The Future is Canine: A Look at Trends and Shifts in the Pet Care Industry
Since the pandemic, there has been a huge increase in pet ownership, with more than 70% of households owning a pet in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association. As a result of this rise in pet ownership, Americans in 2021 spent $123.6 billion on goods and services to keep their pets happy and healthy. Pet franchises present exceptional investment opportunities due to recession-resistant spending, increased demand, and unique price elasticity. These franchises blanket several distinct verticals, including dog training providers, daycare, and grooming services. As with any franchise, much of the appeal lies in the strength of a proven business model and the availability of unrivaled support for all aspects of business operations.
But to enter the pet sector, it is important to gauge and consider where these verticals are headed over the next few years. The pet industry is evolving to meet the needs of modern pet owners, resulting in a shift towards more specialized and convenient services.
Here are five interpretations of forward-looking trends, each focusing on one of the key verticals within pet franchise offerings, painting a picture of what the future holds for these goods and services as we enter the new year.
The Future of Dog Training is Positive and In Person
As American cities become more pet-friendly, consumers will recognize that a well-socialized dog is as important as the need for obedience training. While during the pandemic there was a brief flurry of interest in remote training, apps, and online videos, most people will realize that such experiences cannot compare to in-person group classes with other dogs and owners. Dogs rely on their sense of smell and exposure to novel cues to learn, so proper socialization can only flourish with in-person classes. As a result, remote dog training apps will become increasingly irrelevant in the coming years. In-person dog trainers will dominate the industry, as they can provide the best possible service for dogs and their owners.
The method of positive reinforcement training will also continue to shift to total dominance in the marketplace, being the only scientifically-established methodology. This embrace is especially evident in younger generations. In a recent study, only Americans over the age of 50 were still using force-based methods to train their dogs. This suggests that the future of dog training is moving towards more humane methods. National organizations will begin certifying trainers to validate that their methods are humane and do not use choke chains, shock collars, or aversive control, even when offered under the euphemism of so-called “balanced” training.
Pet Grooming Services Shift to Subscriptions
Although there are reports of “subscription saturation” among both Millennials and Gen Z, when it comes to the family pet, a greater number of Americans will appreciate subscription-based grooming and routine care services for their pets. There is a growing preference for subscription-based services, which offer convenience and predictability for busy pet owners.
Once pet owners get on a regular schedule, attending to periodic grooming and maintenance needs will be viewed as a worthwhile addition to the monthly household subscription costs. This growth will also be bolstered by an increasing awareness of the importance of pet wellness, which is driving demand for routine care services such as nail trimming, teeth cleaning, and ear cleaning as preventative care to avoid more serious health problems down the road.
The Future of Protein Innovation in Pet Food
As the world looks for more sustainable and environmentally-friendly protein sources, the pet food industry will likely be one of the first adopters of these novel protein sources. When it comes to pet food, as long as there is USDA and FDA approval and strong scientific studies demonstrating safety, pet owners will be much more likely to opt for new protein innovations and integrate them into their pets’ diets. Whether derived from insects, algae, lab-grown, or other sources, pet food will remain the front line for viable products reaching the marketplace.
Additionally, as we learn more about the gut microbiome and its connection to overall health, we will see pet food manufacturers reformulating their products to include probiotics, prebiotics, and other ingredients that support gut health.
Pet Retail Products Shift to Domestic
Big box and online retailers continue to compete for customers by offering lower prices, and many of the products they sell come from overseas markets. However, American consumers are gradually becoming more aware that the FDA does not evaluate these products for safety. At the same time, growing nationalist sentiments have also caused American pet owners to look for local pet product manufacturers. Supply chain issues and product inflation have also resulted in higher costs and unpredictable delays.
As a result, there will be a shift to a rise of smaller American companies that produce high-quality pet toys and treats, using locally-sourced ingredients and American labor to achieve high-quality control standards. In the past, such products had to fetch higher prices, but those barriers will vanish in the coming years, and American-made pet products will experience a significant rise in popularity and success.
Community Standards for Pets
With pet ownership becoming more extensive in America, laws and regulations concerning pets will become increasingly pervasive. More municipalities will pass legislation mandating more and better green spaces for residents to enjoy quality time with their pets, including parks with agility equipment and dog-walking trails. Hotels and other businesses will cater to pet owners with amenities such as pet-sitting and dog-walking services.
Since seasonality limits outdoor activities during parts of the year, more cities will relax zoning laws leading to a rise in dog-friendly businesses and residential complexes. More employers are recognizing that offering pet-friendly workplaces can help recruitment and retention. There will be a greater focus on responsible pet ownership, with more education on the importance of spaying and neutering, proper nutrition, and exercise. Some employers may even provide employee benefits in pet insurance and dog training to foster a peaceful bring-your-dog-to-work environment.
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