Pet ownership in the U.S. is trending younger and younger. The 57 million pet owners under age 40 account for 41 percent of all pet owning adults in the United States. In the past decade gen Z (18- to 24-year-olds) and millennials (25- to 39-year-olds) accounted for more than half of the growth in the pet owner population, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the new report Gen Z and Millennials as Pet Market Consumers: Dogs, Cats, Other Pets.
"Adult pet owners under age 40 are as much the present as they are the future of the industry," said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "These younger generations of pet market consumers are critical to the bottom line of pet product and service marketers because the vanguard of the baby boomer generation is reaching the age when pet ownership declines sharply. Moreover, Boomers will be succeeded by members of Gen X, who spend heavily on pet products and services but are a relatively small population cohort."
As to be expected, gen Z and millennial pet owners are influencing the pet industry in unique ways that are quite different when compared to the practices and preferences of their parents and grandparents. Though there are also distinctions between the two younger cohorts, Packaged Facts found that generally both gen Z and millennial pet owners:
Trust in brand integrity and smaller pet product companies
Compared to gen X and boomer pet owners, gen Z and millennial pet owners are more likely to trust products offered by smaller companies such as regional or family-owned companies or smaller natural/organic product companies. However, smaller marketers need to be prepared with something more compelling than a run-of-the mill message if they are to reach out successfully to these young pet owners, according to Packaged Facts officials.
Rely heavily on vet guidance for pet product purchases
Pet owners in the 18- to 39-year-old age group are far more likely than their older counterparts to depend on their veterinarian for advice about a wide range of pet products. For example, compared to 55- to 74-year-old dog owners, dog owners in the 18- to 39-year-old age group are more likely to seek out the opinion of their veterinarians regarding dog foods and dog treats. They are more than three times as likely to have purchased dog foods from a veterinarian in the past three months, according to the Packaged Facts report.
Show interest in veterinary services in non-traditional venues
Veterinary service providers will find growth opportunities among gen Z and millennial dog owners by expanding veterinarian services in non-traditional settings. Dog owners in the 18- to 39-year-old age group express greater interest than their older counterparts in having a vet visit their home to provide routine dog health services or having a veterinarian visit their work place to provide routine dog health services. A similar pattern holds for gen Z and mllennial cat owners.
Have an eclectic menagerie of pet types
Gen Z and millennial pet owners make up a disproportionate share of owners of birds, fish, reptiles or rabbits or hamsters. As a result, gen Z and millennial pet owners are prime targets for marketers of items such as reptile habitats, bird cages and stands and aquariums.
In regards to the differences that do exist between gen Z and millennial pet owners, most appear to be related to the fact that many adult gen Z pet owners are barely out of their adolescence or teen years. For example, gen Z pet owners have more fun with their pets in that they are more likely to make their pets part of their Halloween festivities or buy their pets special pet foods or treats on their birthdays. Meanwhile, millennials focus more on the health of their pets. For example, they are much more likely than gen Z pet owners to be concerned about their pets having food allergies or intolerances.