Which U.S. pet owners spent the most on pet food in 2022?

Baby boomer pet owners spent the most on pet food, but gen X was close behind, and their level of pet food spending rose the most from 2021 to 2022.

Pfi cat Paw On Money
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Baby boomer pet owners spent US$13.32 billion on pet food in 2022, just edging out the US$13.08 billion spent by gen Xers — but the latter group’s spending registered the most growth from 2021. The data comes courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), compiled and analyzed by John Gibbons on PetBusinessProfessor.com.

Previously, Gibbons provided BLS data on pet food spending by income level, which showed, not surprisingly, higher-income households spending the most. That also correlates with some boomer households, yet considering that age group’s pet food spending increased by 12.7% while gen Xers spending increased by 17.6%, it may be only a matter of time before the younger group catches up. (Not that a 12.7% rise is at all shabby!)

Pet food spending by age groups

Overall, U.S. pet food spending in 2022, the latest year for which full BLS data is available, increased a robust 12.5%, ending up at US$38.69 billion, US$4.29 billion more than in 2021. In looking at spending by age group in 2022, the only U.S. pet owners who didn’t spend more were members of the silent/greatest generation (born before 1946); those households spent a total of US$1.88 billion, down nearly 48% from 2021. While their number is declining, the average spent on pet food per household also declined more than 40%. “High prices may have caused them to downgrade their food,” Gibbons said.

On the other end of the spectrum, the newest pet owners (gen Z, born after 1996), had the second lowest total of pet food spending at US$1.62 billion, but that represented a whopping 158.6% increase over 2021. In addition, the average pet food spend per gen Z household rose more than 49%, reflecting the increasing importance of their pets in their lives, Gibbons commented.

In the middle, between those two groups and the highest spenders, were millennials (born 1981 to 1996), who spent a total of US$8.8 billion on pet food in 2022, up 21.6% over 2021. For them, as well as for gen X (born 1965 to 1980) and boomers (born 1946 to 1964), the average spent on pet food also increased by 15%, 16.6% and 11%, respectively.

Return to a semblance of ‘normal’?

In another sign that gen X might soon overtake boomers as the biggest pet food spenders in the U.S., they had the highest average spend in 2022, US$367.21 vs. boomers’ US$315.56. If that persists, and as boomer households start to decline in number, gen X pet owners may likely come out on top — perhaps we’ll even see that when BLS releases 2023 pet food spending data and as life continues to return to some semblance of its pre-pandemic state.

“Pet food spending is driven by trends and outside influences like FDA [Food and Drug Administration] warnings and COVID-19,” Gibbons wrote. “2022 was a more normal year. Even with 10.2% inflation, all but silent/greatest [generation] spent more money and bought more food.”

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