The world we live in is increasingly mobile, fast-pace, and reliant upon the technology that helps us with both our work and personal lives on a daily basis. As things get faster and demand for changes in the interactivity and sustainability of pet products grows stronger, manufacturers are doing what they can to keep up.
Because of this, we're seeing a few key changes in the way products are being designed, produced, and incorporated into the lives of both pets and their owners.
We're seeing pet food being held to a higher standard, leashes and collars finding new ways to make the pet wearing them stand out, and the sustainability of the product and the earth we all live in coming into play with pet product trends as we go into 2018.
Here's a quick summary of a few key product categories and the changes we predict to see throughout 2018. We expect to see these present throughout this year's major trade shows, Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo.
Natural/Organic Pet Food Stays Strong
Natural. Organic. Sustainable. Eco-Friendly. Limited Ingredient. Holistic. Premium.
These are a few of the keywords we're used to seeing litter-ing (see what I did there?) the aisles of Global Pet Expo, SuperZoo, and our own pet stores.
Natural and organic pet food doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. In fact, according to a report by GFK published by Pet Business Magazine, they made up 71% of nutritional pet food sales in 2017 alone.
However, independent pet stores shouldn't rely on this category to drive sales growth for the entire store. Because this category already makes up a large portion of the pet food market, it's likely that any additional momentum will be minimal. This brings up the question: what will the next major sales-growing nutritional trend be?
Pet Food Meal Kits and Online Sales
This year, the big e-commerce news seems to be Amazon's announcement of their push on pet industry growth in 2018. They're not the only company taking advantage of the convenience e-commerce provides pet owners.
Company such as Petplate, JustFoodForDogs, and Ollie are providing customized meal kits for pets. This trend is not only taking off for human food; like anything else, it's rubbing off on the pets as well.
Reports suggest that approximately one-fifth of pet owners are getting their pet food through e-commerce sales and home delivery.
Pet Food with Benefits
In a recent survey, 76% of dog owners and 71% of cat owners believe that high quality pet food is effective to prevent healthcare issues in their pets. We've seen this statement reflected in the continued rise of popularity in pet foods labeled as natural and organic, as mentioned above.
Yet, these premium pet foods aren't the only types of food and treats pet owners are looking for. There is also rising demand for function pet food and treats that provide preventative benefits driven by pet humanization.
These trends include probiotics, fruits and vegetables, glucosamine, and omega fatty acids, among others. Additionally, there's demand for ingredients "that positively influence the microbiome, like probiotics, prebiotic fibers and fermented ingredients to support digestive and immune health in pets."
Changes in Pet Food Proteins
Although poultry is still in high demand as a primary pet food protein, there's continued innovation around proteins that are more varied.
Pet food manufacturers are now producing varied pet food products including " varieties of single-proteins, proteins as the first ingredient, multiple proteins, and exotic proteins."
On-The-Go Pet Products
In the past, a leash is a leash and a collar is a collar. As long as they did the job they were designed to do, that's all that mattered. Now, with increasing competition and demands in personalization, it's no longer just about purchasing one collar to last a lifetime.
Like our own wardrobes, consumers are treating these accessories like fashion items - purchasing multiple colors and patterns for special occasions, Instagram photos, and simply as ways to further bond with their pets. We're seeing more variation in fabrics, colors, patterns, and even technological advancements to push the category to a whole new level.
“Whether it’s a weekend camping trip or a short afternoon hike, consumers are more frequently taking their pets on outdoor adventures and need gear that will keep up with an active lifestyle. Additionally, consumers are looking for trendy accessories that reflect their own personal style.”
A man puts his new collar and leash on his dog and walks him down to the local park to play. Once they arrive at the park, he reaches in his backpack and, instead of pulling out a ball or Frisbee, he pulls out a vase-shaped unit and places it on the grass.
Pressing a button, the unit comes to life and begins throwing a ball for the dog, while he sits close by, opens a book, and reads, keeping an eye on his dog as he plays with the new interactive dog toy.
Toys for cats and dogs are seeing some of the most innovation and technological advancements of any other pet product category. For cats, feathers and wine glass-shaped stuffed toys aren't the only thing dotting the aisles of pet shops. There are now also toys built with movement, sound, or light which is designed to help capture a cat's attention.
Getting cats and dogs out of the boredom of facing an eight-hour day alone is imperative to improving the bonds with our pets, even as we face busier and busier schedules. Toys are now designed using technology to improve interactivity and provide pets with more activity, higher levels of engagement, and things to do, no matter who is home throughout the day.
Eco-Friendly Pet Products
As millennials become the primary buying power in and outside of the pet industry, one trend grows stronger than ever: the demand of eco-friendly and sustainable pet products.
In the beginning, consumers began demanding products that were safer for pets (i.e. high quality pet food) and better for the environment. We're now at a point where the demand is growing beyond that, and consumers are asking for sustainable practices and issues regarding things like the waste produced during the manufacturing process.
Eco-friendly practices don't end there. Pet owners are concerned with how the products are made, the run-off caused by production, and finally what happens to the product once they're finished using it. Is it recyclable? Is there a way to reuse it?
These thoughts are increasingly running through consumers' minds as they shop for their pets, and those who address these concerns are likely to have a better chance of standing out from the crowd.
When everything is boiled down, there are a few major pet product trends that we're seeing as we head into the rest of 2018.
First of all, the humanization of pets is growing strong and consumers are continuing to treat their pets like children. This is being proven not only in the interactions they have with their pets, but also their purchasing behavior when it comes to buying the products.
Along with that, consumers are looking for more ways to interact and bond with their pets - even if they're not able to be at home with them as much as they'd like. Innovations in dog and cat toys, for example, make it possible for pets to stay engaged and get out of mundane routines.
However, that's not all that's driving consumer behavior. If a pet product manufacturer isn't being kind to the earth, then they may not last long in this landscape. Pet owners are increasingly aware of how producers are affecting the planet and are more inclined to purchase products from those who are doing everything they can to minimize that effect.
Finally, as technology grows cheaper and more mass produced, we're seeing it incorporated in many pet product categories, especially those which encourage interactivity. This will only continue to grow as things become even less expensive and more mass produced world-wide.