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Pet Food Continues to Top Industry Spending Figures


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Pet care spending in 2018 reached a record-breaking high of $72.56 billion compared to $69.51 billion in 2017, an increase of over 4 percent, reported Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), during Global Pet Expo, which was held March 20-22 in Orlando, Fla. 

The annual pet products trade show is presented by APPA and the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA).

APPA's annual industry figures cover pet spending in the market categories of food, supplies/over-the-counter (OTC) medications, veterinary care, live animal purchases and other services.      

"Millennials continue to be the largest pet-owning demographic and this shows in the data," Vetere said. "We know this generation is willing to pay more for quality products and services to improve the health and well-being of their pets. Today more than ever, pet owners view their pets as irreplaceable members of their families and lives, and it's thanks to this that we continue to see such incredible growth within the pet care community." 

Spending on pet food continues to make up the majority of dollars spent in the industry, with premium dog food accounting for the most frequent type of food purchased, followed by generic and natural food. In 2018, spending on pet food reached $30.32 billion. Rather than a higher volume of food being sold, the ongoing growth in this category likely stems from rising prices and sales of higher-priced foods made with quality ingredients. An interest in natural, locally-sourced treats and chews has never been higher across U.S. pet owners.

"In the coming year, we anticipate steady growth in the pet food category thanks to opportunities that reside in specialized diets, targeting the aging pet population and pets with unique dietary needs," Vetere said. "The availability of fresh food options and subscription delivery programs is also expected to increase spending in this category."

Coming in at $18.11 billion, veterinary care remains the second highest source of spending in the pet care community, surpassing growth in any other category at a rate of 6.1 percent. The frequency of vet visits has likely increased as well thanks to lower prices, making care more accessible to a broader audience, according to APPA. As a result, the trend of pet insurance is projected to increase with pets living longer and requiring more complex and extended medical care.  

"Scientific research from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) shows that the bond formed between people and their pets yields valid health benefits to both pets and their owners," Vetere said. "It's a partnership; if you take care of your pets' health, they're going to take care of yours." 

Following veterinary care, spending on supplies and OTC medications holds the spot for the third highest source of pet spending. Up 6 percent from 2017, $16.01 billion was spent on items such as beds, collars, leashes, toys, travel items, clothing, food and water bowls, pet tech products and other accessories. The use of pet meds and supplements to ensure longer, healthier lives for pets continues to increase. In addition, pet owners are more likely to use digital devices and technology compared to nonpet owners, which explains the rise in popularity of pet technology products.     

Pet services outside of healthcare including services such as grooming, boarding, walking, training, pet sitting and yard services saw a slight decrease, dropping 0.8 percent. Increased competition in this category has driven providers to lower prices and offer deals.

The live animal purchases category experienced a 4.3 percent decline compared to the year before. Contributing $2.01 billion in 2018, this category makes up the smallest area of total pet industry spend. Acquisition of dogs varies by generation with more millennials turning to shelters and rescues, while baby boomers and Gen Xers look more to breeders, according to APPA. However, millennials purchase pets at an independent pet store three times more often than boomers or Gen Xers.         

"People across generations are keeping their pets longer, thus reducing the acquisition of new pets," Vetere said. "However, with spending on our pets higher than ever before, it's clear that giving pets the best lives possible is still a top priority for pet owners, and they're willing to spend more on the quality products and services they consume if it means more quality time with their beloved companions."

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