Top 5 Pet Care Trends

Working remotely, pet owners continue to spend more time with their pets, treating them like family, and seeking more premium products. The COVID-19 pandemic means pet owners have embraced the convenience of online shopping and developed new shopping habits that have contributed to the dynamic growth of e-commerce. The health and wellness trend is expanding from nutrition to pet care, while the role of functional and natural ingredients is increasing dramatically. Meanwhile, sustainability is driving plant-based options and alternative proteins, as well as the development of recyclable packaging.

The positive impact the pandemic has had on the demand for pet care has only reinforced major market trends, which will continue to drive sales up in the near term: namely humanization, premiumization, health and well-being, sustainability and digitization.

New levels reached in the humanization of pets

Due to remote working, pet owners are spending more time with their pets and increasingly see them as part of the family, trying to provide them with products and services they would choose for themselves. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyle Survey, 71% of pet owners worldwide consider their pets to be family members, and the number is rising sharply in developing markets. Legislative changes in Western Europe in favor of increased rights for pets will further influence the perception of pets. For example, in 2022 Spain introduced shared pet custody for couples after separation or divorce.

Treating their pets the same as children, consumers are looking for treats that are close to human-grade, encouraging producers to launch treats in new popular treat and savory snack formats. For example, in 2021 German producer Trixie expanded its variety of sweets in the form of lollipops, pretzels, cookies, waffles and donuts. Meanwhile, luxury fashion brands are branching out into pet care, releasing pet clothing, accessories and toys. The Italian online store Luxpets, launched in 2021, offers exclusive accessories from the most coveted brands in addition to personalized services.

Premiumisation: Perception of product freshness increasingly relevant

Humanizing pets, owners are increasingly keen to provide them with high quality and expensive foods and products. As consumers seek specific benefits from the products they buy, brand owners are expanding their premium offerings in an effort to earn higher margins. The growing popularity of small dogs is also contributing to the growth of the market, increasing the average price as small breeds consume less in volume. Private label, traditionally focused on economy and mid-priced products, is starting to develop high-end offerings, competing with international market leaders with lower prices. Private label has traditionally not had a significant presence in pet care, and premiumization is a key tool for retailers’ private label lines to gain market share from brands. This is particularly relevant in a context of tougher economic conditions.

Premiumization is driving the growth of wet foods in developing markets, particularly evident in Southeast Asia, and frozen varieties as well as premium therapeutic pet foods in mature regions. Fresh is also gaining momentum alongside frozen, particularly in the United States, but its presence is also growing in other markets. For example, Taiwanese company Just Kitchen launched home delivery of freshly prepared pet food in a ghost kitchen in 2021. While premiumization may contribute to future market growth, this will be dampened by inflation caused in part by the war in Ukraine.

Pet welfare through functional food ingredients

The growing demand for functional and natural ingredients extends from packaged foods to pet care. The shift from general wellness to specific functionality results in ingredients that address digestive, joint, heart, dental, and skin health, as well as mental wellbeing. In 2021, Hill’s Pet Nutrition developed a specific kibble formula and treatment method to improve dental health in pets, while Nestlé continues to expand with its enriched kibbles that support digestive health. Probiotics and hypoallergenic ingredients as well as fortified superfoods are seeing increasing demand. Minerals and botanical plants also arouse interest; for example, Thai premium brand Lifemate, which launched in 2021, offers pet food that contains ingredients to improve skin and hair, as well as the excretory system.

In mature markets, the mental health of pets is also gaining attention as consumers are increasingly concerned about the stress they observe when left alone, particularly after home isolation for the closures. For example, in 2021, British company Scrumbles launched Nibbles Calming dog treats which contain ingredients for mental and gut health.

A sign that natural recipes are also preferred, “free” claims are gaining popularity in pet foods. As outlined in Euromonitor International’s 2021 Product Claims and Positioning, the top four claims such as grain-free, free of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors are increasingly visible on product packaging. For example, in the United States, Made by Nacho launched a grain-free product line in 2022.

Developing sustainability in packaging and ingredient selection

Pet owners are increasingly concerned about their impact on the planet, creating growth potential for sustainable packaging and ingredients. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyle Survey, almost 60% of pet owners try to reduce plastic use and 45% prefer sustainable packaging. In response to the growing demand for recyclable materials, producers are launching more recyclable packaging; for example, Mars is rolling out packaging for its Sheba brand with recycled plastic in Europe by 2022.

Meanwhile, a third of pet owners are trying to reduce their own meat consumption. In a context of growing flexitarianism among pet owners, alternative proteins, especially insect-based, are gaining ground in pet food. Identifying a growth opportunity, major players including Mars launched herbal products. Nestlé Purina has also entered insect-based products, launching Switzerland Beyond Nature’s Protein pet food in 2020, which contains both insect and plant proteins.

Digitization of the reinforced shopping experience

During the pandemic, pet owners have become increasingly accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, while the offering has expanded dramatically. The development of e-commerce stores and subscription services contributes to the increasing personalization of the offer and allows consumers to benefit from the convenience of a generally smooth home delivery of bulky packaging and multipacks. Pet food subscription services are also growing in popularity and encompass a wide range of brands, from niche specialty gourmet meals to mainstream brands, such as Royal Canin with its automatic Club renewal service.

E-commerce is developing to the detriment of in-store merchants, who are gradually losing market share. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer; Lifestyle Survey 2021, nearly a third of consumers under the age of 45 buy products for their pets via their smartphone, with this proportion increasing every year. The development of online platforms by international pet food giants, such as Purina, is helping consumers shift to e-commerce. Nonetheless, e-commerce growth rates generally slow after the unusually high growth spike due to the emergence of the pandemic, and as the channel matures in some markets like North America.

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Humanization, premiumization, health and wellness, sustainability, and digitalization are the five key trends shaping pet care globally and expected to drive demand in the future. Consumers expect brands and retailers to meet their growing demand for high-quality, sustainable pet products, and to make the shopping journey as convenient and quick as possible. In this regard, product positioning plays a crucial role in brand image, consumer loyalty and increased margins.

For more insights and insights, please refer to the Global Pet Care Market Report.