The Market is Barking: How Pets Are

Transforming into Noteworthy Consumers

Jonathan Kaplan
 
SOSA’s Corporate Innovation Team and Dog Dad to Lizi
Photo by Jenny Marvin

It’s no secret that people love pets, even ones that aren’t their own. If influencer dogs like Tika the Iggy (who has accrued 1M followers after going viral in just six months) weren’t enough to verify the social consensus, scientific studies show petting pets reduces cortisol levels (aka the “stress hormone”) and that pets make us overall happier. It might be one of the reasons why over 67%  of U.S. households (about 84.9 million homes) own a pet, a number that only increased in the pandemic.


Over 67% of U.S. households (about 84.9 million homes) own a pet, a number that only increased in the pandemic.

There’s been a decade-long cultural shift towards pets being regarded as family members and becoming consumers in their own right. But this trend has accelerated as more people stayed at home. Lockdowns had people searching for companionship, and when we couldn’t hug our loved ones, hugging a furry friend may have been the next best thing. It is estimated that in 2020, about 1 in 3 Americans (30%), adopted pets, particularly dogs, and it wasn’t rare to see headlines describing the shortage of pets in shelters. 

This creates interesting and long-term opportunities for the $100 billion pet industry. The increase in pet adoption in 2020 also means that more pets will have to be cared for over time. According to recent Morgan Stanley research, the industry is expected to nearly triple to $275 billion by 2030 due to “a surge in new owners, favorable demographics, and increased per-pet spending”. What’s more, the same research forecasts that the average annual household spending per pet could grow from $980 in 2020 to $1,292 by 2025 and expand further to $1,909 by 2030.


A studious Pomeranian on its Windows surface to book an on-demand dog walking appointment
Photo by Cookie the Pom

The pet market as a whole is barking loudly, and the tech space for pets is no exception. On-demand dog walking companies Wag (who have raised more than $360M to date) and Rover (SPAC valued at $1.3  billion) are only two of the pet tech companies leading investment rounds in the industry. Because of the wide-arching applications of hardware and software that can be built to solve a real need in both pet’s and pet owner’s lives, almost no opportunity for startups could be too far-fetched.

The (pet) industry is expected to nearly triple to $275 billion by 2030 due to “a surge in new owners, favorable demographics, and increased per-pet spending”.
A pup riding a blue skateboard and measuring his exercise with a wellness collar.
Photo by Alison Pang

The ability to create highly personalized products (thanks to machine learning and big data) is especially appealing to dog-parent consumers. These same dog-parent consumers (mostly millennials in the U.S.) are also ones that value compelling brand storytelling, enticing packaging, and seamless interfaces. As a result, pet tech companies who invest in attractive consumer-facing branding and a well-crafted user experience have grown exponentially in the past 5 years. Bondvet, for example, is an animal hospital offering both virtual and in-person meetings with their “compassionate vets”. As per their website, they are “on a mission to strengthen the human-animal bond through better pet care”. Their use of friendly visuals and passionate language cater precisely to the emotions of pet owners, who, when it comes to healthcare, may be understandably extra sensitive. However, some of the amplified anxiety surrounding healthcare may be relieved knowing they have pet insurance like ManyPets, which, if we might add, are also mastering the art of accessible and friendly language (not to mention some really good dog puns). But veterinary care is not the only type of healthcare dog owners are seeking. Preventative healthcare and wellness is garnering momentum as well. Fi, a “Fitbit” like collar for your dog, is designed to keep dogs in shape, know their locations, and build a community by adding your dog’s Instagram account (who knows, they may even be the next Tika). Of course, keeping in shape also has to do with diet - which looks fun to do with Sundays for Dogs, a dog food company with “cleaner ingredients, cleaner bowls,” a subscription option, and standout yellow cereal-like boxes. While we’re on the topic of fun and subscription, we must mention Bark Box, a curated monthly box of “toys, treats, and chews to thrill your dog.” Bark “want to make dogs as happy as they make us”, and that’s a statement we can get behind.

Black doodle playing with his tennis ball bought from a on demand pet subscription
Photo by Jake Oates
Pet tech companies who invest in attractive consumer-facing branding and a well-crafted user experience have grown exponentially in the past 5 years.

The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the growing world of pet tech. These products and technologies are built off solutions and trends for human consumers with often quick time-to-market. Shifts in consumer behavior for people (think fitness and wellness) end up finding a lucrative market for pets as well, which is why we’ll continue seeing innovations in this field. The paw-sibilites are nearly limitless.

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