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Millennials Posing Problems For Well-Known Pet Food Brands
Jessica
12.17.18

Spending behavior changes with each generation, but Millennials are caught up in the fray yet again as big commercial pet food companies are reporting fewer sales in favor of premium brands.

Dog Food Insider
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Dog Food Insider

This generation, born between 1981 and 1996, has been accused of “killing” everything from marriage to department stores, and according to the Wall Street Journal, their next target in this killing spree is cheap, mass-produced pet food such as Mars’ Pedigree, Nestle’s Purina, and Smucker’s Gravy Train and Kibbles ‘n Bits.

Nielsen (the data company you may know from its television rating system), has reported that Americans’ annual household spending on pet food increased by 36% between 2007 and 2017. The average price of pet food had increased from $1.71/lb to $2.55/lb between 2011 and 2017.

Some have hypothesized that younger generations who wait longer to get married often start with pet ownership before they take on other big responsibilities.

Wikipedia
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Wikipedia

This, combined with the fact that people wait longer to have children these days, mean more Millennials are treating their pets as children. (Though we might wonder if that’s not a shift in older generations as well – we know many Baby Boomers who happily refer to animals as family.)

Part of this phenomenon of treating pets like family means wanting to feed them well. We now have more data on the long-term effects of pet nutrition too, so it could just be that people are able to make more informed decisions.

Dog Food Trends
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Dog Food Trends

Veterinarians are also increasingly recommending and selling more premium pet foods in their offices, which could be giving people more access to them.

Pet food recalls have also likely played a roll in the attention we pay to what we feed our furbabies, though these have occurred in both big and premium brands. (Here’s a newly updated list of recalls for those who want to take a look.)

Of course, some pet food (and drink) trends are pretty ridiculous. Take dog beer or cat wine, for example. These don’t contain alcohol, but are instead designed to allow pet owners to include their pets in happy hour. Pinot Meow, anyone?

Amazon
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Amazon

Even branding and packaging for pet foods have changed over time. People are no longer interested in the junk food-like cartoon packaging from years ago.

Shorpy
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Shorpy

Food bags and cans now feature more natural images, and text now highlights nutritional information.

Chewy.com
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Chewy.com

In other words, people now want their pets to have the same sort of quality food that humans eat.

Reddit
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Reddit

Concerns have increased about mass-produced factory pet foods and pet owners want to know what’s going into their animal’s diet. People are even cooking for their pets! Before you assume that’s a step do far, remember that consumer pets foods haven’t always been around – in the 19th century, animals ate scrap meat and carbohydrates leftover from family meals.

Before we lay the blame squarely on Millennials, it’s helpful to take a look back into pet history over the last 100 years. Historians remind us that pet food wasn’t sold until Great Depression, when people needed to cut back on their household meat purchases. These early canned foods often contained unsavory ingredients, such as horsemeat and other bits of animals that humans weren’t interested in.

The first major change in the quality and popularity of pet food came after World War II, when pets got their own aisles in the grocery store. That likely seemed ridiculous to earlier generations that insisted the supermarket was for humans.

Wikipedia
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Wikipedia

So perhaps the shift in pet food buying habits is just a natural evolution in shopping preferences and how we view our pets. But that likely won’t stop people from their favorite sport of blaming Millennials.

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By Jessica
hi@sbly.com
Jessica is a writer at Shareably.
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