My cat woke me at 5:15 this morning because he wanted to go and play outside. I have to admit, I was a tad grumpy, but he has been a source of amusement (not comfort: he’s not that kind of cat) over the past year when we’ve been stuck at home. And my family is not alone.
Supplements and medications are soaring
According to the American Pet Products Association, 11.38 million U.S. households acquired a new pet during the pandemic, while in the U.K., 41% of pet owners added a new pet during lockdown. And according to a survey by Prodege, one-third of American pet owners have spent more on pet food and supplies in the past few months than they did before pre-pandemic.
Owning pets, of course, means buying products for them. According to global market research company Euromonitor International, in London, the industry expects to see a record 7% growth globally by 2026.
The pandemic was a preview of that, with pet care sales worldwide soaring by almost 9% in 2020, especially in certain categories: pet food sales grew 8%; accessories by 10%; and beauty and grooming categories increasing the most by 11%. (Yes, I’m guilty; guilty; and guilty again.)
Part of this vigorous purchasing for our furry friends has focused on their health. According to the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) in Sun City West, Arizona, sales of pet supplements jumped 20% during the pandemic.
“Initially we thought people were panic buying but sales stayed strong and it appears the demand is sustainable,” says Bill Bookout, NASC president and board chairman. And this, he explains, was a result of us both spending more time with our animals and being more aware of their health and wellness as the pandemic raged. Going forward, Bookout expects sales to drop off but remain strong, up 4% to 7% CAGR, over the next three to five years.
“As animals age we look to the same things for them as we do for ourselves, since they’re extended family members. We want them to live a long, happy, healthy life as much as possible, just like we do for ourselves,” he says.
The areas where pet supplements are growing the most? For dogs it’s in joint health, calming products, and immunity items; for cats it’s also calming products, along with essential fatty acids, probiotics, and supplements to help with hairballs. If these products are labeled “natural” or “organic,” they’re even more appealing to many consumers, Bookout adds.
Pet owners, he says, are looking at supplements as both preventatives and to help with immediate concerns, such as calming products for when owners return to work after COVID restrictions are lifted.
Packaged Facts data from February 2021 shows that we’re buying more pet medication online than ever before: 23% of dog and cat pet product shoppers had purchased flea and tick medication online in the past 12 months, compared to 18% in the previous year; and 19% bought heartworm medication online in the past 12 months, compared to 11% the year before.
E-commerce for pet meds kicked off in 2019 when Chewy and Walmart both launched online pharmacies for our furry friends and Petco joined forces with Express Scripts to fulfill prescriptions online. Then, the pandemic hit and Walmart partnered with Nationwide pet insurer to offer affordable prescription medications; Chewy added compounded medications; and Tractor Supply Co. launched its own online pet pharmacy, TractorSupplyRx.com.
The key is that these services make it easy to buy medications for our four-legged family members. Many of them offer auto-ship and subscription delivery services, and auto-ship rates for flea/tick and heartworm medications have doubled since 2020.
Pet owners are also increasing their budget in terms of what they’re prepared to spend on their furry best friend.
Premiumization accelerated in 2020, according to Euromonitor, partly because consumers had more disposable income due to less travel and dining out. This increase was seen most in Australasia, followed by North America, and Western Europe.
These three regions, which had long seen sluggish pet population growth, says Jared Koerten, senior head of pet care research with Euromonitor in a webinar, “suddenly outperformed historic averages.”
Premiumization of course comes in many shapes and sizes but look no further than 2020’s food hit: Belgian-made Smoofl, a do-it-yourself iced treat mix for dogs. Human parents prepare it and freeze it for their dogs to enjoy, “which really pushes the boundaries of the humanization trend,” says Karine Dussimon, Euromonitor senior consultant.
What’s clear from all of these pet trends is that it’s certainly a dog’s life. And a cat’s, too.
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