on February 1, 2013

Sustain petfood growth by connecting to emerging consumer groups

Strategies for marketing to Baby Boomer pet owners won’t necessarily work with GenX, GenY and other emerging consumer segments

While pet ownership and petfood sales are both growing briskly in many developing regions, such as Latin America and Eastern Europe, and in individual countries like Brazil and China, developed markets have seen slow to no growth in recent years. Can longtime pet powers like the US return to previous growth levels?

A new report from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) indicates uncomfortable answers to that question. The US Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook (2012) shows that Americans owned fewer cats and dogs at the end of 2011 than in 2006, the last time AVMA conducted the survey. Specifically, in 2011 Americans had 70 million dogs (36.5% of US homes), down from 72 million in 2006, and 74 million cats (30.4% of US homes) compared to 81.7 million in 2006.

Now, those numbers don't match up with data released by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) last year in its biannual APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 2011-2012. That report showed the US had 78 million dogs and 86.4 million cats as of 2011, and both numbers represented slight increases from the last APPA report released in 2010. Without knowing the methodology behind each survey, it's impossible to explain the discrepancies. But the emphasis with APPA's increased numbers is on slight: only a 1.5% rise for dogs and 1.8% for cats. Those types of gains are not going to help move much more petfood.

The sluggish economy, of course, is the main culprit behind lagging or slow-growing…

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