Whilst stuck at home during the pandemic, many of us went pet crazy. In the last year, 14 million US & UK households welcomed a new furry friend, as demand outstripped breeder supply.
“We thought people would stop adopting because they’d need to conserve their money. But it’s been just the opposite. They’re going like hot cakes.” Cindy Sharpley, founder of Last Chance Animal Rescue quoted in The Washington Post.
Inevitably, the surge heavily impacted the direct-to-consumer (DTC) pet care space. Whilst offline services including retail, daycare, boarding centres, grooming and walking services, were decimated by lockdowns, eCommerce alternatives came to the fore.
Online sales of dog and cat food rose 53% throughout the year, with the DTC pet care space now being valued at $13.5bn - a 10% increase on 2019. Such was the opportunity that six major pet-focused direct brands were founded in 2020 - many offering healthier, natural alternatives to retail pet food.
They include holistic dog food merchant Maev, canine supplement brand Finn, nutritional feline grub vendor Cat Person and more natural dog food from both Sundays, Jinx and Yumwoof. Previously existing brands such as Harringtons and Republic of Cats also enjoyed success.
But Covid is only half the story here. Pet ownership, and in turn demand for petcare products, has long been on the increase - having grown 36% since 2009. Petcare is the only retail category which grew during the post-2008 recession, with over 68 million American, and 12 million British households now owning at least one animal.
As more consumers continue to research and buy pet care products online, more data is made available for brands. This analysis on what consumers really want from merchants has allowed pet food providers to carve out very specific niches.
One of the most notable of these subcategories is pet care solutions that are not only convenient for the owner, but healthier for the animal. This reflects human wellbeing trends, which see consumers becoming more conscious of their own diet and exercise habits.
“Just as a mother cares about making sure their child is fed properly and cared for, the same applies to how people think about their pets.” James Davidson, founder of Tails.com quoted in The Drum
Perhaps surprisingly, a survey of 2,181 pet owners discovered that 43.6% prioritize the health of their pet's foods over their own. The growth of brands like Because, Animals., who sell ‘human-grade, all natural’ cat and dog food typifies this trend.
The brand messaging of this new wave of pet care players is at pains to emphasise the health and environmental credentials of their products - clearly appealing to consumer desire for such alternatives.
With new brands emerging selling everything from smart cat litters to frozen yoghurt for dogs, fragmentation in the pet care space, alongside customer demand, is unlikely to diminish anytime soon.
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Thumbnail image courtesy of Harringtons.