The American Pet Products Association (APPA) released its latest “Pulse Study: Pet Ownership In The Current Economy” report on Nov. 7, reflecting improved sentiments for the state of the US economy and its potential impact on pet spending.

Economic concerns peaked in June, APPA reported, with 71% of survey respondents (2,013 people) agreeing with the statement, “I think the economy is going to get worse in the next 12 months.” In September, however, pet owners expressed a less severe outlook, with only 60% of respondents agreeing to the same statement. Additionally, 69% reported in September that they were worried about an impending recession, down from 75% in June.

Pet owners are also feeling slightly less financial pressure from gas and grocery prices, although 53% and 54% of respondents still reported they have been “greatly impacted” by higher gas prices and increased food and grocery prices, respectively.

Faith in the supply chain and staffing have also improved since June. In September, 36% of pet owners expressed concern about getting the products they need due to supply chain and staffing issues, compared to 43% in June. However, the consensus on pet food spending is still hampered.

In September, 26% of pet owners said they plan to spend less on pet food, up from 23% in June, and 27% said they plan to switch to a different pet food brand to cut costs, up from 24% in June. The most notable shift between June and September was seen among Gen Z pet owners, with 36% planning to spend less on pet food in September, up 10% from June.

This sentiment rang true across cohorts in September, with 37% of Millennial pet owners planning to spend less on pet food (up from 32% in June), 23% of Gen X (up from 22% in June), and 14% of Baby Boomers (up from 12% in June). Fewer Baby Boomers reported plans to switch to another pet food brand to save money (12% in September compared to 15% in June), while Millennials are most likely to be swapping brands (40% in September compared to 32% in June).

According to the study, slightly fewer pet owners (54%) opted to purchase pet products in-person at a brick-and-mortar store in September compared to June (58%). Still, when it comes to pet food and treats, the majority of pet owners (66%) chose in-person purchasing over omnichannel and e-commerce options.

When it comes to pet vitamin and supplement purchasing, 52% of respondents chose the brick-and-mortar channel in September, down from 57% in June. Roughly 24% of pet owners opted to purchase vitamins or supplements via e-commerce and have them shipped directly to their homes, up from 21% in June, while 14% ordered online and picked up curbside, up from 12% in June, and 9% ordered online and picked up in store, reflecting no change from June.

How pet owners chose to purchase pet food and treat products from December 2020 to September 2022Source: American Pet Products Association (APPA), “Pulse Study: Pet Ownership In The Current Economy,” Vol. 8, October 2022

Economic sentiments speak volumes about the non-discretionary nature of pet food and supplement purchases — and even treat purchases — compared to that of other categories, including toys and grooming supplies.

When asked how their purchasing habits might change if the economy worsens, only 13% of pet food shoppers said they would spend less, while 66% said their habits wouldn’t change. This compares to 30% of pet treat buyers who said they would spend less, with 51% unchanging. For supplements, 28% of pet owners said they would spend less, with 52% spending the same. However, more pet owners would be inclined to reduce their spending on toys (45%), grooming supplies (39%) and “other supplies” (36%).

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

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