Hispanic pet owners chart a different course

Hispanic pet owners chart a different course

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Hispanic pet owners in the United States.  Between 2007 and 2016 the number of Latinos with pets in their homes skyrocketed from 11.4 million to 20.4 million as the pet ownership rate among Hispanics grew from 40% to 55%.

This exceptional growth rate is due not only to the rapid growth of the Hispanic population but also to the accelerating degree of Hispanic acculturation.  A November 2016 Packaged Facts report (Hispanics as Pet Market Consumers) reveals that pet ownership has become a marker of increasing acculturation within the Latino population.  A substantial majority (64%) of highly acculturated Latinos (defined as those who are U.S.-born with at least one parent born in the United States) own pets.  The 48% pet ownership rate among foreign-born, Spanish-dominant Latinos pales in comparison.

As a result, the profile of Latino pet owners is increasingly skewed in the direction of Hispanics who are relatively more acculturated.  Highly acculturated Latinos account for just 27% of adult Latinos but fully 32% of Latino pet owners.  Foreign-born, Spanish-dominant Hispanics represent 35% of all Latino adult consumers but just 31% of Latino pet owners.  In all, highly acculturated Hispanics and foreign-born Latinos who are bilingual or English-dominant constitute 65% of the adult Hispanic population but 69% of Hispanic pet owners.

As more acculturated Hispanics continue to make up a larger and larger share of a rapidly expanding Hispanic population, the number of Hispanic pet owners will continue to grow exponentially.  Packaged Facts projects that between 2016 and 2021 Latinos will account for half of the growth in the pet owner population.  The growth trajectory of Hispanic pet ownership means that pet industry marketers have no choice but to focus not only on what differentiates Latino pet owners from other pet owners but also from other Hispanics.

To begin, when selecting a pet, Hispanics make different choices.  Compared to other pet owners, Latino pet owners are much less likely to bring a cat into their home (29% vs. 45%), are more likely to have a dog (79% vs. 75%) and, even more distinctively, are more likely to have pets other than cats or dogs.  Compared to non-Hispanic pet owners, Hispanics are more than three times as likely (16% vs. 5%) to own birds.  They make up 15% of the pet owner population but 34% of all bird owners.  Latino pet owners also are somewhat more likely to favor reptiles (5% vs. 3%) or fish (11% vs. 10%).

Packaged Facts National Pet Owner Survey data reveal other distinguishing characteristics of Latino pet owners.  For example, Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to want to have a pet they can take with them more places (50% vs. 42%), a preference no doubt related to the fact that Latino dog owners are more likely to choose toy or very small dogs weighing under eight pounds (16% vs. 10%).  Hispanic pet owners are much more likely to use social media to let their friends and family in on their lives with their pets (50% vs. 40%) and to believe that “having a pet is a good way to get ready for having a family” (58% vs. 45%). 

Marketers reaching out to Latino pet owners need to understand the implications of the tilt of the population of Latino pet owners in the direction of more acculturated Latinos.  Hispanic pet owners are less connected than other Latinos to key aspects of Hispanic culture.  They are less likely to turn to Spanish-language media, depend on Spanish-language labels or be influenced by Spanish-language advertising.

Marketers also should acknowledge the special importance of Millennials within the Latino pet owner population because they represent 43% of Latino pet owners compared to just 30% of non-Hispanic pet owners.  On average, Millennial Hispanic pet owners are even further along the acculturation spectrum that Hispanic pet owners on average.  They are much more likely than older Hispanic pet owners to have been born in the United States (66% vs. 39%) and to speak predominantly English at home (50% vs. 37%).  As a result, they are even less likely to watch Spanish-language television (42% vs 58%) or to be influenced by Spanish-language ads (19% vs. 28%). 

As shoppers, Millennial Hispanic pet owners reflect the habits of their generation.  For example, they are more likely than older Latino pet owners or non-Hispanic pet owners of any age to use a smartphone app for shopping.  They also are more likely to buy products they see advertised on their cellphones.

-- George Puro