Natural shoppers’ behavior patterns extend to their pets as well

"Pets as family" a big sales driver for millennials, healthy shoppers.

Michael Browne

October 8, 2020

4 Min Read
dog food premium pet food
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A recent study from IRI All Outlet Panel that is enhanced with SPINS Product Attribution notes that nearly 7 in 10 households have purchased pet food and treats in the past year. In fact, today’s pet parents are making multiple trips to the store, according to the data.

In the past year, 61% of households bought pet food and treats at least twice. In addition:

• 35% of households bought dog food

• 28% of households bought cat food

• 28% of households bought dog treats

Looking specifically at the behaviors of natural, specialty and wellness pet shoppers, 30% of households have bought pet food and treats at least twice in the past year. In addition:  

• 13% of these households have bought dog food

• 13% of these households have bought dog treats

• 6.7% of these households have bought cat food

The study noted, “For several years, experts in the industry have been talking about the humanization of pets, a trend that reflects millennials’ increasing tendency to pamper their animals similarly to how they may pamper themselves: reading the labels on foods, choosing high-quality ingredients and even treating them to luxuries like high-end clothing and spa days.”

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Millennials aren’t the first pet owners to view their pets as part of the family—they just happen to have the numbers and social savvy to bring this mentality to the mainstream. Today, 1 in 3 pet owners is a millennial, and between 2007 and 2015, millennials accounted for 43% of pet owner growth.

Research from Packaged Facts also finds:

• 55% of millennial pet owners vs 30% of older pet owners are open to trying holistic and natural-branded nutritional pet supplements prior to conventional pet medication

• 69% of millennial pet owners vs 44% of older pet owners are likely to consider foods with natural ingredients over massproduced foods

• 75% of millennial dog owners and 64% of millennial cat owners identify fear of pet food contamination or product safety as a key consideration in the foods they buy

That concern for better foods and medications is indicative of a growing desire to give pets the best life possible. Research firm FINN CADY finds that pet owners view food as a major component in their pets’ well-being. In other findings:  

• Approximately 60% of dog and cat owners are very or somewhat concerned about their pet’s nutrition.

• Approximately 8 in 10 dog and cat owners strongly or somewhat agree that what their pet eats impacts his or her health.

• More than 8 in 10 dog and cat owners strongly or somewhat agree that what their pet eats affects his or her lifespan.

• Nearly 8 in 10 dog and cat owners strongly or somewhat agree that what their pet eats affects his or her happiness engaged year-round.

Seasonal and personal events also affect pet parents’ buying patterns, whether that means grabbing a dog coat in the winter or a new cat toy to celebrate a holiday.

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“The effects of COVID-19 caused many Americans to stay at home for an extended period of time,” the report noted, “whether it be due to shelter-in-place orders or work-from-home recommendations. Soon after this increased time at home, pet shelters saw a rise in adoptions and fostering. Suddenly homebound for the foreseeable future, workers decided they could now devote their time and energy to take on a new family member and shelters saw historic increases that cleared their cages.”

Still, the wave of adoptions hasn’t yet had a long-term effect on sales due to COVID-19. Because pet owners (new and existing alike) bought pet food in bulk during the start of the lockdowns in March, customers didn’t return to the stores quite as frequently afterward, causing sales to gradually level off. Still, there’s an opportunity to reach these customers—particularly the first-time pet owners and natural shoppers—who are looking for education, exploring new foods and treats, and bringing their own lifestyle habits into their pet parenting styles.

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This piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

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