According to David Lummis, senior pet market analyst for Packaged Facts, in his presentation U.S. Pet Food Market Update, 2011: Marketing the Benefits of Pet Ownership, pet parents are different shoppers than they were after the 2007 recalls and the 2008 global recession. This "new normal" shopper is more likely to switch brands, channels and stores, so now it's more important than ever to emphasize the benefits of not only your petfood or treat product, but the ownership of pets in general.
When asked if pet products are becoming too expensive, over 70% of consumers agreed with the statement (see Figure 1). How do you convince these customers your products are worth the extra dollars for Fido and Fifi? The petfood industry cannot sustain healthy growth without increasing rates of household pet ownership, so smart marketers will focus on the human-animal bond and its many benefits.
What can pet ownership mean?
- Enhances recovery from serious illness, including stroke and cancer
- Helps reduce the frequency of, and therefore costs associated with, doctor visits
- Children exposed to pet allergens in the first year of life have reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis
- Now more frequently recommended in treatment of autism, Alzheimer's and spinal injury
- Dogs can detect presence of certain cancers
- Offers verified therapeutic, psychological, physiological and psychosocial benefits
It is important to show pet parents that better ingredients mean a better quality of life for their companions, that feeding their pets your product can strengthen their emotional bond with their animals and that bond helps support their own health and wellness. A marketing campaign communicating these ideas will create customer engagement; consumers will be talking about something novel and interesting that they care a great deal about. Strive for uniqueness and a higher purpose by positioning your brand as a credible source on pet and pet owner wellness.
The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative recently launched HABRI Central at Global Pet Expo in February 2012 to serve as an online resource for data collection, research and collaboration for human-animal bond studies. Sponsored by the Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation in collaboration with the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and Purdue Libraries, the HABRI Central resource provides researchers, pet industry professionals and pet owners with access to scholarly material, an online publishing platform for peer-reviewed content and a virtual collaborative community for those involved in studies of the human-animal bond. Examples of current database topics include how pets affect humans with autism, Alzheimer's, depression, coronary heart disease and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as information on the benefits pets have on the health and well being of people.
HABRI steering committee companies and organizations include the American Humane Association; American Veterinary Medical Association; Central Garden and Pet; Hartz; Hill’s Pet Nutrition; Morris Animal Foundation; Natural Balance; PetSmart; Radio Systems Corporation; and Segrest Farms, and is funded by Allen Levey; Sergeants; and WellPet. Organizations at the association supporter level include the Pet Industry Distributors Association, Pet Care Trust and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
“We are pleased that these companies, organizations and industry leaders recognize the importance of HABRI’s efforts and have joined us to support research, education, advocacy and a national commitment to the positive impact of the human-animal bond,” said Bob Vetere, HABRI president. “Together with their support we are poised to help others come to understand what we already know: that the human-animal bond has the power to improve health and enhance the quality of life for humans.”