Future Looks Bright in Pet Industry

Generation Y loves its pets and is willing to spend on veterinary care, the American Pet Products Association reports.

Young adults show great interest in pet ownership, an American Pet Products Association survey found.

Cioli/I-5 Studio

In what appears to be encouraging news for veterinarians, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) has documented a sharp rise in the number of younger pet owners.

The Greenwich, Conn., organization’s 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey found that the majority of the 8 million new pet owners are members of generations X or Y—groups that began reaching adulthood in the past 30 years.

Overall, the number of pet-owning households in the United States is estimated at 79.7 million, a 50 percent rise over the past two decades. The total actually fell slightly over the past two years because of a decline in pet ownership by the older baby-boomer generation.

APPA President and CEO Bob Vetere previewed the soon-to-be-published survey last week during Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla. The latest data should hearten pet retailers, he said.

“This is really exciting, as the industry as a whole has been trying to engage Gen Y in pet ownership the way generations before them did,” Vetere said. “These numbers demonstrate huge potential for the industry to grow with up-and-coming, new pet owners.”

APPA estimated that nationwide spending on veterinary care should hit $15.73 billion in 2015, a 4.6 percent increase over 2014 spending. Much of the additional money will come from Generation Y pet owners—adults born in the 1980s and ’90s.

“This generation tends to pamper and spend more on their pets than their parents and grandparents,” APPA reported. “A Gen Y dog or cat owner spends more to purchase their pet, takes them to the vet more often, buys more toys, gifts and care items, and utilizes more services than Gen X, baby boomers and Builders.”

Generation Y pet owners enjoy their electronics.

“This generation also likes high-tech gadgets like pet cams and electronic health-monitoring collars, and convenience products to take their pets with them or care for them while they’re gone,” Vetere said. “This opens the door for innovation in products and services as well.”

The drop-off in baby-boomer pet owners did not surprise Vetere.

“We knew this was coming, as the generation that started the humanization and pampering of pets is aging,” Vetere said. “But what’s important to note is that this is only one number over 20 years and is by no means indicative of a trend. In fact, the growing incidence of pet owners among the younger generations is so encouraging, we are extremely optimistic about the future of pet ownership and the industry.”

Among other tidbits in the survey:

  • 74 percent of pet owners don’t hesitate to spend money on their pets, regardless of economic conditions.
  • 8 percent of pet owners can bring their animal to work.
  • 28 percent of dog owners have taken Rover to a pet-friendly hotel.

Vetere also announced that overall spending in the pet industry hit $58 billion in 2014 and should jump to $60.6 billion this year.

The breakdown for 2015:

  • Pet food: $23.04 billion
  • Veterinary care: $15.73 billion
  • Pet supplies and over-the-counter medications: $14.39 billion
  • Live animal purchases: $2.19 billion
  • Services such as pet grooming, boarding and training: $5.24 billion
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