Traditionally where the US leads the UK follows in the world of pet care, over the past few years we have seen an explosion in Pet Care brands taking over the supermarket and specialist shelves with a dizzying array of products. Pet care certainly seems to attract passionate entrepreneurs who are flooding the category with new products many based on human foods with cupcakes, cookies and every type of treat conceivable giving the consumer more choices than ever before. One thing is for sure our pets are becoming more and more human. This humanisation is driving growth and innovation throughout not only pet care but mainstream leisure with dog friendly hotels, dog friendly cinema showings, and pubs and restaurants with specific doggy menu’s the norm rather than the exception.
Birthday parties, Doga, puppy parties and even doggy weddings are becoming more mainstream and this desire to treat our pets like the most loved members of our family offers opportunity to commercialize goods and services.
The growth in single person homes and the loneliness this can lead to has lead to pets helping to fill the gap, with companionship being the main reason for getting a pet, We are also living our lives in different ways with couples delaying marriage and choosing pets instead of children to give our love and affection to. In many emerging markets spending money on pets is seen as an indicator of status and wealth.
The past 10 years has seen demand for dry dog food increasing by 90% over the last 10 years with moist food sales declining, this is driven by convenience, price and improvements in quality. Promotional strategies on pet food has lead to customers stocking up on their favourite brands when they are on offer. Pets diets should be carefully managed and they do not require the diversity of the human palette. Pets are also very fickle and they simply will not eat food they do not like or if the food doesn’t agree with their sensitive digestions you will certainly know about it, therefore loyalty is strong to the brands the consumer knows works for their pet. To maximise on opportunities pet food companies needs to understand trends and the link between human and pet products and behaviours. Consumers are demanding more transparency in ingredients and provenance in much the same way as human foods with all natural products and those high in nutrition top of consumers requirements.
Aging pets needing more care
With our pets being so cared for there is an explosion in the number of older pets who need more specialised care leading to possible growth areas and opportunities for companies to bring out bespoke and specialised product ranges, with owners being prepared to spend more to keep their pets healthy for as long as possible
High income households are the drivers behind the trend for premiumisation, we have the money, don’t have children and absolutely view our furry friends as child substitutes so we want the very best we can afford, however the principles that apply to human food aren’t always the best thing for pets. Taking cues from trends in diet and nutrition in human foods, organic, natural foods are becoming more prevalent. The love humans have for their pets is driving the market. However our love for our pets is leading to anincrease in overweight pets with major health issues such as joint disease, type 2 diabetes and aggravating skin conditions so here is another opportunity for specialist products and brands to offer a solution for a very human condition. What’s next… slimming world and weight watchers ranges for our pets?
Confusion for the consumer
Pet food is a very crowded category with more and more challenger brands entering the space, therefore messaging needs to be clear, concise and the USP of the ingredients very obvious. In our recent work with Harrington's pet food, we knew it was essential to take the Harringtons customers on a journey and not over complicate the packaging for a successful product and a category which can be confusing for the consumer.
Own label products struggle in this area as they don’t have the expertise and credentials of the specialist brands and customers need to have trust in the products they are feeding their pets. With customers visiting branded websites in ever increasing numbers to source information, customer reviews and recommendations, the generic retailers websites can’t deliver on the experience their customers are looking for and a surge in online pet specific retailers is offering free delivery, bespoke offers and subscriptions making it even easier for consumers to stock up.
Every product purchased has a deep rooted emotional connection to the consumers pet. The products they buy are directly related to how they view their relationship with their pet, so it is essential design, substrates and pack formats are carefully considered… and, more importantly in an ever crowed category these products need to look differentiated, be easy for a customer to shop and communicate in the clearest way the products benefits. More pet sampling, experiential solutions and trial packs are needed as at the end of the day the pet is king in deciding what they will and won’t eat.