Brand loyalty is dead. How does pet food get it back?

With the brand-ambivalent millennials and gen Z making up a significant portion of overall pet owners, shifts in thinking are required to win their pet food business loyalty.

The concept of brand loyalty is morphing as pet food customers focus more on the details of what they feed their pets. (Have a nice day Photo |
The concept of brand loyalty is morphing as pet food customers focus more on the details of what they feed their pets. (Have a nice day Photo |

The quest to produce ideal pet food formulas to meet the unique dietary and health needs of every cat and dog has resulted in a mind-boggling selection of options. The pet food shelf has become a food maze — a plethora of niche brands jostling for space alongside multiple brands from major manufacturers. How do pet parents choose?

A generational change in attitude

The problem of making a final food selection is further exacerbated by the fact that millennials and the generation Z-ers, now the largest combined group of pet owners, are a unique breed of pet parent. Their most distinguishable trait is that they are very protective of transparency and sustainability with regards to the origination and high quality of ingredients. They’ve become the unofficial watchdogs in the pet food industry. Consequently, this directly reflects the way they shop for pet food.

They are the first to research and try something different and are happy to try new and niche brands. They are also outspoken about their belief that good food equates to good health and thus are not beholden to one company or an individual brand. So, they have no qualms about brand-hopping in their quest for the best and will also move on very quickly if there is the slightest issue linked to a food they have been consuming.

As a result of their actions and attitudes, brand loyalty is dead.

So, what will it take for pet food manufacturers to stop consumers from brand-hopping and put brand allegiance back on the food shelf?

This topic, starting with how mistrust in pet foods has dominated the industry since the major pet food recall in 2007, will be explored at Petfood Forum Europe to be held in Cologne, Germany on June 13, 2019.

Rotational feeding leads to polygamous loyalty

Because, collectively, millennials and generation Z have made it their mission to be so well-informed, they understand that different ingredients promote different health needs essential to a diet. And, because they also mimic their own lifestyle needs with regards to their pets, they have been leading a new charge — namely, rotational feeding for their pets to keep things interesting as well as healthy in the food bowl.

This new lifestyle trend offers pets variety by rotating proteins, recipes and textures (dry, freeze-dried raw, dehydrated and mixed wet textures) on an on-going basis. It includes using toppers and broths to “spice up” the food bowl.

There is no doubt that this fast-growing trend puts a new spin on brand loyalty and gives rise to a question: If brand monogamy as currently recognized in the marketplace is dead, is brand polygamy the new next best thing? And, if so, how does a brand become one of the chosen few, or better still keep everything “in house”?

This quandary means that pet food manufacturers have to go back to their boardrooms and test kitchens to savor and chew on the current trends in order to come up with new advertising concepts and ideas and marketing strategies in order to succeed in this new marketplace.

Brands with a social conscience

One other very noticeable breed “trait” of millennial pet food watchdogs is a very proactive social conscience. Consequently, a brand’s social responsibility and credibility profile really matters and resonates with these pet parents. It is something they can relate to and have come to respect in a brand.

Further, because of extensive millennial and gen Z use of social media, this message about social responsibility and action is becoming a universal one with all pet parents. Ultimately, provided all the nutrition boxes are checked, a manufacturer’s social stance is now key to further boosting brand sales at the pet store checkout.

Brands are already aware that their mission is no longer just about putting nutritious, premium food in the food bowl. Many are already leading the charge on their own social media accounts and even listing their social outreach programs on their websites. This is definitely a key factor in luring pet parents to support a brand at the check-out.

Robins is a multimedia pet lifestyle expert, published author, pet industry spokesperson and influencer. Her work focuses on the latest trends and innovative ideas that can improve pets’ health and well-being, and ultimately enhance the human-animal bond. 


Key takeaways from the upcoming “Brand Loyalty Is Dead” presentation at Petfood Forum Europe

  • Explore the many options available for pet food brands to highlight their social conscience
  • Discuss new ideas and gauge different kinds of loyalty programs that best suit a brand profile
  • Learn how to promote loyalty — even if the allegiance is a polygamous one in line with new lifestyle trends
  • See how a brand’s social conscience is now seen as an extension of good nutrition


Growing ambivalence towards pet food brand loyalty


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