That’s Doggone Impressive

In 2016, pet industry spending increased by $6 billion to reach a new all-time high.



At Global Pet Expo this year, I stood in front of an eager room full of media anxious to hear about the state of this industry that we all are so devoted to. Each year, announcing the industry spending figures is something I do with great pride, and I hope it gives others the same excitement and optimism it gives me. 

This year, I was happy to announce that pet industry spending in the U.S. came in at $66.75 billion, up more than $6 billion from 2015. That’s huge—so huge, in fact, that it brings us to our highest recorded industry figure to date and the highest percentage growth year over year. 

Pet food spending remained the highest source of spending, at $28.23 billion—up an impressive 22.5 percent from the previous year. In addition, this year we looked at new information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which gave us even better insight on pet food spending in the U.S. than we’ve ever had before. What it told us is that while we’ve always known the biggest source of dollars within the industry is attributed to pet food, we’ve most likely underestimated it in years past. Keeping up with past trends though, it is expected for that figure to continue to rise, reaching $29.69 billion in 2017. 

So what is driving this growth? One key factor we know for sure is the desire to treat our pets like part of the family. Yes, we’ve been saying this for a while now, but never before has the data backing this assertion been so strong. 

At this year’s Global Pet Expo, we also announced the results of our bi-annual National Pet Owners Survey. The 2017/2018 edition of the survey included really interesting and impactful new statistics. For example, 71 percent of pet owners feel that pets bring their family closer together; 85 percent say pets are a good source of affection; more than 80 percent say they’re aware of the health benefits of pets and that they help them relax; and 81 percent of pet owners feel unconditional love for their pet. 

These numbers are averaged across all pet types, so we’re not just talking about how dog owners feel or how cat owners feel. People are experiencing that emotional connection, love and affection with their horses, their birds, their reptiles, their small animals and even fish. With emotional statements such as these, it’s no wonder we’re seeing increased spending on pets. 

And just who is this demographic of pet owners, spending on their pets? For the first time, the Millennial generation has officially taken the reins as the primary demographic of pet owners. Now, Millennials account for 37 percent of pet owners, up from 24 percent as reported in the last survey. This is something we as an industry have been anticipating and preparing for, as we knew this time would eventually come. Now that it’s officially here, we need to put our best paws forward. That means we need to adapt, evolve, remain innovative and stay current. This is a generation that thankfully feels very strongly about their pets, but the ways in which they show their affection may differ from other generations. 

Even with all of this good news, in order to keep the industry strong and thriving, we must ensure the availability of responsibly bred and humanely raised pets for all generations. As we provide for those who currently own pets, it is important that we not only stay current, but continue to anticipate our future as well. With live animal purchases decreasing, it is more important than ever that we continue to support each other; including responsible pet breeders, responsible manufacturers and responsible pet stores and service providers. We must continue to show our nation’s pet owners that we care about their pets as much as they do.

Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and chairman of the Pet Leadership Council. Do you have questions about how to get involved? Contact Vetere ( or other members of the Pet Leadership Council, or visit


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