So long kibble: Pet owners are prioritizing fresh, healthy pet food ingredients

Our new research shows that pet owners are choosing healthy pet food ingredients, and they're relying on product reviews to make decisions. This online consumer data is vital in helping pet product brands make decisions.

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households have a pet as part of the family, including 20% of those that added a cat or dog since the beginning of the pandemic (approximately 23 million households). This brings a lot of new shoppers to the table, representing an estimated spending power of $110 billion all together. We were curious about what this majority is looking for when it comes to feeding and pampering their pets.

We recently conducted a survey among American pet purchase decision-makers to explore some of the trends in the space. What we uncovered was that many pet owners are making the health of their furry friends a priority, indicated by reported shopping habits. 

In fact, we found that 63% of those who have recently switched food brands, have chosen fresh products (e.g. refrigerated or frozen) as a healthier option for their pets. In addition, many are seeking grain-free options. This is a significant portion of the pet-owning population, and could provide opportunities for many traditional kibble brands to expand their offerings. Individuals are seeking to solve health or dietary problems for their pets, or contribute to helping pets live a longer life by these changes in food type.

How do they make these choices? Our research showed that a statistically significant amount (18% vs. 5%) of fresh food purchasers rely heavily on recommendations before making a purchase decision. This isn’t surprising. In fact, other studies have found that 83% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family and friends. Today, as consumer activities move more and more online, 93% say that online reviews, essentially a form of peer recommendation, influence their final decisions.

Processing the vast amount of data contained in online conversations and reviews, where many customers may be making critical purchase decisions, is essential for brands. We’ve covered the importance of this before, illustrating how marrying essential market research data with online product reviews can help boost understanding.

The trick is bringing together the vast amount of unstructured review data that’s out there - from customer review sites, eCommerce sites, a company’s own platforms, and more - together for processing and analysis. Harmoni, for example, was built for this kind of input, making it easy to gain customer insight on pet owners from pet product review data. It immediately connects variables from multiple levels and data sources, bringing the most relevant results to the surface fast, so pet product companies can make informed decisions.  

With the rapid expansion of the pet-owning population over the past few months, the demographics are shifting. Keeping track of the intricacies of this audience is important for pet food brands to stay ahead of new demands and create offerings that resonate with pet owners. 

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