Humanization. The human-animal bond. Pets as family members.
For several years now we've all heard, and used, these phrases
as reasons for the petfood industry's continued growth,
especially in developed markets. As more consumers pamper their
pets and elevate them to the level of human family, they've
been willing to spend more on petfood.
Naturally, many of you have oriented your brand and product
marketing toward this trend.
But as an industry, are we missing a huge opportunity to
take advantage of another aspect of the human-pet bond? Because
there's a flip side: what people get out of the
During Petfood Forum 2009, keynote speaker Marty Becker,
DVM, talked about how pets' roles have evolved over the past
several decades. "In my lifetime I saw them move from outside
to inside. What really changed was the connection. Once we
welcomed them into our hearts and homes en masse, we started
having a different kind of relationship based on close physical
contact and intimacy."
Dr. Becker emphasized that the change hasn't just benefited
pets; a growing body of research is showing how this intimacy
is helping people live longer and healthier.
He cited findings
also reported by Kay Lazar of the
on April 20, the day before his keynote. Consider:
Looking for impact
So much is happening in this area of research that many
entities are getting involved. In the US that includes
Purdue University School
of Veterinary Medicine's Center for the Human-Animal Bond
as well as governmental agencies such as the Centers for
Disease Control, which has a program called
Healthy Pets Healthy People
. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US government's
main agency for medical research, just announced
The scientists involved in this research stress that not all
of it is conclusive, and some findings even disprove the claim
that owning pets makes people healthier. James Griffin, a
deputy branch chief with NIH and leader of the Mars initiative,
emphasizes that health experts need large-scale, controlled
studies to determine the true impact of pets on human
But the fact that governments, universities and corporations
such as Mars would put money behind this research indicates
there's probably a positive and potentially significant impact
What's your play?
Findings so far point to a possibly powerful new marketing
and positioning strategy for petfoods or perhaps an evolution
of humanization-themed campaigns already in play. After all, it
can't hurt to tell customers that feeding good-quality petfood
not only can increase their pets' lives but also potentially
Public meetings invited comments and provided updates
The mid-year meeting addressed several regulatory matters affecting petfoods
Committees discussed key proposals such as a possible shift in the oversight of animal feeds
There's a disconnect between consumers' confidence in petfoods and their knowledge of what makes the foods nutritious
While petfood shoppers continue to show strong brand loyalty, pet products have not been immune to the store brand swing
Read more of Dr. Mukund Parthasarathy's insights on the changing petfood retail market and how it affects petfood manufacturers large and small
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