Pet parents who give their pets supplements are a special segment of consumers. They are more likely than the average pet parent to seek information from multiple sources. This group values gaining an understanding of what is in a functional product and what it does for their pet. When seeking supplements for their pets, they tend to have a specific benefit or ingredient in mind.

Earlier this year, in June, MarketPlace surveyed 737 US pet parents to identify trends and perceptions that drive purchase decisions around pet supplements. About 40% of pet parents report having purchased a supplement in the previous 12 months, and this audience presents an attractive opportunity for pet food brands.

First, pet supplement consumers are primed to seek out products with specific ingredients for specific needs and do not mind paying a little more for their pets’ nutrition. Second, they tend to have strong emotional connections with their pets and actively seek information about pet health. And third, pet supplement consumers tend to shop across several online channels, which means they are accessible via search marketing and social media outreach.

Pet food brands may find opportunities for growth by getting to know the purchase motivators of this audience.


Indicators of quality

Perceptions of quality strongly motivate pet supplement consumers — about one in five (21%) give supplements because they do not perceive food alone as adequate to meet their pets’ nutritional needs, indicating perceptions of low quality in their pets’ diets. Consumers may view the quality ingredients in supplements as compensating for a lack of quality in pet food. This presents an opportunity for pet food brands using ingredients with proven quality.  


Sought-after benefits and claims

Certain claims are more likely to resonate with pet supplement consumers versus the average pet parent. For example, about one-third of pet supplement consumers agree that “organic” (31%) and “made in the USA” (32%) indicate high-quality food, treats and supplements for pets. “Natural” claims also strongly resonate with the pet supplement audience.

Furthermore, about one in five pet supplement consumers said “non-GMO” (23%) or “human-grade ingredients” (20%) indicate quality in pet consumables.


Health benefits

Need and benefit are the primary drivers to purchase for pet supplement consumers. Whether going online or to a brick-and-mortar store, the pet supplement shopper has a need state in mind. While skin and coat and joint health applications topped the list of supplements pet parents are likely to have bought, other supplements appear to be gaining traction.

About 22% of pet supplement consumers said they have purchased an anti-anxiety or calming supplement for their pet in the previous 12 months. The survey data shows that veterinarian visits, inclement weather, travel, time at home alone, and outside noises such as fireworks are top reasons for giving calming/anxiety supplements.

Gut health may also be an area for innovation. Pet supplement consumers are more likely than average to have looked up information about the microbiome. Twenty-nine percent said they would associate probiotics with positive health benefits for their pet. And about one-third (31%) said in the past 12 months they have spent more than an hour researching prebiotics, postbiotics or probiotics.

In summary, pet supplement consumers are a high-potential audience for pet food brands. These pet parents are likely to be early adopters of food applications formulated with the functional ingredients that they already seek in supplements. They are engaged consumers, who do research, read reviews, and are likely to be looking for innovative pet food offerings.

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 from Jon Copeland of MarketPlace about what makes pet supplement shoppers a bellwether for the pet nutrition space.

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