US pet food market report reveals pet humanization trend

Interest in rewarding and spoiling pets may be encouraging higher spending on pet treats than pet food among US pet owners.

(Ivanko Brnjakovic |
(Ivanko Brnjakovic |

Interest in rewarding and even spoiling pets may be encouraging higher spending on treats among American pet owners. A US pet food market report from market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that sales of pet treats have outpaced both dog and cat food over the last five years, with treats sales increasing by 29 percent between 2012-17 to reach US$4.39 billion. Meanwhile, dog food sales grew eight percent between 2012-17 to reach US$11.8 billion, while cat food sales increased 11 percent to reach US$6.83 billion during the same timeframe.

With snacking frequency on the rise among Americans, it seems the snacking trend may be extending to their pets as one in 11 pet owners say they feed their pet toppers (such as sauce and gravy) as a snack or treat. Three quarters of pet owners agree that treats are their way of showing their pet love, making treats more than just a way to reward good behavior. Treats are also popular for their health benefits as 24 percent of owners give their pets treats designed to address specific health issues, such as dental care.

Quality ingredients are of the utmost importance for American pet owners. Two in five US pet owners say they check the ingredient list when purchasing new pet food or treats and 64 percent would be interested in treats made with premium ingredients, such as all natural or organic. However, there is still ample room for further growth in the pet treats category as 47 percent of pet owners say they give their pets treats on a daily basis.

“While dog and cat food dominate the category, the continued growth of treats is a clear reflection of the increasingly prevalent view among pet owners that pets are members of the family and deserve a bit of pampering,” said John Owen, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, in a press release. “Treats are a way that pet owners can show their pets some love and, for some, they're also a way to address specific health and wellness issues. Despite the fact that treats and toppers have helped drive incremental sales in the category, usage remains relatively low, suggesting there is room for further gains. Retailers may be able to spur additional sales by promoting themed care and feeding regimens consisting of complementary foods, toppers and treats.”

Pet supplies sales on the rise

In addition to treats, it seems American pet owners are also splurging on supplies for their pets. Toys remain the top purchased type of pet supplies among pet owners in the US, with 64 percent saying they’ve purchased toys in 2017, up from 61 percent in 2016. However, it seems non-essential supplies are falling behind with owners saying they are purchasing less clothing (14 percent vs. 17 percent in 2016), costumes (12 percent vs. 17 percent in 2016) and strollers (10 percent vs. 5 percent in 2016) for their pets in 2017.

With more than four out of five US pet owners agreeing that pets need preventative health care, improving pet’s health is a top priority. Three in four pet owners say they are helping their pet get fit or are interested in doing so, while 67 percent say they give or are interested in giving their pet vitamins and supplements. Some owners are even worried about their pets making it through flu season as over two in five say they have given or are interested in giving pets a flu shot.

Humanization of pets in the US

“Treating pets like one of the family continues to be a popular trend among pet owners; however, today, their purchases are more and more functionally driven as health becomes a top priority,” said Rebecca Cullen, household analyst at Mintel, in a press release. “Highlighting the health or convenience benefits of pet supplies could encourage owners to increase spend in the category as they continue to look for ways to improve their pet’s health and happiness.”

Sixty-six percent of pet owners say their pet is treated like a member of the family and 58 percent agree their pet makes their house feel like a home. When it comes to acquiring their furry family member, nearly seven in 10 Americans agree adopting a shelter animal is the best way to get a pet.

Dogs seem to be more popular among US pet owners, as more American households own dogs (52 percent) than cats (37 percent). In the US, 67 percent of dog owners have one dog and only 33 percent of dog owners have two or more dogs in the home. Owning multiple cats, however, is more common, with 43 percent of cat owners saying they have more than one.

America’s pet owners continue to indulge their pets as the total market for pet food, pet supplies and pet services in 2017 is estimated to reach US$70.6 billion, an increase of 2.9 percent from 2016.

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