Adventures in Pet Food

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry, shares her insights and opinions on all things pet food, addressing market trends as well as news and developments in pet nutrition, food safety and other hot topics for the industry.
Pet Food Market Trends Pet Ownership Statistics
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Which US pet owners spend the most on pet food?

Gen Z pet owners spend the most annually on their pets overall in the U.S., including for social media content, while regionally, pet owners in Austin, Texas, spend the most on pet food per month.

Those are some of the takeaways from two separate surveys of U.S. pet owner spending. Granted, neither seems very scientifically robust, though the source for one did at least share its methodology. So, this is not the authoritative spending data you’ll get from, say, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they provide some interesting comparisons and, perhaps, insights.

Gen Z: Future of pet food, pet care spending

Mortgage loan company Lending Tree conducted an online survey of 1,425 U.S. pet owners in August 2021, showing that gen Z members among the respondents spend an average of US$1,885 annually on their pets, considerably higher than the US$1,163 average spent by pet owners overall. Why the difference?

According to the survey, gen Z pet owners (defined by Lending Tree as 18 to 24 years old) are more likely to “have pet insurance (56%, compared to the overall average of 27%), pay for a monthly subscription box (14%, versus the overall average of 8%) and buy specific items for their pets for social media posts (47%, versus overall average of 28%).”

These buying habits drive gen Z annual pet spending to exceed that of millennials (25 to 40 years old) of US$1,195, gen X (41 to 55 years old) of US$1,100 and baby boomers (56 to 75 years old) of US$926. While some may marvel at the purchasing choices of gen Z pet owners, that these younger owners are spending so much more than other cohorts bodes well for the future of the pet food and pet care industries.

In addition, the survey revealed that 98% of U.S. pet owners spend money on their furry family members monthly, at an average of US$86. Of those spending monthly, 91% report buying pet food at least once a month.

Top-spending US cities for pet food

The other survey, conducted by Wren Kitchens, a U.K.-based kitchen furnishings provider, showed that 6% of U.S. pet owners say they spend more on pet food than they do their own food, and 11% report spending the same amount on their pet food as they do on their own.

In terms of spending by pet owners in various cities, those in Austin, Texas, spend the most—US$78 on average per month—followed by US$76 among Los Angeles pet owners. Other cities ranking in the top 10 include San Antonio and Houston, Texas; Denver, New York City, Phoenix, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

None of these are a surprise; after all, they probably all rank among the U.S. cities with higher costs of living and spending overall. (I did find it rather amusing that the Wren Kitchens blog post and press release mistakenly referred to the cities as “states”; perhaps it’s difficult for people in the U.K. to understand how geographically vast the U.S. is.)

The company did not provide any information on how and when their survey was conducted.

Pet owners: good business and growth opportunity

Presumably, Wren Kitchens undertook their survey because of their core business, as they also asked questions about whether owners cook for their pets and share their dining tables with them. On the other hand, Lending Tree’s motivation for conducting their survey was likely that they’re in the business of helping people own homes, and more and more homeowners (or prospective ones) are now also pet owners.

What I consider most interesting is just how many companies and businesses outside of pet food and pet care find it worth the time and investment to learn more about these markets and the consumers comprising them. Clearly, they recognize a good business and growth opportunity when they see it.



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