While the veterinarian pet food channel is losing market share because of the loss of pet medications sales, it has the chance to stay competitive by redefining itself, according to David Sprinkle, publisher and research director at Packaged Facts, during his presentation at Petfood Forum 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Veterinarians “are very actively and very consciously redefining themselves in the face of, among other things, loss of pet med sales,” he said. “When you exclude your core pet medications, veterinarians have been one of the channels that is losing as sort of a pet product supplier role.”

However, veterinarians can take advantage of the position as a trusted source of information.
Seventy percent of cat and dog owners surveyed this year said their veterinarian is the most important source of information for pet care. This is especially true for baby boomers and higher-income households. In addition, veterinarians were involved immediately after the acquisition of the most recent dog in 45% survey respondents.

“Veterinarians are … the next industry sector that has a trump card to play to keep the ongoing evolution of the pet market going.”

Why pet food companies, veterinarians should collaborate

Many consumers believe pet food companies pay veterinarians to endorse certain dog and cat food diets to clients and this simply isn’t true, said Katy Nelson, veterinarian and host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy,” during her Petfood Forum 2019 opening keynote presentation.

However, pet food manufacturers and veterinarians should collaborate more on pet nutrition to help them understand the formulations to recommend the best diets for a pet’s specific needs, she said.

Pet owners trust vets and buy recommended dog, cat food

In a survey conducted by Packaged Facts in the United States, pet owners expressed the greatest degree of trust in pet food information from their veterinarians.

“Dog owners turn to vets for food advice nearly as much as for medication, more so for cats,” said Sprinkle, during his session at Petfood Forum 2018.

In the Packaged Facts survey, 27 percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that they trust information provided by their vet about pet food. Similarly, 35 percent agreed with that statement. Only one percent strongly disagreed.

When scientific research backs those vets’ advice, pet owners may be especially receptive to the information, said Sprinkle. By itself, scientific research had a moderate amount of trust from pet owners involved in the survey.

Eighteen percent of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that they trust info backed by scientific research, while 38 percent agreed and 40 percent neither agreed nor disagreed. As with vet’s advice, one percent of respondents strongly disagreed. Research sponsored by pet food companies had a lower degree of trust, though.

The data on pet owner trust was published in Packaged Facts’ “U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2018-2019.”