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The pet industry is one which is formed almost entirely on our human instinct to protect, to love, and to seek companionship. And with global travel and experimentation bringing more exotic and worldwide pets to our attention, from birds to small mammals through to fish and new breeds of cat and dog, the industry around pets and all the accessories which come with them is slowly growing ever more expansive. This not only stretches to the pet and the things they personally need, but also the accessories which we as consumers decide to invest in to increase our interaction and engagement with our pets – for example pet holders and toys which can be found across both independent creator brands and big name pet retailers; all operating their own industry trends and deals in line with the stock they sell and the services they provide.
It’s the pinnacle of every household dream. Get married, have kids, get a dog – or a cat. Our relationship with having animals in the home has become one associated with the ideal family image: every television show centred on the perfect family will have some form of pet in there to bring it all to life. Pets give family members something to focus on other than themselves and each other, it instils some responsibility in children, and it provides a great excuse to get out and about for a daily walk (in the case of dogs). That’s not to say that the obsession with pets is all about aesthetics right across the world. In some areas, pets are there for protection – for example guard dogs.
However, when we look at the growth of the pet industry and start to break it down into various areas of focus, one of the leading factors for growth across the industry as a whole is the rise in pet humanisation and the idea that humans see their pets as companions and part of the family – leading consumers to ultimately spend more money and invest more time in their pets.
The growth of the pet industry
The pet industry does not start and end at the purchase of the pet itself. In fact, in many areas of the industry, a purchase does not happen at all – with the rise in rescue centres and animal homes driving more consumers towards rescuing an abandoned cat, dog or other pet animal from a shelter rather than paying a breeder for a kitten or a puppy. Much of this is down to social responsibility and the idea that the majority of consumers struggle to turn away from an animal in need – driving home the concept of protection and the idea that consumers bring pets into their home in order to protect them and provide them with a quality life.
From there, the ongoing touch points between pet owners and the pet industry include services, pet food, pet care, and pet accessories.
Of these industry sectors, pet food is one of the most influential and widely recognised primarily because there are so many different brands and retailers now stocking and promoting it – from everyday supermarkets to ecommerce brands, specialist pet stores, department stores and even garden centres and outdoor stores (depending on the pet). Where once supermarkets just stocked a few sachets of dog and cat food, now entire aisles are dedicated to food for pet birds, small mammals, fish, reptiles, poultry, dogs and cats and even insects. As the global demand for exotic pets has grown, so too has the presence of pet food specifically in everyday stores.
However, despite the unarguable rise in the pet industry, it is important to draw attention to the balancing act which is displayed on an annual basis by pet rescue centres and shelters, and the nationwide RSPCA charity which care for the welfare of pets and animals. Through campaigns such as “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” the pet industry is put under annual scrutiny by these organisations for making the process of buying or bringing a pet home far too easy – sometimes giving consumers the power to abuse the privilege and leave their pet without the care it needs and deserves. As such, campaigns like this on in particular encourage consumers to consider the lifelong commitment of owning a pet rather than the smiles on Christmas day when the gift of a pet is unwrapped – in an effort to ensure that the industry is only interacting with those really committed to owning a pet.
Top products in the pet industry
We have already looked at the wide variety of domestic and exotic pets which are gaining popularity and traction within the industry, as homeowners and individuals look to add a little extra life to their home through the more generic dogs, cats and hamsters; as well as the more unique with iguanas, snakes and parrots. And with this rise and widening of the pets found in the average pet industry, so the breadth of accessories, food products and extra products expands too.
In talking about products and how various products lines have developed in the pet industry, one of the biggest trends impacting various retails lines is the increased humanisation of pets, with consumers willing to spend more than ever on providing their pets with high quality and organic food; pushing them into various dietary patterns, investing more in treats which rewards their pets and keep them healthy, and spending more on toys and accessories which are high in quality and aesthetically pleasing.
Some of the top products in the pet industry, spanning across a range of pets from the domestic to the exotic, include:
- Food bowls and pet feeders
- Water dishes
- Bird cages
- Walking leads
- Pet beds
- Dental care toys and treats
- Pet collars and microchips
- Litter mats and litter trays
- Small mammal hutches and runs, e.g. for rabbits or guinea pigs
- Tanks for fish and reptiles
Another area of product growth in the industry is the rise in services being offered by retailers and independent businesses, with some examples being:
- Grooming services
- Etiquette and training classes (mainly for dogs)
- Temporary holiday care services (cattery, kennels, etc)
- Day care services
- Dog walking services
These services in particular represent a very specific trend which is becoming popular on a global scale – and that is the rise in small businesses and individuals looking to make a little extra money by setting up their own service line according to the above. The amount of money that consumers are willing to spend on the safety and wellbeing of their pets is rising year on year, creating a great space in the market for any local entrepreneur or small business looking to expand into pet services within their local community.
Top retailers in the pet industry
We have already ascertained how the acquiring of the pet itself may be unrelated to the retail sector, with many consumers looking to the rescue shelters and animal sanctuaries where all manner of pets are cared for before being presented to new owners. However for those who do decide to purchase a formally bred cat or dog, or purchase an exotic pet which has been bred, the top retailers tend to be pet specialist stores and independent breeders – both of which can often be tracked to their local areas through online searches on pet selling sites like UK Pets and Pets 4 Homes, as well as more generic selling sites like Gumtree.
With regards to pet specialist stores and the purchase of pet foods, accessories and other items, the top retailers tend to be either one of the nig name brands in the industry or else a small family run business which runs an industry franchise. Some of the biggest retail names in the industry include:
- Pet Planet
- Pets at Home
- Pet Supermarket
- Monster Pet Suppliers
- Pets Corner
As well as these specialist industry stores and retail names, many pet products including food and treats can also be found across everyday supermarkets, with Waitrose and online selling store Ocado going so far as to launch their own brand of pet products under the brand name Fetch, and Amazon featuring all manner of different branded products within their separate pet supplies section.
One of the distinct areas of growth in the pet industry is around the development and sale of specialist food products which guide pets and their owners towards a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Some of the brands making waves in this sector are drawing consumer attention to the quality of food available for pets, utilising the humanisation of pets as part of their marketing campaign to drive consumers towards spending more on the food they present to their pets. Some of the big names in this specialist pet food branding industry include:
- Lily’s Kitchen
- Specific Diets
- Bella and Duke
For captive consumers, this list showcases the industry spotlight on the dog food sector, with some brands like Lily’s Kitchen expanding into cat food while most simply stick with dogs. For the most part, this is because dogs are commonly regarded inside and outside the sector as the pets most in tune with their owners – they are referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, and they sit at the very top of every blog and list which details the most popular pets around the world. Not only that, but when it comes to food in particular, they are some of the fussiest pets to cater for and so all of these brands and many more besides are working within a sector of consumers who are committed to providing their dogs with the best quality of food possible.
Trends in the pet industry
We have already looked at the biggest trend in the pet industry – the increased humanisation of pets, particularly dogs, and how this is making waves in the way that consumers interact with the industry and the areas in which they spend their money.
And it isn’t just in the food and accessories that consumers are purchasing that humanisation of pets is taking hold. One of the leading trends associated with the rise in social media is the sheer number of pet accounts and animal profiles which now exist across image sharing platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Even on Twitter, consumers have created profiles for their pets, or generic profiles to share pictures of the cutest pets they come across, pulling on the human desire to see and pawn over cute pictures of baby animals and cute pets. Entire studies have been done by companies in the industry to ascertain the reach of these so called ‘petfluencers’, with one account of a small dog called ‘Jiffpom’ hitting 10.6 million followers on Instagram in 2020 – more than many human influencers who are making great profits from their large accounts. This online and social engagement of humans with pets and cute animals is a huge driving force in the prominence of the pet industry, with consumers using these accounts to connect with other animal fans, and with brands using these hugely influential accounts as a prime marketing and advertising space for their new products and pet accessories. Just as in the human influencer world, a well-placed photo of one of these global pets with a new toy or a new bag of food can be enough to drive sales through the roof.
Another trend which links with the humanisation of pets is the ways in which consumers are including them in annual festivities and daily activities – resulting in an increased demand for Christmas stockings and gift ideas for dogs and cats, dog-friendly pubs and restaurants, hotels and holiday destinations which allow dogs and cats into guest rooms, and even planes and other modes of transport which make allowances for pet travel and transportation. The simple fact is that consumers want to include their pets in more of their lives – and for those brands, retailers and services who follow suit and make this possible, the opportunity for growth is huge.