Skyrocketed prices of gas and groceries have inspired a lackluster outlook for the US economy, with many fearing a recession on the horizon. Younger pet owners, those with young children, those residing in the southern United States, and women who own pets are reporting higher-than-average levels of impact from these rising costs, and some are considering shifting their pet product purchasing habits to make ends meet.

These sentiments were gleamed in the latest iteration of the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) Pulse Study, marking the seventh volume of a series of surveys from May 2022 to June 2022 that aim to track pet ownership and purchasing behaviors through the pandemic and its aftermath.

According to the June survey, 62% of pet owners have been greatly impacted by increased gas prices, and 56% of pet owners have been greatly impacted by increased prices for food and groceries. Overall, roughly 90% of pet owners report being either greatly or somewhat impacted by rising gas prices, while roughly 92% of pet owners report the same for rising food and grocery prices.

% of pet owners impacted by rising prices of gas, groceries, etc.

This is in line with general economic sentiments gauged in APPA’s most recent Pulse Study. In June, 71% of pet owners said they believe the economy will worsen over the next 12 months, up from 56% of pet owners in February and 52% in November 2021. Additionally, 75% of pet owners said they are worried the economy is heading toward a recession. These bleak economic projections have shifted purchasing sentiments among pet food and supplies shoppers.

In February, 18% of pet owners said they plan to spend less on pet food due to their current financial situation and the overall economy. This number rose to 23% of pet owners in June. Similarly, 24% of pet owners said they plan to switch to another pet food brand to save money, up from 17% in February.

% of pet owners who may spend less on pet food, by generational cohort

However, the humanization of pets makes this category non-discretionary for most. More than two-thirds (69%) of pet owners said they do not plan on changing their pets’ diets based on economic or financial strain, citing “My pet’s diet is very important to me.”

Toys and grooming supplies are two of the most elastic categories, with 43% of pet owners stating they would spend less on toys if the economy worsens, along with 39% of owners purchasing grooming supplies. Only 13% of pet owners stated they would spend less on pet food if the economy declines, compared with 31% of pet treat buyers. Additionally, 28% of vitamin and supplement buyers would spend less in this instance.  

Point-of-purchase preferences remained largely the same from February to June, with the majority of pet owners opting to buy pet food and treat products at discount stores and mass merchandisers (24% and 26%, respectively), followed by pet superstores (both 16%), online-only outlets (16% and 13%, respectively), and supermarkets (14% and 13%, respectively).

Most pet owners seem to prefer purchasing vitamins and supplements through pet superstores (19%), online-only outlets (17%), discount stores and mass merchandisers (13%), and veterinarians (11%).

In-person purchasing remains king, with 69% of pet owners making their most recent pet food purchase in-store, along with 72% of most-recent pet treat purchases, in June. The remaining 31% and 28% of pet owners are opting for omnichannel options, either purchasing online and having products delivered to their homes (both 15%), ordering online and picking up curbside (10% and 8%, respectively), or ordering online and picking up in the store (6% and 5%, respectively).

For vitamins and supplements, fewer pet owners (57%) are traveling to the store to purchase these items, with 21% opting to buy online and have them shipped to their homes, 12% ordering online and picking up curbside, and 9% ordering online and picking up in the store.

Read our summary of APPA’s previous COVID-19 Pulse Study from February 2022 here.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.