David Sprinkle is the publisher and research director at Packaged Facts, a leading supplier of market research on the US pet industry. He is also the author of Petfood Industry magazine's monthly column, "Market Report."
Packaged Facts’ new study on Pet Population and Ownership Trends reports that 65 million American households have pets of any type, for an overall total of over 200 million pets. Pet owners make up roughly 55% of households, including 45 million households with dogs and 30 million with cats.
At Petfood Forum 2014, GfK reported an estimate of US$3 billion for petfood sales in 2013 through the US farm/feed store channel. That figure translates to over a tenth of the US$28 billion retail market for petfood, per Packaged Facts’ U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2014–2015. This attention-worthy segment size follows from two main factors: The rural share of the pet dog and cat population, and the relative levels of petfood spending by rural pet owners.
Veterinarians' pet health and wellness expertise and ability to recommend products have yet to be leveraged to full advantage across much of the pet products market. Although the level and sophistication of pet product retailing varies from one veterinary office to the next, such efforts will typically be anchored by high-grade foods, with a focus on specialized diets.
American shoppers are not yet willing or able to throw their wallets open, and this reality has been evident in pet market performance. PetSmart is estimating comparable store sales growth of 3%-3.5% for fiscal year 2013.
The all-important human/animal bond is helping to insulate the pet market during the recession and boding well for ongoing market growth, as marketers across all pet categories solidly position their products on pet owners' affection for their animals. In Packaged Facts' February/March 2013 online survey, as reported in our Pet Market Outlook 2013-2014, 83% of pet owners agreed with the statement "I consider my pet(s) to be part of the family," with 59% agreeing a lot and 25% agreeing a little.