Millennialization and the Pet Industry


With all the talk about Millennials over the past several years, it may seem impossible that pet industry prognosticators could have underestimated the impact that these consumers have had—and will continue to have—on our marketplace. Yet, that just might be the case, according to one presentation at last month’s Pet Industry Leadership Conference (PILC).

Delivered by Nathan Richter, partner at Wakefield Research, a Washington, D.C.-based market research firm, the presentation focused on a number of trends among Millennial pet owners and how they are potentially impacting purchasing decisions among this expanding customer base. Of course, much of the ground covered can almost be classified as common knowledge at this point. For example, it probably comes as no surprise that most Millennials see pet ownership as practice for starting a family and often equate caring for their animals with childcare. This, of course, is reflected in their shopping habits, which typically favor products like natural/organic foods, BPA-free toys, humane training tools and hypoallergenic grooming supplies. 

This information would have been useful—even if not necessarily groundbreaking—had Richter stopped there. But more interesting was that he went on to note that these trends are affecting Baby Boomers through a process he called "Millennialization"—a phenomenon he said is having a measurable impact on the older generation’s shopping habits. Here are just a few of the trends that Richter says can be attributed to Millennialization over the past few years:


  • 86 percent of Baby Boomers feel it is essential that pet foods be natural (versus 74 percent in 2014);
  • 69 percent of Baby Boomers favor BPA-free products for their pets (versus 56 percent in 2014); and
  • 65 percent of Baby Boomers actively look for the term "hypoallergenic" when evaluating a pet product (versus 40 percent in 2014).

The numbers are pretty significant, but I’m still not sure that all of these trends—or any of them, for that matter—can really be directly connected to the influence of the Millennial generation. In fact, I think it’s much more likely that all consumers, regardless of their demographic profile, are simply becoming more educated on what it means to provide the best possible care for their pets and aware of their expanding options in delivering that care. 

Ultimately, it is independent retailers, not Millennialization, we have to thank for this evolution in pet owner attitudes. They are on the front lines, providing that valuable education and delivering innovation on their shelves, to the benefit of everyone in the industry and, more importantly, pets.