What Do Pet Owners Want Next?

The pet industry is one of our favorites, and not just because most of us at IMC have pets of our own.  We think it offers some of the most exciting growth opportunities for brand licensing and partnerships.  In this blog I’ll share some of our freshest insights on new pet opportunities.

Why do we like the pet industry so much?  Even in this five-year recession it has shown steady growth (it now stands at or above $50 billion)

  • While other industries consolidate their retail options for distribution, the pet industry has maintained a strong diversity of retailers, including a healthy independent big-box sector (PetSmart and Petco).  It is even strong enough to launch another channel of distribution, with Amazon planning its own major entry into this space soon.
  • At IMC we’ve always been active in this space, having closed one of the largest pet accessories deals in history, for the Milk-Bone brand almost 10 years ago.   We recently closed the deal that led Nestle Purina’s launch of Tidy Cats kitty litter with Glade and are working on a host of other offerings.
  • It features a large number of strong brands and partners.  We’ve recently closed several deals with one of our favorites, Fetch…for Pets.

Because we like this space so much, we’re always trying to figure out what the next big pet product opportunities will be.   Recently that meant launching a survey with our digital media division, Vibrant Nation, and asking some of the most devoted pet owners in the country – women 45+ – what they want next.  And here is some of what they told us:

Travel Solutions

Over half of our survey respondents told us that they travel with their pets (an average of three times per year).  And they are looking for products that make it easier to do so – easier on them and easier on their pet.  That means more portable watering products; car seats that make it more comfortable for their aging pets (and give them a better view); cleaning products to manage odors and mess from a traveling pet; and storage solutions that make it easier to bring their pet (and their pets’ food and other baggage) along.  You’ll see an example of this trend at PetSmart, which just extended its Martha Stewart line to a “Camp Martha” concept, offering outdoor camping and travel solutions for pets and their owners.

And the pet owners who don’t travel with their pets still worry about them.  They need reliable pet-sitting and –boarding options, but also look to technology for solutions; 14% said they would invest in electronic pet monitoring to observe their pets while they are at work or on the road.

Better Nutrition

Pet owners are rapidly upgrading the food they offer their pets.  That doesn’t just mean offering their animals fresh “people” food (although it can, and many more pets will start getting their meals from Whole Foods).  It does mean moving up the value chain of pet-food offerings.  Almost everyone is looking for new ways to get vegetables into their pet food – a desire that presents opportunities for all kinds of brands.  And our respondents displayed a rapid transfer of brand loyalty in this space, with a huge number of respondents naming Blue Buffalo (and independent upstart) as their favorite brand of pet food.

And remember that nutrition doesn’t just mean food.  A surprising 32% of our survey respondents said that they would be interested in buying water filtration devices and dispensers for their pets.

Health Solutions

Pet Owners are always concerned about the health of their pets, but this trend will continue to grow as pet healthcare options grow.  While there are a number of pet health insurance offerings, there appears to be room for more.  Only 8% of our survey respondents reported having pet insurance (and that’s eight times the national average), but 48% said that they are increasingly concerned about the cost of pet healthcare.  There are clearly more insurance opportunities for pet brands and service providers – and better ways to sell those products to consumers.

The pattern of human trends transferring to pet needs will continue to grow.  In healthcare that means more arthritis medications being formulated for pet use.

Beyond healthcare it means looking for more beauty brands (like Burt’s Bees, which just launched a pet deal), baby brands, and natural brands in the pet aisle – where you’ll probably run into IMC as well.

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