ORLANDO, FLA. — On March 23, Packaged Facts shared its latest pet market data during Global Pet Expo held in Orlando from March 23 to 25. According to David Sprinkle, research director at Packaged Facts, the trends and concerns of pet parents, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, have aided in the increased concern of pet health and wellness, a decline of brick-and-mortar purchasing, and new omnimarket trends.


Pet parent attitudes

Packaged Facts’ data revealed the trends across generations via personal attitudes toward pet care, which the American Pet Products Association took a closer look at in volume four of its Generational Report. According to Packaged Facts, most pet owners across all generations consider their pets to be part of their family, with a high of 81% of Baby Boomers and a low of 75% of Millennials/Gen Z.

“What's interesting here is the literal disappearance of even ‘somewhat disagree,’ or ‘strongly disagree,’ [with the claim that pets are a part of the family],” Sprinkle said. “There's almost no one who actively disagrees with the idea that your [pets] are part of the family. And that is pretty remarkable, and helps explain the size of the industry and the robust growth of the industry.”

This trend of viewing pets as part of the family has also led to an increase in pet parent interest in pet health and wellness. According to Packaged Facts, 35% Baby Boomers, 40% Gen X and 45% of Millennials/Gen Z are concerned with their pets’ health and wellness, with many citing COVID-19 as the ultimate cause.

“You can see that… the percentages are relatively high,” Sprinkle explained. “…Not only has the pandemic accelerated many trends already in place, but it especially accelerated [the health and wellness trend] among Millennials and Gen Z and among new pet owners. Just in the example of pet supplements as a COVID-19 health and wellness concern, only 3% of Baby Boomers and 18% of Millennials [are giving their pets supplements].”

The rising generational difference in pet health concerns has influenced the popularity of the pet supplement segment within the market. The most popular condition-specific supplements for dogs include joint and mobility, skin and coat health, immune system health, dental and oral health, heart health and stress and anxiety calming.  

Among cat and dog owners specifically, Packaged Facts found that pet food usage of alternative formats, which include fresh, frozen, raw and freeze-dried pet foods, varies from generation to generation. Twenty-nine percent of Millennial/Gen Z dog owners and 24% of Millennial/Gen Z cat owners reported using these alternative pet foods, compared to 28% of Gen X dog owners and 20% of Gen X cat owners. Baby Boomers are less likely to use alternative pet food formats, at just 13% for dog owners and 9% for cat owners in this generation.

As interest in health and wellness concerns continue to grow, many pet parents are using a variety of sources, from the internet to in-store retailers and veterinarians, to find products that speak to health and wellness, such as supplements.

“…Sources of healthcare [and pet care] information have really diversified,” Sprinkle explained. “The range of influences is much more balanced across sources and that all becomes points of competition, points of influence or active spending, whether it is products or services.”

According to Packaged Facts, older generations like Seniors (75-years-old and older) and Baby Boomers rely on their veterinarians and past experience in pet ownership to inform them on the necessary pet care information, whereas younger generations, like Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, rely less on their veterinarians and more so on family members and friends, pet specialty stores, and the internet and social media.


Online versus brick-and-mortar

Along with increased levels of concern about pet health, COVID-19 has also led to the rise in online purchasing, especially in the pet food and product space. Packaged Facts found that 40% of pet parents claimed to shop online more because of COVID-19, only 6% claimed to shop online less as a result of the pandemic, and 54% claimed that their online shopping wasn’t affected by COVID-19.

“The pandemic accelerated a trend that was already in place, pushing a high percentage of pet product sales online,” Sprinkle said.

According to Sprinkle, pet product sales drastically increased to $26 billion in 2021, compared to a mere $6 billion in 2016.

Looking at pet parents’ general patterns of purchasing in-store versus online pre and post pandemic, 53% of pet owners claimed to shop in-store before COVID-19, with a mere 7% shopping exclusively online. But after COVID-19, in-store shopping dropped to 32%, with exclusively online shopping rising to 18%.

The increase in online purchasing and drastic decrease of brick-and-mortar purchasing has already affected pet product and food dollar shares. According to Sprinkle, e-commerce and online shopping is projected to be 48% of all pet product sales by 2026, further damaging the growth of brick-and-mortar purchasing.

“Brick-and-mortar is of course decreasing and not only decreasing, inevitably, but it's bringing down growth and share for all other channels,” Sprinkle added. “So, whether it's supercenters, supermarkets, whether it's chain pet stores or independent pet stores, the success of e-commerce… does not leave room for anyone else to really maintain a main share at the brick-and-mortar level.”


The omnimarket trend

Sprinkle also introduced the term “omnimarket.” According to Sprinkle, the term omnimarket refers to a company’s more thorough saturation of the pet market. For example, many pet food companies have begun to enter other areas of the pet space, like veterinary services, to foster more customer loyalty.

“It's not simply about selling products or selling services,” Sprinkle explained. “It's really about diversifying and sort of expanding your tendrils so you can compete or take your spending as effectively and as holistically as possible.”

The omnimarket trend is not only popular with pet product companies but also with many human product and food companies, with a number of traditionally human-focused brands entering the pet food space. According to Sprinkle, most pet parents are receptive toward human companies moving into the pet space.

Packaged Facts found that 30% to 34% of Millennials and Gen Z pet owners like the idea of human companies crossing over into pet, while only 13% to 16% of Seniors are fond of this omnimarket strategy.

“We can expect to see this increasing based on the opportunity as evidenced by pet market performance during the pandemic, but also based on consumer receptivity,” Sprinkle said. “…It’s all kinds of border crossings that are creating growth and opportunity, catering to the wider range of demands and expectations of Millennials and Gen Z and Baby Boomers and Seniors…”

In light of COVID-19 implications and this trending omnimarket strategy, Packaged Facts shared the growth of the pet industry in 2021. Overall, industry sales have increased 14% to about $125 billion, whereas the pet food and treat segment has witnessed an increase of 15% to $51 billion.

Looking into 2022, Sprinkle said he expects to see many more human brands cross over into the pet market, further increasing the value of the entire industry.

Read more of our Global Pet Expo coverage.