26 Aug, 2021 | 6 minutes
Never before has product innovation been this buoyant and this ambitious. We live in an era where $1 billion start-ups are coming thick and fast. Investors are increasingly attracted to the big, bold, and beautiful – and the more disruptive you can be the more investment you are likely to receive.
Pet Care is fast becoming a magnet for the big bucks as more of us adopt pets not just for company, but for the sake of our own mental health.
In today’s society, human companionship is more difficult to come by than pet companionship.
Mickey Chadha, VP of Moody’s Investors Service
In most western economies, it is the younger demographic that is driving category growth. In the U.K, under-35s account for 59% of new pet owners. It’s a similar story in the U.S, where Packaged Facts estimate that 54% of American households now own a pet – that’s 68 million households, with 94% made up of dog and cat owners.
Pets are becoming a replacement for children. They’re less expensive. You can get one even if you’re not ready to live with someone or get married, and they can still provide companionship.
Jean Twenge. Psychology Professor and author of ‘Generation Me.’
Like or loathe the expression, the emergence of the term ‘fur babies’ accurately reflects what pets mean to millennials. Such high levels of devotion are creating demand for luxury pet food, personalized pet wellness, tech enabled services and pet friendly spaces such as cafes and theme parks.
Whilst the ‘Covid spike’ that many categories have enjoyed is flattening – frozen foods, for example, investors are realizing that the boom in pet care is far from over. They conclude that pet care, like human wellness, will not only avoid recession but will most likely grow and grow. People are not going to pair back on the welfare of their pets, and the more attached people become, the more money they will spend.
Brands like Pooch & Mutt are well placed. They describe themselves as a health food company that just happens to make products consumed by dogs. Its products are developed with ‘top nutritionists’ and offer ‘positive and targeted nutrition’ to support joint and bone health. The company promises results in 3 weeks ‘or your money back.’
Similarly, brands offering owners the chance to treat or pamper their pets offer high growth prospects. A survey for MARS Pet Care recently reported that 57% of pet owners no longer need a reason to treat their pets – highlighting the emergence of deep-set emotional drivers.
Sniffe and Likkit offer grooming products for dogs that can be used either on-the-go or at home. The Woofpack uses a 100% natural aroma therapeutic scent alongside natural, active, and botanical ingredients that are vegan friendly, and pH balanced for dogs’ skin and fur. The range of products includes ‘Give a Dog a Cologne’, a fine fragrance-inspired perfume mist which has been specially formulated with a blend of natural aroma therapeutic essential oils, fur conditioning agents and botanical ingredients to “refresh fur fast”.
“The mention of pet strollers may still cause considerable eye rolling, but the pet hospitality market is poised for significant growth in the upcoming years.”
- WGSN. ‘Pets Over People’ report
Meanwhile, established players are not waiting around to be disrupted. MARS Pet Care has heavily invested in DNA tests that empower pet owners to better understand the health of their pets. Its wearable tech brand Whistle nudges pets and their owners to increase levels of physical exercise. And it has launched Kinship, a first-of-its-kind coalition dedicated to creating the future of pet care.
Indeed, ‘Pet Tech’ offers mind boggling possibilities. Consider a new white paper from Japan’s Science and Technology Ministry that predicts that virtual reality and automation will eventually allow owners to ‘talk’ to their pets, enabling much better understanding of our pets' needs and emotional states.
And available now, a Japanese company called Inupathy offers a harness that gives dog owners color-coded signals that represent the specific emotional state of their furry friends. The device is a padded clip-on harness that measures a dog’s heart rate and variations in the heart rate and is sensitive enough to take readings through thick fur.
The pandemic has left a trail of disruption, acceleration, and opportunity in its wake.
What becomes clear from consumer closeness and industry conversations, is that the pandemic has shifted mankind’s relationship with our animal companions. Already seen as part of the family, our four-legged friends have now become fundamental to our general well-being.
The new pet parent is predominantly younger, and many reports suggest many are finding the experience challenging.
As the category looks forward, reassurance needs to be a key brand objective. We know that Millennial pet parents are more predisposed to more natural, more sustainable innovation, but they also need to feel confident about their choices. And with so many new brand entrants, each telling a slightly different story, the pet care category can be a daunting place to navigate.
Creating products that offer reassuring user experiences across each and every touchpoint must be a priority. Any slip ups at any stage – such as pack opening and closure – could undermine everything.
Never before have our pets been more appreciated, more loved, and more vital to our well-being. And this elevated status is set to drive further ‘trading up’ across multiple sectors of the pet care category.
And because Fido can’t (yet) tell us how he is feeling, the human race will continue to overcompensate with actions and affection to ensure the very best for its treasured companions.
And this is where the value can be created.
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