2010 (38 percent more than Gen-X pet owners), and 22 percent more on pet care items (9 percent more than Gen-X pet owners).'
So you can see the pet industry has its hands full in the coming years to keep the industry on its continued growth path.
On the bright side, this past 2013-2014 APPA Pet Owners Survey indicated an uptick in pet ownership over the past seven or more years with 68% of US households owning a pet versus the previous years (2007-2011) average of 62%. Growth was specific in the areas of dogs and cats, and fairly flat in other categories of pets.
The pet industry has historically lagged behind other industries in the areas of consolidation, acquisitions, licensing, co-branding, partnerships, marketing, pricing, distribution and more. This year, however, we believe will be the continuation of the past couple of years in the transition and further alignment in how other industries have been operating for years.
The pet industry is now the 'wild west,' where anything goes and everyone is involved. The strongest, most well-funded, organized, branded and marketed will take the lead in many categories.
As the economy has begun to stabilize over the past couple of years, we've seen a boom of consolidation and acquisition within the pet industry, an increase in co-branding, private labeling, partnerships and licensing deals with high profile 'lifestyle' brands, as current pet business companies look to expand their markets to a broader audience, and as companies historically outside of the pet industry seek to capitalize on the pet industry growth opportunity and bring products and services to a broader market. In the coming years we will see more and more of these types of 'deals.'
Pet product, service and retail companies will continue to bring a broader range of products to their additional markets by 'partnering' with well established brands through licensing deals, co-branding, endorsements, partnerships and more. Examples of these over the past years include Martha Stewart, Toys'R'Us and National Geographic brand of pet products with Petsmart.
Well branded companies outside of the pet industry will continue to dive into the pet market, extending their product lines and bringing related and fitting pet products and services to a wider audience to capitalize on the success within the pet industry. Examples of these include Select Comfort's Sleep Number Pet Bed and the recent announcement by Body Glove International, a manufacturer of wet suits, clothing and other apparel geared toward active, outdoor and water enthusiasts, of their new line of pet products.
Additionally, pet product and service companies (and companies outside the pet industry, newly entering the market) will continue to leverage relationships with well-known pet industry figureheads and celebrities to get a 'leg up' in gaining awareness with the pet industry market through licensing deals, partnerships, endorsements and more. A couple of examples of these include: Quaker Pet Group's licensing deal with Duck Dynasty, and Grumpy Cat's deal with Accuy Natural Solutions.
It's going to get a lot tougher for individuals, small businesses, and those companies without proper funding to take that great idea, develop a prototype, manufacture a small amount of product, and bring it to market via the internet, and/or through grass roots marketing tactics, and be successful.
Going forward pet product and service companies will need a full range of opportunities to bring products and/or services to market to be successful, including developing full and well-rounded marketing and branding strategies and tactics to reach consumers, retailers, distributors, and wholesalers; expand into co-branding, co-marketing and licensing deals; and look to International markets to really be able to sustain the future of their pet business.
As in past years, and increasingly in coming years, US pet related product providers will look toward International markets for growth and expansion opportunities, as these International markets pick up steam in pet industry growth occurring from increased pet ownership and spending, and as increased opportunities are made available. Countries showing significant opportunities include China, Japan, India, Brazil and Russia.
Legislative influences, pushed by caring consumers, will additionally present the pet product and service market with challenges. From the push to ban sales of pets in pet stores, the growing involvement of the FDA in regulating pet related foods/treats, and individual legislative actions by certain states to ban certain ingredients and GMO's in products, including those for pets.
Pet businesses who change with the times, and align their business, and the products and services they offer, with customer wants and needs, will be more successful in the long term and be better able to evolve and become leaders in their markets.
Companies that continue to manufacture and sell lower quality pet foods, treats and other goods will have a hard time marketing to the pet lover that treats their pet as part of their family, and will have to expand their markets to target lower income and more uneducated prospective buyers; as well as other segments that historically haven't thought of their pets as much a part of the family.
Technology will increasingly paw its way into the lives of pets and pet lovers. As technology advances have occurred, and outside interests continually see the pet market as a viable and interesting new market, more and more products with and focused on technology will be made available in the coming years. And some big technology investment dollars are making their way into these new prospective tech/pet companies.
We will see more and more mobile device apps available, some good, some 'same old, same old.' Newer technology will makes its way into the pet market that will allow us to keep track of, monitor and interact with our pets in many more ways; including the monitoring of heart rates, activity tracking, respiratory rates, calorie expenditures and more. Wearable computing has arrived in the pet market and will bring the ability to share this valuable real-world information to healthcare and service providers.
Savvy and high purchasing pet product consumers have long considered their pets as part of their family. This demographic will be seeking out more and more products and services that allow their pet to more actively participate in their entire lifestyle, be more 'pampered,' and enjoy life more fully and comfortably with their families. Hence, we will see a continued increase in products and services related to pet travel, hotel services, airline services; additional human-like pampering products and services; and comfort and living products such as health, rehabilitation and senior related lifestyle products, and consolidated services for both pet and pet parent at one single location.
Wellness and Healthcare
The health, wellness and care segment of the pet industry will continue to evolve. Over the years pet loving consumers have changed in the way they think about this area of their pet's life. They are more demanding, educated and opinionated in how they care for their pet throughout their life.
We will continue to see an increase in the types of health and wellness care availability for our pets. In addition, with the increase in healthcare costs, and the fact that pets are living longer lives, pet lovers will seek out more complete health and wellness care for their pets, including holistic approaches; and they will also increase their options for how to pay for these higher wellness and health care costs through insurance and alternative payment options. We fully expect pet healthcare insurance companies to this year begin bringing their level of insurance provisions more in line with human insurance practices including direct billing and self insurance options.
We'll also see increased services pertaining to the aging pet population including in-home hospice services and out-of-home senior care, as consumers look for services to care for their senior and ailing pets.
Foods and Treats
Foods and treats are the largest purchasing category for pet lovers. Again, as pet loving consumers become more and more educated, and as regulatory, manufacturing and sourcing ingredients problems continue to plague the pet food industry, these dog, cat, bird, small animal and reptile owners will seek out more whole, less processed, healthier, safer and made/sourced in the US foods and treats for their pets.
Trends we will continue to see in the pet food and treat category are grain-free, species appropriate, whole, less processed, healthy, safe, and USA sourced.
Toys for All
Toys, one of the largest segments of the pet lover purchasing pie, will continue to be a large focus for the pet lover. In the coming years, we will continue to see more engaging and interactive toys for not only dogs and cats, but for birds, reptiles, and small animals. Toys and habitats will become more elaborate and engaging for pets; as well as trend toward more green, Made in the US, eco-friendly, healthier and safer as pet parents become increasingly educated and create demand.
Over the past couple of years innovation in the pet toy category has begun to stagnate. We fully expect to see pet product companies seek out relationships and partnerships to bring new and innovative toys to market, as well as invest more in research/development as the economy becomes more stable.
This year we see several primary marketing related directions pet product and service companies will (and will need to) take this year and into the future to secure a successful business.
- Broaden their base of prospective and current pet lovers; reaching more and additional demographics - through consolidation, acquisition, co-branding, licensing, and marketing tactics.
- Creating, marketing and selling products and services that appeal and reach into other market segments beyond the pet loving baby boomers that the industry has historically marketed to, including mommies, men, genX, millennials.
- Healthier, greener, safer will increase even more in the coming years as additional pet product and service consumers become even more savvy, utilizing many of the online and offline resources available to them in making more informed decisions for their pets.
- Expectations for the pet loving consumer are changing. If pet business are not focusing their efforts on serving, assisting and nurturing current and prospective customers, continually reinventing how they market their pet business, keeping pace and adapting to the wants and needs of the continually changing demographic of the pet industry consumer, they will be left behind.
- Marketing in the digital age, with the Internet, mobile, demographic and location based tactics, is continually challenging; yet with a well-rounded, integrated, targeted and tech savvy approach, pet businesses will be able to market and sell to the evolving demographic of the pet industry consumer in the coming years for the success of their business.
As the pet industry begins to come into its own, we will see many changes, growth, consolidation, and opportunity. But we will only see this for pet related businesses that adapt to the our changing market and increased competition from outside sources, develop tactics to reach a wider variety of demographics and market segments, as well as concentrate their efforts on healthier, safer initiatives.
American Pet Products Association
Pet Business Magazine
Packaged Facts Google