As 2021 kicks into gear we thought we'd offer some predictions for dog owner trends in 2021 related to dog health, dog adoption, dog nutrition and buying habits.
Cost-cutting, private label products
Due to the financial implications of Covid-19 on households, market analysts at Packaged Facts have recommended that pet food and product manufacturers focus on “quality but affordable pet care products,” including private labels.
A Packaged Facts survey fielded in April and May 2020, reported that 47% of pet owners bought lower-cost store brands of pet food or treats more frequently.
In a separate survey by Packaged Facts, 44% of pet owners agreed that the quality of store brands is as good as national name brands, while 23% disagreed.
They believe it’s inevitable that some owners will shift to private label products, including pet food and say recent sales data confirm that belief.
In 2021, dog owners are driven more toward high-quality dog food.
New protein replacements in dog food
Exciting times lie ahead for protein replacements, with unusual and interesting combinations.
Addiction Foods, a New Zealand manufacturer, is offering dry and dehydrated pet foods with venison, pork, brushtail possum and kangaroo meats, often mixed with fruits such as apples, berries and even figs.
Blue Buffalo launched Bayou Blend dog treats, featuring alligator and catfish protein.
Venison and boa protein sources and plant proteins such as sweet potato, lentils, tapioca, quinoa and pea are also becoming widely popular.
Insect proteins have found an entry in the market as a viable protein and according to Euromonitor International, they will remain a key trend in the coming years.
Yora, a manufacturer in the United Kingdom, produces dog food from the larvae of Hermetia Illucens larvae, also known as the “black soldier fly.” Their dog food also contains vegetables, including beets and potatoes.
Interesting ingredients and healthier diets for dogs
Human health trends are leaning towards the more natural products and pet owners are adjusting the pet’s diets accordingly. Packaged Facts suggests ingredient and sourcing claims such as “fresh,” “limited ingredient” and “superfood” are becoming the new “natural.”
“In response, pet food marketers need to promote sought-after ingredients while being fully transparent, with product websites and labelling telling the full story of where the ingredients come from and how the products are made,” Packaged Facts stated.
Mukund Parthasarathy, PhD, a columnist for petfoodindustry.com states that functional ingredients like antioxidants, essential fatty acids and even supplements like glucosamine for joint health are being formulated right into the can.
“Blueberries and cranberries are [showing up] in pet foods. Fruit- and vegetable-based antioxidants are a big trend in the pet food industry.”
Pet owners are looking after the health of their pets and are willing to pay for the privilege.
The Kerry report cites a Mintel “make it mine” trend and data indicating that 61% of U.S. pet owners are willing to pay more for foods customized for their pets’ specific dietary needs.
The interest is especially strong among younger pet owners (aged 18-34) and those buying online: 73%, compared to 68% buying pet food in pet speciality stores and 47% buying in supermarkets.
Fresh dog food will grow in 2021
The trend to move away from dry kibble towards fresh and raw pet food is gaining momentum. “Pet food market observers, like the experts at Packaged Facts, have predicted that ‘fresh’ may be the new wave of superpremium – and the market research firm repeated that belief in its latest report,” US Pet Market Outlook 2020-2021 – June 2020 update.
According to the report, a definite sign that this trend is taking hold in the market is the flood of venture capitalist funding to fresh pet food companies like NomNomNow. Another nudge that the ‘fresh’ and ‘raw’ is trailblazing a new marketing direction is Freshpet, that is escalating its product lines, distribution and marketing.
Ancient grains are the new stars of the show in pet food manufacturing and include spelt, quinoa, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and chia. Pet Food Sherpa predicts that superfood ingredients such as kale, spinach and blueberries, are earmarked to replace grains such as wheat, soy and corn.
Some veterinarians believe that these grains are more difficult to digest and likely to cause more allergies than rice and other grains.
One of the trends to watch closely is the consumer's heart for Animal Welfare. 48% of pet owners agree that pet retailers’ participation in welfare and rescue causes plays a role in where they shop for pet products. 48% of consumers state that the participation of brands in causes impacts their decision on which products to purchase.
Additionally, 69% of dog and cat owners are concerned about the treatment of animals raised for use in pet food and treats/chews.
Dog owner e-commerce trends in 2021
2019 saw e-commerce as the fastest growth channel for pet product sales, surging 24% $12.2 billion, with pet food accounting for 66%. Online sales of pet food represent nearly 73% of the pet food industry growth.
For pet food and pet care, Packaged Facts now expects the e-commerce channel to grab 27% of the U.S. market by the end of this year and reach a 35% share by 2024.
Covid-19 has to lead to a massive surge in share prices for online pet product retailers such as Petco, Pets at Home and even animal health companies such as Zoetis have seen huge gains in their stock market value.
In short, people are spending more money on their dogs than at any time in history. This is likely to continue in 2021 and beyond.
Ross Hindle of Third Bridge, a global primary research firm, suggests pet retailers such as Pets At Home are going to do even bigger business in 2021 following the rise in ownership numbers during the pandemic lockdowns. Ross says:
"Pets at Home’s topline like-for-like sales grew 17.6% during the quarter as festive pet-related purchases drove growth for the 'essential' retailer. It seems many consumers chose to forget the advice that a pet is for life and not just for Christmas."
"Pets at Home is continuing to benefit from a rise in pet ownership during the pandemic and a growing trend of pet food premiumisation. Growth in high margin pet food has flowed through into pet accessories, as consumers look to humanize and spoil their new 4-legged friends."
"A boom in demand has translated into Pets at Home seeking approval to build a new storage and distribution centre which will cost the Group c.£.48m. Specialists see the expansion of storage and distribution facilities as vital for the retailer, especially considering online sales are now nudging close to 20% penetration."
"The 12% YoY growth in VIP Club membership is especially noteworthy, as it enhances lifetime customer value in what is an already customer-sticky industry."
"Pets at Home is expected to outperform the market, with long-term margin expansion aided by a strong private label offering. However, the repayment of the business rates relief and added Covid-19 costs will create short-term margin pressure."
Dog adoption and Covid-19
Covid-19 surged the trend for pet ownership with 12% adults with children under the age of 18, adopting pets because of the pandemic, compared with 8% of all adults.
Additionally, 10% of cat owners and 9% of dog owners in the United States said they adopted a pet because of COVID-19 implications, with 10% of all pet owners acquiring pets over the last three months.
Dog adoption is more popular than ever. Long it may that particular trend continue!