Pets really are people, too – in marketing, at least

Lisa Drossart | July 30, 2014

Image of SuperZoo 2014As a marketing firm with over 30 years’ experience serving brands in the pet industry, we are continuously monitoring emerging trends in the field. SuperZoo 2014, held in Las Vegas this past week, was a great place to see how brands in the pet industry are reacting to and anticipating changes in consumer behavior. One thing that hasn’t changed is growth – the pet industry was a $17 billion business 1994. Now it’s around $53 billion, with $21.5 billion in pet food sales alone.1 The premium sector accounts for 40% of those sales, and natural foods totaled $4.1 billion in 2012. Overall growth in pet food sales this year is expected to be between 4.5% and 5%.2

With those numbers in mind, here are some observations from SuperZoo 2014:

Pets as Members of the Family

As 83% of pet owners refer to their pets as “members of the family,”2 many trends in human foods are now crossing over into the pet food sphere, including:

  • Farm-to-table/farm-to-bowl/farm-to-friend (dog)
  • Calorie Counts
  • Energy-enhancing bars/energy shots (imitating products like 5-Hr. Energy)
  • Farmer’s market ingredients

New Popular Claims

Following in the footsteps of the “humanizing” of pets (and driven by headlines about recent pet food safety scares), the latest claims being made by pet foods emphasize food quality equal to that of human food and mirror current human health fads:

  • Free of grain, soy, dairy, corn, wheat, gluten, etc.
  • Human-grade ingredients
  • USDA certified
  • Rich in Omega 3’s

Popular New Forms

The trend of humanizing dog treats continues to grow, with new products being introduced in forms that mirror popular human indulgences:

  • French fries
  • Wraps
  • Chips
  • Thins (imitating products like Wheat Thins)
  • Cookies

Unusual New Ingredients

Looking for ways to differentiate themselves, many pet foods now contain ingredients that are making waves in the human food industry, such as:

  • Kale
  • “Turducken”
  • Exotic fruits
  • Kangaroo meat

Clearly, the humanizing of our pets is moving to a whole new level. What were once niche concepts now command a large and growing share of the industry. And while spending in some categories has decreased in a slower economy, pet enthusiasts are not cutting back and are refusing to compromise when it comes to their pets. From natural to gluten free to pet fashion, spending on pet products that imitate those enjoyed by pet owners is on the rise in the pet industry. Pet brands that adapt to that trend will grow with it.


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