The State of the Pet Industry
Post-Pandemic Trends in the Pet Industry
The pandemic dramatically accelerated the growth of the pet industry, leading to a new landscape and market for businesses to navigate. Craving companionship, many people turned to pets to help them through the tough times of the pandemic. Despite the economic impact of owning a pet during uncertain times, people were more than willing to accommodate the cost of adding a new pet to their budget in order to get the unconditional companionship and love that comes with pet ownership. In fact, almost 11 million families welcomed a new pet into their homes.1 This growth has only continued in the wake of COVID-19.
Post-pandemic, the industry has continued to shift and evolve to meet the needs of these new and discerning pet owners.
Pet Market Growth
Recession-Proof and Pandemic-Resistant
The pet industry has always been considered recession-resistant by experts2 and this bullish trajectory also applies to pandemic times. As many industries faced downturns, the pet industry boomed during the pandemic. People turned to the loyalty and companionship of pets to help with mental health, comfort, and healthy activity during the pandemic.
The pet market grew 14% in 2021— an increase over the 10% growth the industry experienced in 2020.3 Pet owners are also willing to pay for the best for their pets with $123.6 billion spent on goods and services for our pets in the United States in 2021.4
This data especially holds true for the pet service industry, which according to the 2020 US Census, substantially outpaces other pet-affiliated businesses due to the spending in the US pet care industry doubling in the last decade to $5.9 billion. This industry— which includes training, grooming, and pet sitting services— has increased its establishments by 60% since 2007.5
Millennials and Their Dogs: Spending Habits
Millennials are now the largest bucket of pet owners, totaling 32% of all pet-owning households, edging out Baby Boomers who account for 27% and Gen X who hold 24%. Gen Z is also quickly gaining share in the market, representing 14% of pet owners.6 With their connection to the internet and their average yearly spending pegged around $52,0007, Millennials represent the driving demographic of the pet services industry.
Millennials and their young Gen Z counterparts are taking a more discerning eye to the items and services they purchase for their pets. This directly impacts their spending in the category—especially during the pandemic, with 27% of millennials reporting that they are spending more than usual on their pets due to COVID-19.8 When it comes to the health of their pet, owners are even more likely to open their wallets, with 32% saying there is no limit to what they would pay to save their pet’s life.9
On the whole, they are much more likely than their older counterparts to be extra mindful of their pets’ overall health and wellness, closely monitoring things like weight and food sensitivities.10
Social Media Trends and the Impact/Influencer on Consumers
With the rise of platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels during and post-pandemic, internet users are bombarded with more video content than ever before. The US influencer marketing spend is set to reach $4.14 billion in 2022,11 with 84% of consumers stating that they have made a purchase based on an influencer’s recommendation.12
The pet industry is no exception, with hundreds of ‘Petfluencers’ popping up across social media platforms to share entertaining and educational content on the lives of pets and the products they use daily. The reach and influence of these petfluencers is large. A blog post by Pet Food Industry shared that 61.46% of pet influencers’ audiences are female—generally the decision-makers behind most household purchases.13
Trends in the Pet Industry
Pandemic Pets as Family Members
Pet owners have increasingly begun to view their pets as members of the family, especially as many Millennials and Gen Z delay or forgo having children. In fact, in a recent survey from online retailer Chewy.com, 73% of pet owners stated that the health and wellness of their pet is as important as any other member of their family.14 Additionally, pet owners are more likely than ever to put their pet’s needs above their own in relationships. In fact, 56% of people would end a relationship if someone didn’t like their pet and 25% would cut off a friend or family member for the same. 15
When it comes to holidays and events, 81% of Gen Z pet owners celebrate their pets’ birthday and 43% dress them up for holidays and other festive occasions.16
Pet owners care deeply about the well-being of their pets, but pets also help keep their owners healthy and fit. Dogs need regular walks to stay fit and healthy, which helps get their owners outside and moving on a regular basis. A study from the American Heart Association shares that dog owners are much more likely to reach the recommended daily physical activity than non-owners.17 Post-pandemic, this increased health benefit has only grown as pet owners continue to get active with their dogs through daily walks and playtime— a recent survey shows that 72% of pet parent respondents stated that their pets have helped them stay on track for their wellness goals.18
At Zoom Room, we see this reflected through an increase in enrollments in our Puppy Training, Dog Obedience and Dog Agility programs. These courses help keep dogs and their owners active while working on their overall physical and mental health.
Overall studies show that dog ownership has a positive impact on owners’ lives, with study participants noting an increase in feelings of calmness, relaxation, peace and love when doing things with their dog like walking or cuddling. 19
Mergers And Acquisitions
With the market changes from the pandemic, the pet industry has seen a record number of transactions in 2021 with the number of transactions doubling to 169 from 76 in 2020, including the $610 million dollar acquisition of Zesty Paws by H&H Global20 and the $700 million dollar purchase of Pet Supplies Plus by Franchise Group.21
The pet industry has seen a large boom due to the pandemic. Cascadia Capital observed: “During the COVID-19 period, the pet industry will have undergone the greatest ownership transition the industry has ever witnessed as measured by deal volume… As the equity community seeks to rotate into defensive categories, pet company sellers are finding it easier than many other categories to cash in on the ‘COVID-bump.’”22
Large investors are recognizing the promise of the pet industry and have prioritized adding pet businesses to their portfolio. The president of the World Pet Agency told Pet Product News, “What the pandemic did was add fuel to the steady fire of the industry. While the pet industry was already doing well pre-pandemic, the pandemic provided a new motivation for large corporations to acquire products and solutions that appeal to our ‘new normal.’”23
Finishing the year strong, the four months of 2021 saw 25 mergers, across suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers in the pet industry.24 This increase has continued into 2022, with deals like Mars purchasing fresh food company Nom Nom in January and Manna Pro acquiring Oxbow Animal Health.25 According to an interview with David Lummis of Packaged Facts, this high level of mergers and acquisitions activity will only continue to grow through the remainder of 2022.26
As Gen Z and Millennials take more of the market share, companies are pivoting to cater to their shopping habits. 70% of Millennials and 76% of Gen Z report they make purchases based on values like sustainability and environmental concerns.27
Pet product news predicts an increase in companies focusing on sustainable initiatives such as alternative ethically-sourced ingredients and alternative protein sources, based on the shift in consumer behavior during the pandemic.28
The Shift to Adoption
The number of households who choose to adopt a pet over purchasing one continues to rise. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 40% of owners reported that they adopted their pet rather than purchased, which is a substantial increase from the 27% reported in the 2017-2018 survey.29
In recent years, many states and municipalities have passed legislation to ban the sale of puppies in pet stores. California was one of the first states to pass a ban on retail pet sales in 2017 and was quickly joined by several other states and over 300 cities and municipalities across the country.30 This movement has shed light on the condition of dogs raised in puppy mills for the regular consumer, leading people to adopt pets that need a home from local shelters.
Trends in Dog Training
The overall approach to training has taken a turn in the past decade. Popular techniques of the past, such as aversion training and shock collars, are being replaced with the scientifically founded methodology of positive reinforcement. Time Magazine recently reported that those families and trainers using positive reinforcement report that the “less negativity they use in training, the more quickly their dogs learn.”31
Additionally, studies have shown that positive reinforcement has less negative effects on the stress levels of dogs. A recent study showed that dogs who were trained with averse training techniques, such as e-collars, displayed more stress-related behaviors and panting as opposed to dogs trained with positive reinforcement.32
Owner age plays a big role in the rising popularity of positive reinforcement, especially with Millennials and Gen Z pet ownership increasing. Dog owners, ages 55 and up, are more likely to report using averse training methods, while those in the younger demographics tend to favor positive reinforcement.33
Owners who attend a training class are much more likely to report that they use positive reinforcement training on their dogs then those who do not. 34
Summary: What this Means Today
Overall, the state of the pet industry continues to rise, as more people welcome pets into their family and as their spending on these pets increase. The continued growth of the Millennial and Gen Z market, the rise of the ‘petfluencer,’ and the growing number of purchase options available to consumers will only continue to drive this growth in the years to come.
At Zoom Room we believe it is important to stay abreast of our industry and its emerging patterns. This most recent report, based on data from 2017-2022, replaces our previous white paper on the topic. If you’re interested in viewing our older report, based on 2014-2018 data, you may view it here. You may also view our older 2014 Report.
- Better Cities for Pets. “Pets in a Pandemic – Better Cities for Pets.” bettercitiesforpets.com. Mars Petcare. https://www.bettercitiesforpets.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2020-Better-Cities-For-Pets-Report-Mars-Petcare-FINAL.pdf.
- Arenofsky, Janice. “The Pet Industry.” Sage Business Researcher. Feb 27, 2017. http://businessresearcher.sagepub.com/sbr-1863-102160-2772364/20170227/the-pet-industry
- Schmidt, Sarah. n.d. “The Top Trends in the U.S. Pet Industry, according to Experts.” Blog.marketresearch.com. https://blog.marketresearch.com/the-top-trends-in-the-u.s.-pet-industry-in-2022.
- American Pet Products Association. 2021. “Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics.” American Pet Products Association. 2021. https://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp.
- Bureau, US Census. n.d. “Spending on Pet Care Services Doubled in Last Decade.” The United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2020/02/spending-on-pet-care-services-doubled-in-last-decade.html.
- “APPA Releases Generational Report on Pet Ownership, Purchasing Trends | Pet Food Processing.” n.d. Www.petfoodprocessing.net. https://www.petfoodprocessing.net/articles/15660-appa-releases-generational-report-on-pet-ownership-purchasing-trends.
- Ameritrade. 2020. “Pets & Finances Survey. Examining Americans’ Financial Attitudes on Pet Ownership https://s2.q4cdn.com/437609071/files/doc_news/research/2020/pets-and-finances-survey.pdf
- Lexington Law. 2022. “60+ Statistics on Millennial Spending Habits in 2022.” February 12, 2022. https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/millennial-spending-habits.html.
- Special Reports Team. 2022. “Pet Ownership Stats – How Far Will Americans Go for Their Pets?” Www.veterinarians.org. April 21, 2022. https://www.veterinarians.org/pet-ownership-stats/.
- Sprinkle, David. 2022. “Greater Expectations: The New Generation Pet Parent.” Petfoodindustry.com. January 1, 2022. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/10873-greater-expectations-the-new-generation-pet-parent?v=preview.
- Intelligence, Insider. n.d. “US Influencer Marketing Spending Will Surpass $4 Billion in 2022.” Insider Intelligence. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/us-influencer-marketing-spending.
- “Inmar Intelligence Survey Finds 84 Percent of Shoppers Have Made a Purchase Based on an Influencer’s Recommendation | Inmar Inc.” n.d. Www.inmar.com. https://www.inmar.com/blog/press/inmar-intelligence-survey-finds-84-percent-shoppers-have-made-purchase-based-influencers.
- Beaton, Lindsay. “Social media and you: Yes, your customers are watching.” Trending: Pet Food (blog). PetFoodIndustry.com. June 30, 2020. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/blogs/9-trending-pet-food/post/9361-social-media-and-you-yes-your-customers-are-watching.
- Staff, Pet Product News. n.d. “Chewy Homes in on Premium Pet Foods with Champion and Other Brands.” PetProductNews.com. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://www.petproductnews.com/news/chewy-survey-finds-premium-pet-food-purchases-driven-by-health-obsessed-pet-owners/article_e759ad9c-90a6-11eb-b680-7f1f47e869e7.html.
- Veterinarians.org. op. cit.
- “Gen Z-Ers: Pet Ownership Redefined.” 2020. Segmanta. September 8, 2020. https://segmanta.com/blog/gen-z-ers-pet-ownership-redefined/.
- Levine, Glenn N., Karen Allen, Lynne T. Braun, Hayley E. Christian, Erika Friedmann, Kathryn A. Taubert, Sue Ann Thomas, Deborah L. Wells, and Richard A. Lange. 2013. “Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk.” Circulation 127 (23): 2353–63. https://doi.org/10.1161/cir.0b013e31829201e1.
- “Pet-Obsessed Humans and More Affectionate Dogs and Cats: New Report Looks at Pandemic Pet Ownership Two Years In.” n.d. Banfield Pet Hospital. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://www.banfield.com/about-banfield/newsroom/press-releases/2021/pet-obsessed-humans-and-more-affectionate-dogs-and-cats.
- Barcelos, A.M., Kargas, N., Maltby, J. et al. A framework for understanding how activities associated with dog ownership relate to human well-being. Sci Rep 10, 11363 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68446-9
- “PANDEMIC TAILWINDS and GROWTH POTENTIAL FUEL UNPRECEDENTED M&a ACTIVITY.” n.d. Accessed August 15, 2022. https://www.capstonepartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Capstone-Partners-Pet-Animal-Care-MA-Coverage-Report_March-2022.pdf.
- Lummis, David. 2022. “Why We Expect a Slew of New Pet Industry Mergers & Acquisitions in 2022.” PetProductNews.com. March 8, 2022. https://www.petproductnews.com/blog/why-we-expect-a-slew-of-new-pet-industry-mergers-acquisitions-in-2022/article_ec90686c-9f02-11ec-82f2-af4c4a4ab9f9.html.
- Kerwin, Nicole. 2022. “A Recap of Pet Industry M&a News Ending 2021 | Pet Food Processing.” www.petfoodprocessing.net. January 14, 2022. https://www.petfoodprocessing.net/articles/15422-a-recap-of-pet-industry-m-and-a-news-ending-2021.
- Palacios Rubio, David. 2022. “2021: A Hectic Year for Investors in the Pet Industry | GlobalPETS.” Globalpetindustry.com. January 25, 2022. https://globalpetindustry.com/article/2021-hectic-year-investors-pet-industry.
- Market Research. op. cit.
- “Gen Z Shoppers Demand Sustainable Retail.” 2020. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/160569/1.14.2020%20The%20State%20of%20Consumer%20Spending%20Gen%20Z%20Shoppers%20Demand%20Sustainable%20Retail.pdf.
- Pet Product News. op. cit.
- “Pets by the Numbers.” 2021. HumanePro. 2021. https://humanepro.org/page/pets-by-the-numbers.
- “Ending Retail Puppy Sales: Standing against Puppy Mill Cruelty.” n.d. ASPCA. Accessed July 17, 2022. https://www.aspca.org/improving-laws-animals/public-policy/ending-retail-puppy-sales-standing-against-puppy-mill-cruelty.
- Ross, Winston. “The new Science of Dog Training.” Time. Time Magazine, October 27, 2020. https://time.com/5880219/science-of-dog-training/.
- Vieira de Castro, Ana Catarina, Danielle Fuchs, Gabriela Munhoz Morello, Stefania Pastur, Liliana de Sousa, and I. Anna S. Olsson. 2020. “Does Training Method Matter? Evidence for the Negative Impact of Aversive-Based Methods on Companion Dog Welfare.” Edited by Carolyn J. Walsh. PLOS ONE 15 (12): e0225023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0225023.
- Woodward, Joshua L., Rachel A. Casey, Michelle S. Lord, Rachel H. Kinsman, Rosa E.P. Da Costa, Toby G. Knowles, Séverine Tasker, and Jane K. Murray. 2021. “Factors Influencing Owner-Reported Approaches to Training Dogs Enrolled in the Generation Pup Longitudinal Study.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 242 (September): 105404. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105404.