in the future. This is due to their rapid population growth and rise in disposable income, which means that consumers in these countries will not only move into pet ownership, but become more aware of the need to feed their pets with the appropriate nutrition rather than human food scraps.
Enhanced emotional bonds
While regional differences are significant, the emergence of modern pet ownership has generally been driven by major global trends in lowered birth rate, changes in traditional family models and society, and also increased complexity and stresses of modern life, which has influenced many people’s demand for emotional attachment. As a consequence, many people have formed an enhanced emotional bond with their pets – cats and dogs in particular.
In some demographic categories, notably millennials (loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) and seniors (aged 55 or over), cats and dogs can provide a direct focus for the drive to ‘nurse and nurture’. And with big changes in the consumer’s role in the value chain, these two categories have become the largest group of consumers in many countries and the largest groups of pet owners .
In addition, the benefits of pet ownership are becoming clear. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that proves the physiological and psychological health benefits of having pets in our daily life. Pet ownership can not only reduce stress, boost our productivity, stimulate regular physical activity, but can also help in improving our social interactions and learning processes.
Continued humanization and the pet parenting phenomenon has extended the realm of pet ownership from a focus only on feeding their animals, to their health, grooming, exercise, comfort and daily experiences. Those from the millennial demographic, in particular, are aware of and more open to a wider range of consumer choices and want the same for their loved ones including their pets. Many of today’s pet parents want to find all the products and services that they have, available for their pets too; and with the same (high) standards.
Pets are often fully integrated into the pet owners’ living space and lifestyle. Over the last few decades the pet has moved from the backyard to the home – even into some owners’ eating and sleeping spaces. This creates market potential in pet products for the home, local environment and travel, as well as cross-market opportunities for new human/pet products and services in previously less related leisure markets, for example.
Along with this, many of today’s pet owners want customization that confirms their pet is unique. Pet parents want to enjoy a unique experience with their pets that is pleasurable or relaxed and many want to share this with others in their social network. Effective channels for this hold potential for promoting positive experiences of specific products and services.
However, sometimes, humanization of pets is extreme, which raises the question of whether humanization in pet ownership can go too far? When does it start to compromise the pet’s well-being?
Responsible pet ownership
In counterbalance to this – responsible pet ownership – another emerging aspect of market development may provide some answers. Many of today’s pet owners have increasing awareness of wider consumer issues and trends, such as advanced nutrition, advanced healthcare and personalized medicine, food safety, environmental concerns, responsible consumption, clean labelling, anti-ageing, et cetera, influence the standards for manufacturers.
In addition, there is a growing awareness of the need for responsible pet care regarding health, training and upbringing. Also, some are keen to enhance their knowledge of their pets towards ‘even better pet parenting’.
With continued growth of urban areas, many of today’s pet owners live in an urban environment. In addition, pet owners from younger ages, and often even seniors, have exceedingly busy lives. And we all live in an increasingly digital world. While pet ownership is becoming recognised as an antidote to stress and an opportunity for relaxation, enjoyment and even exercise, pet products that fit this lifestyle are growing in popularity – online retail is an essential channel for many. In addition, it creates opportunities for specially designed products that support responsible pet keeping in city environments, such as apartments et cetera, or that save time and effort for the modern pet owner.
Opportunities and challenges
Modern pet ownership opens up a world of opportunities for pet product manufacturers from a broad range of products and services, from pet food to pet care and from accessories to services. It also offers the potential for partnership or input from other previously unrelated sectors, such as leisure, travel and public services. However, there are some key questions that should be considered as an industry:
- What role can – or should – the pet industry play in creating sustainability?
- How exactly do we ensure sustainbility in the long-run?
- How do we contribute to guaranteeing the ethics of pet ownership?
- How should we define responsible pet ownership (RPO)?
- How can the pet industry stimulate RPO?
- On the scarcity of raw materials, should pet owners be indulging their pets with the same human-grade ingredients that we use, while we do not have enough to feed the world’s human population? With today’s pet owners shopping for more and more online. How does this affect consumer education, and, consequently, responsible pet ownership?
- Customer loyalty is rare in today’s market. Yet, brand success depends upon it. How should we use transparency in modern marketing, in order to create trust and loyalty?