Petco recently launched a US$10 million marketing campaign, as part of which the company changed its slogan to "The Power of Together" from "Where the Healthy Pets Go," in hopes of capitalizing on the trend of pet humanization.
"As a company, we were at a place where we really wanted to continue to evolve our brand beyond just products and services, to connect emotionally with our customers and their pets," said Elisabeth Charles, chief marketing officer for Petco Animal Supplies.
To attract consumers, the company expanded its selection of products, which now includes things like treats by the pound, grain-free petfood and veterinary care. Petco's expanded offerings for pets and focus on pet humanization is expected to earn the company more than US$4 billion in sales in 2014.
CEO Jim Myers said consumers' purchases are more-closely reflecting their own interests, which means a strong interest in natural, organic and other specialty foods.
"Pet owners are very concerned these days with ingredient panels and ensuring that the best quality of items are in their foods," Myers said. "There's a lot more awareness of pet allergies and things that can help improve the skin and coat of your animal."
He said that consumers are more educated now on their pets' nutritional needs, so whereas they used to come in asking, "What's good?" he said, now they come into stores looking to learn about protein levels and grain types.
"I think it's just a natural progression, when we all want to do the very best for the people in our lives, and the animal is becoming part of the family and so is treated like another family member," Myers said.
Along with the new branding campaign, Petco is putting more focus on training its employees so they are knowledgeable to help customers who come in looking for these specialty petfoods.
"Even during tougher times, people are going to feed and clothe their animals," Myers said. "They may cut back on toys for a period of time, but people are very loyal to their pets."
While cat trends continue, the pandemic has added to overall slow-growth treatment of the cat food market.
Premiumization and humanization, as well as automation, fueled continued operation growth in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.