5 Trends to Know About “Pandemic Pets”

With Americans isolating and socially distancing this year, pet adoption has never looked so attractive. Furry companions are a great way to alleviate boredom, find consistent reasons to get out of the house for fresh air, and fulfill the need to have company. According to a study by TD Ameritrade, 33% of Americans have considered fostering or adopting a new pet during the pandemic. All of this new interest is having a major impact on the pet supply industry, and here are five top trends that brand leaders should know.

 

Dogs Go Digital

Like many other categories this year, pet brands have found unique and creative ways to take advantage of digital tools to optimize the consumer experience. Pedigree®, the national dog food brand, partnered with the Nashville Humane Association to help prospective owners “meet” potential adoptees via their “Dogs on Zoom” program. This contactless service helps Pedigree® gain new consumers who are interested in adoption but are wary about going to a shelter in person.

 

Price-Conscious Owners Turn to Private Label Food

According to a survey by Packaged Facts conducted between April and May 2020, 47% of pet owners reported that they were purchasing low-cost private label food and treats more frequently than they previously had. One macro-trend that we’ve been seeing across the board is that shoppers in general are starting to become more frugal as news reports about economic uncertainty pour in, and pet food is one place where owners can often stand to tighten their budget.

 

Owners Want their Pets to Eat Like Them

Callouts like “organic” and “natural” have played an important role in driving growth for CPG food and beverage brands. Now that consumers are increasingly looking at their pets as full members of the family, shoppers are actively seeking out those types of labels for their pets as well.

According to Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at the marketing research firm Mintel, “our pets are like our children. Our connections have really grown. Two-thirds of consumers say that they’re spending more time with their pets. There’s a lot of opportunity to give them the very best that we can.” As pets take on a more significant role in the household dynamic, owners are less willing to feed them anything that isn’t up to the ingredient standard of something that they themselves might eat.

 

 Animal Healthcare Sees Huge Growth

Along with better diets, pets are also benefiting from their owners investing more in animal healthcare. Veterinary services firm Indexx Laboratories is up 61% this year, and pet drug manufacturer Zoetis Inc. is up 25%.

This might point to opportunities in value-added food and treats that can promote wellness, a trend that has really taken off in CPG food and beverage. For pet brands that want to stay ahead, they could potentially differentiate themselves from their competitors by promoting unique, specific benefits that their products provide – such as heartworm prevention, for example, which is currently a strong trend in animal pharmaceuticals.

 

Owners Try At-Home Grooming

While many owners might have previously taken their pets to a professional groomer to get washed and trimmed, some consumers are now doing it themselves at home to limit exposure in the pandemic and/or save money. Because of this, there are new opportunities for brands that manufacture pet shampoos, nail clippers, brushes, etc.

Owners’ experiences with at-home grooming have become a big topic on social media during the pandemic, and the trend has even inspired a new book of photography called Scruffy: Our Loyal Pandemic Pooches and the Good, the Bad, and the Crazy Haircuts We Gave Them. All proceeds from the book are going to The Cure Alliance, a nonprofit group conducting medical research on COVID-19.

While other trends might disappear or evolve after the pandemic, the pets that have been adopted this year are a permanent part of consumers’ lives going forward. Pet brands are currently thriving, but they will have to pay attention to shopper needs and opportunities if they want to stay top dog.  

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