The pet food industry has been noticing significant changes in the shopping behaviors of consumers. This is primarily because their consumer demographic is rapidly transitioning from Baby Boomers and Gen X to Millennials and Gen Z. According to Packaged Facts, the pet food industry is finding it challenging to find a balance between appealing to the values of Millennials and their younger counterparts, Gen Z.
Pets are considered to be family members by Millennial consumers who regularly mark the birthdays of their pets, take them shopping and include them in holiday celebrations. This means that Millennials have set the same standards for pet food products as they have for their own food products. In addition, Packaged Facts found that Millennial pet owners that have a household income of $75,000 or higher are more than twice as likely to spend $50 or more on pet products every 30 days, compared to other demographics.
However, with the Gen Z demographic entering adulthood in their late teens and early 20s, the pet food industry needs to consider their values as well.
“The future of the pet industry in America lies not only with Millennial pet owners but in the hands of their younger counterparts in Gen Z, who are just entering adulthood. These demographics are critical to the bottom line of pet product and service marketers because the vanguard of the Boomer generation is reaching the age when pet ownership enters steep decline,” wrote Dr. Robert Brown and Ruth Washton, Market Research Analysts at Packaged Facts.
According to the market research firm, Gen Z consumers have similar values when compared to Millennials but they seem to be more critical when it comes to trusting brands. Considering the fact that these young consumers have been brought up in a digital age, they are familiar with sensationalism and the concept of “fake news.” In addition, a recent IBM study found Gen Z consumers to be able to identify misdirection quickly when it comes to the marketing tactics of companies. This means that companies need to try harder when it comes to gaining the trust of these consumers.
Results from Packaged Facts’ recent National Pet Owner Survey finds that Gen Z consumers are less likely to trust the quality of big brand pet food products when compared to Millennials (48 percent vs. 58 percent). However, both demographics have been found to trust smaller, local or family-owned pet food companies. This is because both Millennials and Gen Z consumers believe that small businesses are more honest and transparent when compared to leading brands.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Millennials and Gen Z consumers is their take on natural and organic pet foods. According to Packaged Facts, Gen Z consumers are less likely to trust the natural and organic claims of pet food companies than Millennials. This is because Gen Z does not place as much importance on organic and natural foods as Millennials do. The survey found 59 percent of Gen Z consumers believe natural/organic products are safer or better, whereas 75 percent of Millennials stand behind natural/organic product safety and 73 percent believe such products are better.
“The data supports an overall conclusion that many Gen Z pet owners believe that claims made by natural/organic pet product marketers are no more trustworthy than those made by marketers of general-market pet products,” wrote Brown and Washton.
Brown and Washton indicate that transparency is key when marketing to this changing demographic. While Millennials appreciate natural/organic ingredients and ethical production techniques, Gen Z appreciates proof of these qualities. If pet food companies want to stay ahead of the game, they need to find better ways to prove their clean manufacturing processes than just putting it on the label. A good way for pet food companies to do this is by interacting with consumers online and producing videos of how they manufacture their products.
With the US pet food market valued at $24.60 billion in 2016 and expected to grow at a CAGR of above 3.36 percent to reach over $30 billion in 2022, pet food companies have a huge potential for growth. By investing in ethical and natural/organic pet food production techniques and proving such measures, pet food companies are likely to gain the trust of both Millennial and Gen Z demographics.
“In the era of ‘fake news’ and a loss of trust in corporate and political institutions, brands need to be honest and transparent about who they are and what they offer to constantly prove themselves trustworthy to this critical audience of 70 million,” said Darren Ross, Columnist at Media Post.