Pet owners face a daunting task – choosing a food from a shelf packed with brands, features and options – with their pet’s health and well-being on the line. How can brands be empathetic to the stress of purchasing pet food, mitigate risk for consumers and stand out from the competition?
Pet Food Industry Magazine recently included Samantha Scantlebury, Signal Theory brand strategy director, in two articles: 2023 Pet Food Trends: Sustainability, Nutrition on Top and The Economics of Pet Food in 2023.
Here are Samantha’s full pet food trend predictions for 2023.
Trend 1: New brands will continue to enter the pet food and products space
Statista projects annual U.S. pet food sales will top $80 billion by 2027. That’s almost triple the sales volume seen 10 years prior.
“Brands are jumping into this space. However, pet food marketers have to be mindful of the impact more offerings and options have on the consumer experience,” cautions Scantlebury. “The amount of choice available means consumers have a lot to process. That can quickly lead to stress and being overwhelmed.”
Trend 2: Brands with strong reputations and emotional connections will win consumers
“Humans are hardwired to make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally,” says Scantlebury. “In a crowded pet food space, they’re cutting through the clutter by gravitating to brands to which they feel an emotional connection.”
Reputation also matters. In a Signal Theory survey of pet owners under the age of 45, 15% of Gen Z and 10% of all respondents ranked brand reputation as the most important factor in choosing a pet food.
“To cultivate that emotional connection and build trust, it’s important for brands to align with customer values and solve for their needs,” says Scantlebury. “Leverage stories about your customers, the passion of your people or your brand purpose.”
Trend 3: Pets are more than home companions – they are life companions
With pet owners so emotionally attached, it’s no surprise they consider their pets to be life companions. A recent Signal Theory survey found that in the next year, 39% of pet owners under the age of 45 plan to travel with their pet, and 36% plan to go to retailers where their pet is allowed inside.
Scantlebury notes, “Millennials and Gen Z pet owners are incorporating pets into their lives more deeply than generations before them. Brands have an opportunity to showcase pets and their owners living life together with their brand.”
Trend 4: Young pet owners offer an opportunity to build lifelong loyalty
Lifelong loyalty to pet food brands is formed in the early phase of pet ownership, especially among younger owners.
“Younger pet owners are stressed by the cost of food and medical care. Brands need to understand where their customers’ pain points are and develop ways to address them in their offerings, communications, promotions and policies,” says Scantlebury. “Brands that successfully accomplish this in the next five years as Gen Z is coming of age will reap long-term success with this important demographic.”
Trend 5: Pet owners will continue to seek food products that incorporate human diet facets and attributes
That includes alternative meat options, as flexitarianism impacts the pet food diet space. According to Signal Theory’s FoodThink 2020 research, 70% of people who identified as flexitarians said they are eating healthier than they were two years ago. Scantlebury told Pet Food Industry Magazine that alternative proteins are also becoming more popular in pet food products and diets.
“Brands will continue to invest in and develop food products that incorporate human diet facets and attributes, including alternative protein options. It’s no secret that people are looking for pet food attributes associated with human diets, including antioxidants and gut health-promoting ingredients.”