Total sales of pet food and litter have reportedly soared by 10.8%, equating to a rise of £45m, as pet ownership surged this year following the pandemic.
According to the latest ‘State of the Pet Nation’ report by Mars Petcare, this rise in ownership has led to a “rocketing demand” for pet food and treats formulated with natural ingredients and based on the diets of animals in the wild.
It added that these new trends can create “huge opportunities” for retailers to meet the “increasingly exacting needs of a new generation of pet parents”.
Mars Petcare’s latest research found that among the new generation of owners , the amount who said “animals are like children to them” almost doubled between 2016 and 2020, while the proportion who view their pets as family members but not children fell “significantly”.
The research also revealed that the number of dogs and cats in the UK surged by 7% year-on-year in 2020 as people in the UK sought pets for mental health benefits and companionship during lockdown. In addition, the number of puppies living in the UK almost tripled between 2016 and 2020, while kittens rose from 650,000 in 2016 to 1.3 million in 2020.
Mars Petcare’s second annual petcare category report, ‘Pet therapy: The retail opportunities of the pandemic pet boom’, found that in particular, the surge in pet ownership was driven by young urbanites, with 55% of new pet owners living in cities and a third aged under 40.
Its report found that this demographic was more likely to favour pedigree breeds of dogs, and particularly smaller ‘toy’ dog breeds, while the number of pedigree cats in the country has also surged. The number of Persian cats in Britain has more than tripled and Bengals are up 71%, for example.
Zoe Taphouse, Category and Market Activation director at Mars Petcare UK said: “Unprecedented growth in pet ownership and the shifting demographics of ownership are driving huge demand for specialist products that cater for animals’ specific needs and build closer bonds between owners and pets.
“The new generation of pet parents are spending more money on products that give animals optimum nutrition for the life stage they’re at. They’re giving pet food as much consideration as the food they eat themselves, and trends in human food & drink are being reflected in the category.”
She added that the greater number of puppies and kittens in the country, combined with the fact that smaller breeds of dog tend to live “considerably longer” than larger breeds, means petcare category growth is likely to be sustained in the long term.
She said: “The prospects for the category are extremely good. Not only do shoppers tend to shop petcare for considerably longer than other categories such as infant care, they also show a far greater propensity to trade up and try new things. With the right ranges and in-store marketing, our retail partners can look forward to a long period of growth.”