How millennial pet owners are changing the industry

Millennials are integrating their pets into their daily lives as a matter of course—and influencing the pet market while they’re at it.

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Pets will continue to be ever more integrated into daily life. | Wikimedia Commons
Pets will continue to be ever more integrated into daily life. | Wikimedia Commons

If Millennials (those age 18–34) are the thoroughly modern pet owners, what do their distinctive attitudes and behaviors indicate about the future of the pet products industry?

First and foremost, that pet ownership remains highly desirable. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials (62%) are pet owners, and even among those who aren’t, a fair share (43%) hope to have a pet in the future. Moreover, pet pampering is probably far from peaking. About two-thirds (64%) of Millennial pet owners indicate that they are spending more on pet products than they used to, compared with only half (49%) of pet owners age 35 or over (see Table 1). Similarly, 52% of Millennial pet owners claim that they would rather spend money on pet products than buy things for themselves, compared with only 39% of pet owners in the older brackets. To whatever degree that stated preference is borne out at cash registers, the propensity to pamper pets continues on the upswing.

Millenial Pet Parents 1604 Pe Tmarket Tab1

Collectively, Millennial pet parents are a significant pet product market driver, seeming more apt to spend money on their pets and be more active in integrating their pets into their daily lives.

Much of the pampering instinct among pet parents will be directed toward pet foods perceived as natural, safer and more values-driven. Two-thirds (64%) of Millennial pet parents make a priority of buying pet food with natural ingredients, compared with half (48%) of pet owners in older age brackets. Moreover, over half of Millennial pet parents actively factor food safety or contamination concerns into the pet foods that they buy, along with a pet food brand’s participation in pet welfare and pet rescue causes.

In keeping with this stronger focus on what’s in pet food and what pet food brands and retailers are about, an increasing share of pet product purchasing will take place over the Internet, the most information-rich shopping channel. Over half (53%) of Millennials are ramping up their online purchasing of pet products, compared with 30% of older pet owners.

Finally, pets will become ever more integrated into daily and family life. Over two-thirds (68%) of Millennials agree that keeping pets is a good way to get ready for having a family, compared with only 38% of adults in the older generational age brackets. And over half (53%) of Millennial pet owners prefer to have small pets that can accompany you more places, compared with 37% of older adults. These attitudes readily translate into Facebook-postable or Instagramable pet photos: 62% of Millennial pet owners like to use social media to share their pet parenting experiences, compared with only half that rate (31%) among older adult pet owners. Sharing is caring, so the pet care future is looking strong.

Despite some tendency toward a lessening of gendered patterns among Millennial-generation shoppers, tied in part to increasing parity in economic status, gender differences in these pet food psychographics can be both evident and stereotype-shaking. Among Millennials, male pet parents are more likely than their female counterparts (at 33% vs. 26%, respectively) to strongly agree they are buying more pet products online—perhaps not surprisingly, given the early adoption penchant among Millennial males. 

However, Millennial pet dads are also somewhat more likely than Millennial pet moms to strongly value buying pet foods that have natural ingredients (34% vs. 29%), or that are perceived as safer/less subject to contamination (28% vs. 22%). Millennial men are also more likely to strongly agree that the participation by pet brands—or by pet retailers—in pet rescue and welfare causes plays a significant role in what and where they buy. 

Millennial pet dads are also the more likely to strongly agree that they are spending more on pet products (at 33%, vs. 30% for Millennial women), or that they’d rather spend money on pet products than on things for themselves (at 27% vs. 20%). Millennial pet moms, in turn, are more likely to strongly agree that they look out for lower prices, special offers and sales on pet products (at 38%, vs. 32% for Millennial men).

Finally, Millennial men are much more likely to prefer small pets that you can take with you more places (28% strongly agree and 33% somewhat agree, vs. 19% and 26%, respectively, among Millennial women), and to hope to be pet parents in the future, even though they aren’t currently. 


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