The global pandemic hasn’t stopped pet spending

2020 may have set pet food customers up for unprecedented economic uncertainty, but it’s not affecting how they’re treating their pets.

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Anna Shvets |
Anna Shvets |

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought consumer priorities into sharp focus, particularly as the illness continues to dominate the news, local and national government policy, and the way people are finding new patterns to conduct their days. What has continued to be a strong focus, at least for pet owners, are the furry, scaly and feathery friends who pre-pandemic might have been home alone all day, but are now sharing a larger part of their lives with the humans who are now telecommuting or simply not frequenting their local haunts or headed off for vacations.

In June 2020, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) released the “APPA COVID-19 Pulse Study of Pet Ownership during the Pandemic,” which found that pet ownership is holding steady during the pandemic, and a majority of pet owners reported that their spending hasn’t been influenced by the state of the economy.

“We know just how much pets mean to us, our mental health and well-being,” said Steve King, CEO of the APPA. “This initial study reaffirms that pet owners are appreciating the benefits of pet ownership now more than ever, which is incredible to hear.”

Pets get equal consideration during a crisis

Pets are credited with helping their humans with everything from mood to security to exercise and more, and surveys being conducted now really bear that out in these extraordinary times.

According to APPA’s study, 72% of owners agree that spending time with their pet is helping to reduce their stress and increase their sense of well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 70% say they’re spending more time with their pet right now and 60% say the extra time spent with their pet makes them feel closer and more bonded to their pet.

Spending-wise, there’s more good news for the pet industry. The APPA study shows that 64% of pet owners surveyed have spent the same amount of money on their pets as they did pre-pandemic — and 21% have spent either a little or a lot more. On the other hand, only 15% have spent either a little or a lot less on their pets since the pandemic began.

In fact, when you compare the FactSet Pet Care Index (an index consisting of U.S. and international companies that may stand to benefit from interest in, and resources spent on, pet ownership) to the S&P 500 (an index that measures the stock performance of 500 large companies listed on stock exchanges in the U.S.), the Pet Care Index clearly comes out on top.

Keep the lines of communication open

It’s no surprise that in times of need, consumers buckle down and pay a lot more attention to where they’re spending their money — and on what. One “what” so far is pet food. The “where” is up the industry. People are going online; do you have a solid presence there? People are looking for more options; have you adjusted your marketing strategy to make sure you’re sending the right message? People want to feel like they can take care of their pets when so much is out of their control; do you have the kinds of products that are going to make them feel like they’re doing the best they can for their dog or cat?

The answers to those questions are likely to determine your business strategy as we move into recovery — whenever that may be.

Briefly: How much do people love their pets during a pandemic?

Freshpet recently released a survey, “Pets, People, Pandemic Poll: Navigating Pet Parenthood in the New Normal.” In it, the pet food company asked U.S. respondents a number of questions about how they view their pets and what they’ve done for them:

  • 55% of pet parents say they’ll feel guilty for leaving their pets home when they go back to work away from home.
  • 38% of U.S. pet owners want to get a new pet to keep their current pet(s) company when they do go back to work away from home.
  • 83% of pet parents say that spending time with their cat and/or dog during lockdown improved their mood more than online shopping or spending time with a significant other.

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