Humanization as a clearly identifiable trend in the pet market dates back to the 1860s, when a Mr. James Spratt translated hardtack (the shelf-stable crackers eaten by sailors) into the first commercial pet biscuit. of company. More than 160 years later, humanization underpins the growth of the pet industry, alongside other global trends: pet health and premiumization.
The phenomenon of humanization is multifaceted, referring on the one hand to the anthropomorphism of pets, a state of mind which in the modern era has never been so extreme. Pet owners who don’t consider their animals part of the family are an endangered species, and this affection is shared between generations. A large and growing majority of pet owners also consider their pets to be important to their own health, sentiments that have been reinforced during the pandemic and, in the case of mental health, intensified by the pandemic. one generation to another.
An inescapable feature of humanization is the ubiquitous presence in the pet industry of human-styled products and services and cross-humanized companies and brands. Across all sectors of the pet industry, the list goes on, including pet food and treats with human-grade ingredients and brands like Clif Pet; non-food products like cannabidiol (CBD) supplements and La-Z-Boy pet beds; veterinary services at non-pet retailers, including Walmart; and pet insurance under brands such as Geico and MetLife.
The top purchasing priorities for pet owners are product quality, affordability, shopping convenience, and brand name. These calls are far from revolutionary, so forward-looking players in the pet industry are strategically targeting new wave consumer mindsets as the next step in humanization and premiumization.
At the top of this list is corporate progressiveness on sustainability, closely associated with involvement in companion animal welfare causes and corporate transparency about values, operations and work practices. Heralding the future of the pet industry’s marketing directions, interest in sustainability and transparency is growing among young pet owners who are likely to be affected by climate change longer and more severely. Across all age groups, pet owners rank pet food as the most important health product for pets. And with pet food accounting for 42% of US pet industry sales in 2021, it follows that food marketers are at the forefront of the sustainability movement, where generational writing is also on the wall.
In Packaged Facts’ January 2022 survey of pet owners, the percentage of pet owners who report buying pet food with sustainable/eco-friendly packaging nearly doubles from 13% of those aged 75+ to 24% among Millennials/Gen Z, who are also much more likely to like the idea of using alternative proteins in pet foods, including plants , insects and cultured meat.
Heightened environmental concerns among younger generations are of course not limited to pet owners. In a global survey of 10,000 adults published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet in December 2021, 45% of 16-25 year olds are worried about the negative effects of the climate on daily life, 75% believe that “the ‘future is scary’ and 56% say ‘humanity is doomed’.
On a more upbeat note for the U.S. pet market, nearly half (48%) of dog and cat owners surveyed by MRI-Simmons in its Fall 2021 survey feel more environmentally conscious. than most people, 40% say they would go out of their way to buy an eco-friendly product, and 56% say they would pay more for eco-friendly products.
This latest statistic should catch the ears of pet industry players looking to support the humanizing wave of higher ticket sales, and all the more so in a business where shoppers are increasingly taking account in their purchasing decisions not only the attributes of the product, but the values of the company as it relates to the future of planet Earth.
David Lummis is the Principal Pet Market Analyst for Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.comof which the Companion Animals Market Outlook 2022-2023 The report was due out in late March at press time.