Successfully positioning and differentiating a pet food brand means knowing the target audience. Brands formulating with premium human-grade or functional ingredients may experience challenges in gaining traction if they try to connect with the pet parent audience at large. Instead, these brands may be able to better leverage their premium positioning by looking to the audience that is already upgrading their pet’s nutrition: pet supplement consumers.
Earlier this year, as part of its annual research into the pet supplement market, MarketPlace surveyed 737 US pet parents to uncover insights into the attitudes and purchase behaviors of the general pet audience, as well as a subset of 282 pet supplement shoppers — those who reported purchasing pet supplements in the past 12 months.
Not only have pet supplement consumers invested in understanding the ingredients within pet nutrition products, their predisposition to research nutrition- and health-related topics can make the audience a bellwether for the pet nutrition space.
Formulating with emerging ingredients
Pet supplement consumers are more likely than average pet parents to consider purchasing products formulated with a wide range of lesser-known or emerging ingredients and can be key early adopters for brands leading the next generation of functional pet food products. However, they tend to be educated shoppers and want to understand the benefits of the ingredients in their pets’ food before purchasing.
Over three-quarters (76%) of the pet supplement audience has spent an hour or more researching ingredients in the past year, such as vitamins and minerals (46%); pre-, pro-, or postbiotics (31%); and CBD (31%). The pet supplement consumer is also more likely than general pet parents to look at reviews before a first-time purchase, regardless of whether the purchase is online or in-store.
Armed with a general understanding of the functional ingredients being used in pet products, this audience is highly likely to consider purchasing products made with certain functional ingredients, such as vitamin D (74%), Omega 3 (72%), Omega 6 (68%), bone broth (63%), glucosamine (62%), collagen (60%), green tea extract (5%), and ginger root (51%).
Human-grade for beloved members of the family
Nearly half (48%) of pet owners described their pet as an important member of the family. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters (74%) of pet supplement consumers believe their pet thinks he or she is a human. This humanization of pets aligns with the increased perception that “human-grade” is an indicator of high quality in pet products. Even among the general pet parent audience, 41% stated that “human-grade pet supplements are higher quality than pet supplements that aren’t human-grade.” More than half (52%) of pet supplement shoppers believe their pets should only consume ingredients they would consume themselves.
Label claims for added value
Moving from the ingredient legend to front-of-pack, pet parents in general are more likely in 2022, compared to 2021, to seek out certain label claims, including “natural” (52%; +9%), “organic” (33%; +7%), “ingredients from the USA” (30%; +7%), “high in protein” (61%; +17%), “high in fiber” (35%; +14%), and “grain-free” (32%; +13%). Furthermore, pet supplement consumers are more inclined than general pet consumers to view these label claims as indicators of quality. Pet food brands formulating premium products could drive additional value among general and target audiences by including relevant claims on their packaging.
A pet parent subset worth targeting
The pet supplement audience should be on the radar of pet food brands looking to position premium products around functional ingredients and benefits. This subsegment of pet parents is primed to be interested in pet food with natural ingredients that support top need-states, like skin and coat, as well as under-met needs.
Understanding how this audience differs from general pet parents can give brands an edge in making strategic decisions about their brand positioning and marketing spend. By microtargeting the pet supplement consumer and reaching them where they are, premium pet food brands can establish a base of passionate, early adopters for new products.
Jon Copeland is a research strategist at MarketPlace, a strategy and branding firm to food and beverage, pet and animal, and health and wellness businesses. From primary research studies on the behaviors of pet parents to white papers, he delivers valuable insight to MarketPlace’s partners and the pet industry at large.
Read more about product development, ingredients and formulation.