Among 36 categories of U.S. consumer packaged goods examined by New York University (NYU) researchers, products marketed as sustainable had lower price sensitivity, including sustainable pet food and treats. Sustainable pet food had the fourth lowest percentage change in volume due to a 1% change in price. Even as the pandemic took hold, sustainable pet food continued to gain share from conventional varieties. The NYU researchers collaborated with market research firm IRi to create the Sustainable Market Share Index.
Sustainably marketed products grew seven times faster than conventionally marketed products, indicating consumer willingness to pay higher prices, Randi Kronthal-Sacco, senior scholar with the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, said in a webinar hosted by IRi. Sustainable pet treats took more market share from conventional treats than sustainable pet food did from other styles.
Demographic difference in sustainable pet food buyers
The NYU team found geographic differences in sustainable spending in the United States. New England dominated the per capita market for sustainable products. However, even states like Texas with low per capita rates were still important markets because of their size. Pet food buyers in the top 25 U.S. urban areas tended to be as likely to purchase sustainable pet food as those in smaller cities. Rural counties were less likely to purchase sustainable pet foods.
The younger the household, the more likely they were to buy sustainably marketed products. However, similarly to geographic differences, most sustainably marketed products purchases came from Gen X and boomers, largely because of their greater purchasing power. The Sustainable Market Share Index grouped purchasers by their scores. The highest group was 120 or above, meaning they were more likely to buy sustainable products of that category. The medium group had indexes between 80 and 120, while the lowest group was below 80. By generation for pet food, Millennials had an index of 120 or higher. Gen X and boomers were both in the middle index. While seniors and retirees had were an index of less than 80 for sustainable pet food.
The higher the education, the more likely household members were to buy sustainably marketed products in general. By education level, postgraduate education had a middle index level. All the other education levels (graduated college, some college, those who graduated high school and had some high school or less) were in the low index group.
Household income also influences sustainable product purchases. The upper income tier (US$70,000/year or greater) had an index of 120+ for pet food, while middle income levels ranked in the mid-levels of the index as well. Lower income households had an index of less than 80. For pet treats, all household income levels were in the index of 80 to 120. Upper and middle income made up the highest percentage of sustainably marketed product dollars spent.