The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some dramatic shifts in the behaviour of pet owners, with 41% of them now paying more attention to the health of their furry friends. However, there are some significant generational shifts too. Many younger pet owners are sharing their healthy lifestyles with their pets. So, what are the preferences and trends among millennial pet owners?
Younger generations are still keen on pets. However, they’re more likely to purchase alternative food formats such as raw and natural products, as well as vegan and vegetarian alternatives. They tend to be aware of formulations that enhance their pets’ health.
The growing market for alternative pet food
The latest surveys show that 29% of Gen Z/Millennials choose alternative options, compared with only 13% of baby boomer dog owners in the US. This is no surprise given that the research shows that the primary market for alternative meat products lies predominantly with younger consumers in general.
The picture is very similar in the UK, with research showing that Millennials are driving plant-based diets for dogs. Data by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) also indicates that 3.2 million households in the UK acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic. What’s more telling is that two-thirds of this group is made up of Generation Z and Millennials.
With this dramatic rise in pet ownership, combined with shifting attitudes towards pet food, there are opportunities for pet food producers. There is clearly a market for a broader choice of products that can tap into the zeitgeist and appeal to modern pet palates – and their owners’ lifestyles.
Millennial pet owners’ market share is increasing
Millennials are influencing the market for pet food. Another critical area is the demand for products that can respond to particular pet health conditions, such as allergies and sensitive digestion. While 29% of Millennials/Generation Z report having a dog with these health issues, only 14% of boomers feel the same. Likewise, 29% of Millennials report having an overweight dog, compared with a meagre 17% of boomer dog owners.
In terms of the general spending on pet food, this is also a space where younger generations are stepping up. Research shows that the expenditure share among boomers is generally dropping, while Millennials are increasing their investment in their pets. Millennials now present the largest group of pet owners in the US. Meaning their needs, wants, and preferences now exert considerable influence in the market.
Sustainability, health and transparency
Today this increasingly lies in products that are sustainable, natural and holistic. Research shows that another top consumer trend is transparency. Today’s growing number of Millennial consumers expect authenticity from brands – and this does not apply merely to the product itself. It means honesty and openness about ingredient sourcing just as it does about ethical practice, values and social entrepreneurship, for instance, participation in pet rescue and welfare.
Social media is very much a platform for pet food brands to tap into the increasing purchasing power of Millennials. They are more informed about the options available for their pets. This is particularly important given that over half of Millennials are ramping up their online purchasing of pet products, compared with only 30% of older pet owners.
Responsible pet ownership
Nearly two-thirds of Millennials (62%) are now pet owners. Many would rather spend money on pet products than buy for themselves. Much of this is towards pet foods perceived as natural, safer and more values-driven.
The relationship between pet and owner has also grown closer in recent years. As a nation, we have become more attached to pets who have kept us company during lockdown and served to assuage loneliness and anxiety, providing comfort and companionship. In return, we are increasingly looking to indulge them and treat them like furry humans more than pets. We are learning to consider their health just as we do our own. Today being a responsible pet owner is a priority. These Millennial pet owner trends are inspiring new opportunities for pet care.