A report, “The Pet Parenting Boom,” examined the pet product purchasing habits of US dog and cat owners by generation and analyzed pet food retail trends. Acosta, a sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods industry, published, published the report.

“The pet category is an important one, as its total sales surpass popular categories such as dairy and candy,” said Colin Stewart, senior vice president at Acosta, in a report. “Fortunately for brands and retailers, the two largest generations, baby boomers and millennials, also represent the two biggest age groups for pet ownership, which means we can expect continued growth in this category, especially since Millennials are just now entering their prime spending years.”

Pet food retailing findings of Acosta report

As pet families continue to grow, so does the retail pet channel. Nearly half of pet owners will remain loyal to their preferred brand of pet food, regardless of coupons or deals, but they do take advantage of digital tools such as retailer websites or apps to search for sales, according to the report.

“Pet owners shop for their animals much in the same way they shop for themselves,” said Stewart. “Retailers can apply key best practices in grocery to the retail pet channel as well, including appealing to millennials, emphasizing health and wellness, and improving convenience to increase shopper loyalty.”

Pet owners ranked Walmart, PetSmart, Amazon.com, Petco and grocery stores as their top five preferred destinations to shop for pet products other than food.

The top three drivers for pet owners’ pet food retailer selection included price, variety of products and convenience.

Consumer behavior findings from the Acosta pet food report

Ninety-four percent of pet owners indicate their pets are part of the family, with 80 percent treating them like children.

When it comes to spending for pet owners, the well-being of their animals plays an important role, but so does their own definition of necessities. Boomers consider toys and treats nonessentials, while millennials label them as necessities.

Forty-six percent of pet owners report they purchase products they think will provide a wellness benefit to their pets.

Sixty percent of millennial pet owners purchase nonessential pet items at least once a week, versus 28 percent of Gen Xers and 8 percent of boomers.