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How Millennials Are the Future of Pet Food Spending

The millennial generation has overtaken baby boomers as the largest pet-owning demographic in the U.S.

Millennials, who reached young adulthood around the year 2000, have proven themselves a generation of pet lovers. The 43 million pet owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age group now make up around one in every three pet owners in America. And they’re prepared to spend big on their pets. Millennial consumers spent a total of $10.6 billion on their pets in 2014 alone.  

The pet food industry is turning a corner. Pet food companies simply can’t afford to stick to what’s worked for baby boomers when it comes to selling pet food. In order to market to millennials, it’s vital to understand their values and why they buy the things they do.  

What values do millennials hold? And what are the new trends in pet food spending?

Despite having high levels of debt and lower disposable incomes than their baby boomer counterparts, millennials are more likely to purchase high-end pet food. This trend appears to be an extension of the way they’re becoming more health-conscious when feeding themselves. Think holistic, organic, gluten free and free range.  

Anxiety about the health of their pets, fueled in part by the pet food recalls of 2007, has driven many millennials to seek out foods that claim to enhance the health of their pets. In order to meet this demand, pet food companies have introduced new lines with names such as “premium” and “superpremium.” These products focus on the latest health trends such as raw food and grain-free diets, and use trendy ingredients like kale and sweet potato.  

Millennials also are delaying traditional life milestones, and 71 percent of millennials agree that owning a pet is a good way to prepare for having a family. Viewed in this light, it’s apparent that pets play the role of surrogate children for many millennials. Pet foods are being developed that appeal to the desire to pamper pets, with high-end snacks and “gourmet” pet foods increasing in popularity.  

How can pet food companies connect with the millennial market?  

The desire to pamper pets and the trend for healthful, high-end foods are core to the motivations that drive millennials to purchase pet food.

Companies should continue to develop products that cater to those trends. But they also need to be aware that millennials shop differently than other generations of pet owners.  

Ninety percent of millennials are active on social media, and a third of those say it’s one of their preferred channels for communicating with businesses. In order to sell to the booming millennial market, it makes sense for pet food companies to invest the time and resources necessary to maximize their social media and online presence.  

It’s also important to recognize that the messaging that resonates with millennials is very specific, and can vary from product to product. Because of this, it’s crucial that pet food companies conduct high-quality market research that uncovers how millennials view their brand and product. This information can help companies discover the best strategies to communicate effectively through their marketing.


Richard Rowlands is a writer and marketer for the pet industry, and a keen pet enthusiast. He works with pet businesses to improve their marketing and increase profits. To find out more, please visit his website 


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