Long regarded as a product sector virtually immune to economic ups and downs, the U.S. pet market has been challenged in recent years as some customers cut back on spending for their animal companions, and others opted to drop out of pet ownership entirely. However, even very hard times didn't completely impede the industry's forward momentum.
According to "Dog Population and Dog Owner Trends" and "Cat Population and Cat Owner Trends," twin reports recently released by Packaged Facts, three main factors are propelling the pet market: the burgeoning pet parenting phenomenon, the increase in pet ownership by family-oriented and demographically potent Hispanics, and the prevalence of pet ownership among affluent Americans.
Proprietary data from Packaged Facts' February-March 2012 online consumer survey (with a sample of 2000 respondents, including 836 dog owners and 620 cat owners) indicate that 92% of dog owners and 90% of cat owners consider their pets to be part of their family. The pet parent factor is at the core of pet owners' willingness to spend ever greater amounts of money on their pets–especially in pet-owning households without children at home, since these are the consumers most likely to view their pets as "surrogate kids" and to devote to them a considerable portion of their time, attention, and discretionary income. Accordingly, pet parents without children in the household are less likely to balk at higher-priced pet products and services–particularly those positioned squarely on health, as well as on other premium appeals including pampering, safety and convenience.
Between 2006 and 2011, the number of minority dog- or cat-owning households rose 28%, an addition of almost 3 million minority households. Given such impressive gains even in a cloudy economy, much opportunity remains for industry players to bring more minorities into the pet owning fold. In other U.S. consumer product industries, minority-targeted products and advertising are already an essential thrust, and this emphasis will need to become the case in the pet market as well,to keep pace with the steady and not-so-slow demographic march of the U.S. population.. Given the rapid growth of the Hispanic population, the segment's strong family orientation, and their more than $1 trillion buying power as of 2011, Latinos are obviously the minority segment that pet industry marketers can most beneficially target.
Higher-income households are simultaneously a crucial component of the pet market, with households earning $70K or more annually accounting for over half of overall pet industry expenditure on everything from veterinary services to dog walking to retractable leashes and pet food. Dog and cat owners overall show an upscale skew, in keeping with the discretionary nature (and often significant expense) of pet ownership. The specific boon for the pet market is the greater tendency for these affluent consumers to favor the humanized and premium-priced health products and services designed for their pets, says David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts. [Source: "Dog Population and Dog Owner Trends; Cat Population and Cat Owner Trends." Packaged Facts. 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.]