1 in 3 U.S. Pet Owners Millennials: What it Means for the Pet Food Market

1 in 3 U.S. Pet Owners Millennials: What it Means for the Pet Food Market

In the modern U.S. pet market, pets are viewed as members of the family, and pet markets know just how much consumers want their pets to live long and healthy lives.  Millennial consumers - those aged between 18 and 34 - not only have pets of their own, but are also ready to coddle them using the most sustainable (and sometimes economic) ways possible. The pet food market for naturally made, organic products generates billions of dollars in the pet industry each year, and chief among the drivers of sustainability-minded pet food industry trends are younger current and prospective pet owners.  Between their growing numbers and affinity for “natural” pet products, the millennial cohort wields a significant buying power for the pet food industry, an impact Packaged Facts explores in our report, Millennials as Pet Market Consumers.

The Natural Pet Market

The trend toward natural, organic pet products is nothing new in the U.S. pet market, especially as product lines both big and small respond to growing trends in the pet food industry for more naturally made, healthier-for-pets products. Traditionally baby boomers have dominated the pet market consumer landscape and set market trends in pet food. Specifically, those pet owners aged 40 to 54 spend the most on pets and pet products, but as they spend less after reaching the age of 60, and because more and more baby boomers have reached or are closing in on their 60th birthday,  younger pet owners have the opportunity to set the pet food market landscape on a new course. More millennial pet owners brought up in an increasingly health-conscious U.S. - and fewer baby boomers - means an upward trajectory for the “natural,” sustainably-made pet food trend. Packaged Facts’ National Online Consumer Survey data identify 1 in 3 of U.S. pet owners as millennials, responsible for 43% of pet owner growth between 2007 and 2015. As millennials get older and their budgets increase, spending on natural, organic pet food products will only continue to grow.

Packaged Facts' report, Millennials as Pet Market Consumers indicates the strength of millennials’ impact on the pet market and their inclination toward natural, organic pet food products. Here are some of Packaged Facts' most telling results:

  • More than half (55%) of millennial pet owners are willing to try holistic and natural-branded nutritional pet supplements before resorting to conventional pet medication, as opposed to only 30% of owners 35 and over. When the only option left is to buy conventional pet medication however, more than half (52%) of millennials buy meds oppose to only 28% of any other demographic.
  • Nearly three-quarters (69%) of millennial pet owners are more likely to consider foods whose recipes use naturally-made ingredients over “normal,” mass-produced foods, versus fewer than half (44%) of owners over 35.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of millennial dog owners agree that fear of pet food contamination or product safety is a key consideration in the foods they buy, compared to only 66% of their older counterparts. Almost two-thirds (64%) of millennial cat owners compared to just 49% of other owners are likely to feel the same way. Today, pet food companies are increasingly vigilant in their internal protocols for indentifying safety issues, and it’s not uncommon for companies to recall as much as a week’s worth of product when just one line of product is found to be contaminated. One pet company, Evanger's Dog and Cat Food, did just this in February 2017 after a potential contaminant was found in one of its products. The food was linked to illness in five dogs that ate it (and one of the dogs died).
  • Millennials are on the lookout for products whose labeling is transparent and green, and are most likely to use pet foods with formulations geared toward enhancing the health of their pets, including pet foods characterized as organic, holistic, non-GMO, and grain-free.

Emerging Consumer Trends in Pet Food 

The pet food market’s consumer landscape is changing, and U.S. pet markets must prepare for younger, informed consumers while also standing out. Packaged Facts’ blog post For pet marketers, the natural and organic segment is competitive catnip noted the growing importance natural and organic ingredients have in pet foods. Transparency in pet products’ content and sourcing is even more significant if pet markets want to seize the opportunity that is the millennial pet owner. One logical (and profitable) response is producing and promoting pet food products whose green contents are clearly labeled. If pet markets can reassure millennial owners their pets will be happy, healthy family members, the pet food industry will have a long-lived future of its own.

-- By Noah Miller