Pet Products Are Looking a Lot More Like Their Human Counterparts

Owners are focusing more on their animals' health and well-being

Photo of a woman in a face mask holding a dog
Consumers are spending a lot more money on sustainable, natural products to ensure the health and well-being of their animals. Courtesy of Goodboy
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Sweet potato fry chews for dogs, freeze-dried minnows for cats and compostable waste bags are among the products in a new line of sustainable goods for pets from DTC brand Public Goods.

A generation ago, these premium pet products might have been laughed off as excessive, but they are de rigueur as attitudes toward pets have changed. Consumers are more likely to refer to themselves as pet parents instead of owners, for example, and they’re spending a lot more money on sustainable, natural products to ensure the health and well-being of their animals.

Brands like Public Goods are at the ready to meet the elevated needs of these pet parents with specialized products, subscription services and content. And according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans shelled out nearly $96 billion on their pets last year, which is a far cry from the $21 billion spent in 1996.

Goodboy, a startup offering premium supplements, helps pet parents be more proactive about canine health. After launching in December 2019, co-founder and CEO Kari Sapp said 70% of Goodboy customers are now enrolled in its subscription service. But purchases of single products—which were enabled in August—are growing, driving repeat purchases, add-ons and conversions to subscriptions.

According to Sapp, the brand markets mostly through digital channels to capture the attention of consumers still staying at or close to home, but has an activation planned in New York this fall. Goodboy also plans to roll out matching dog bandana and face mask designs and a canine supplement holiday advent calendar.

This trend dates back to the 1990s, with the rise of premium pet food and other products geared toward more affluent consumers, according to Steve King, CEO of APPA. He said brands such as Iams and Hill’s Science Diet were the main drivers, but Purina also introduced its Pro Plan line around that time.

“These were all premium products with better ingredients backed by nutritional science,” he said. “They were sold in specialty pet stores and not in grocery stores where inexpensive brands predominated.”

Now, consumers increasingly see their pets as human family members, so the rise in premium pet products also parallels consumer trends toward wellness as owners treat their animals like themselves.

This is seen particularly with cannabis marketing, which isn’t just allotted for humans. DTC brand Honest Paws offers premium CBD oils, bites and chews for pets, including a calming peanut butter. It helps pet parents address issues like anxiety, mobility, relief and overall wellness, and the firm is planning to roll out a prebiotic in October. Honest Paws says its CBD is organic, non-GMO, soy-free and lab-tested.

“Our customers are extremely dedicated pet parents that don’t mind paying a premium for all-natural, organic products,” said co-founder and head of content Chelsea Rivera.

Founded in 2018, the brand boasts more than 230,000 email recipients and more than 240,000 visitors to its website over the last month. Rivera said Honest Paws uses content, email and social media marketing to engage existing customers and acquires new business primarily through organic search and paid advertising.

Health-conscious parents can also find wearables to track dog activity and sleep while stylish owners can find furniture that mirror their own décor, which further reflects how pets have become an integral part of consumers’ lives, said Orlena Yeung, vp of marketing at pet ecommerce platform Chewy.


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This story first appeared in the Sept. 21, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.
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