Barking Up The Right Tree?

What online consumer conversations can tell us about the rapidly growing pet marketplace

How much do Americans love their pets? Enough for them to spend $751 million on pets for Valentine’s Day this year. If you thought that was a lot, you’re in for a surprise; it’s a 26 percent increase from last year’s $593 million.

It’s no wonder that General Mills decided to pay a 17% premium to buy pet food company Blue Buffalo for $8 billion to make an ambitious foray into the growing pet food category.

The proof is in the numbers — The American Pet Product Association estimated that people spent $69.36 billion will be spent on pets in 2017. But why is it garnering interest from good giants like General Mills now? Firstly, the market is large enough that it can’t  be ignored and secondly, as sales of  traditional packaged foods slow, brands are looking for greener pastures.

But how do brands know where to look for opportunities? What trends are worth pursuing? And which investments will pay off? Industry trends follow the trajectory of evolving consumer preferences and demands. And luckily for brands, consumers volunteer that information on social media through reviews, recommendations, and in general conversing about the topic.

In this post, we trace the growth of pet care goods by looking at:

  • The pet care conversation online
  • Growth of subscription boxes
  • The changing market for pet care products

Woof and cry

Consumer conversations on social media are  great predictors of new trends. Turning these nuggets of social chatter into insights helps a brand succeed and be in tune with evolving demands.

Whether it’s a new diet fad for people or their pets, social media is where audiences flock to rave about, review and recommend products. On social, the pet goods conversation has been going strong. As we can see from the chart below, the discussion that hovered around 50k posts in 2010 and soared to over 500k in the following seven years.

 

Conversation volume however is only one metric that measures a trend — specific discussion topics get to the meat of the discussion. When we looked at conversation topics in the pet food discussion, we found that most people discuss different types of cat food. People discuss cat food prices, brands, food recalls and pet anecdotes about food.

Care package for pets?

We know that the pet food conversation on social is soaring but is it all just talk? Or are consumers actually contributing to market growth as well? In the pet care category, they definitely are.

Subscription boxes have been all the rage in retail. In just a few years the subscription economy has rapidly emerged as one of the fastest-growing retail segments, and nimble entrants have cropped up in every corner of the retail industry. The pet care category is no different. It has seen significant growth and is particularly suited to the subscription box format.

Meowbox, BarkBox, Paw pack, Cat Lady, Loot Pets are some popular pet care subscription box brands. On social, consumers have excited discussions about different subscription boxes, and the volume of discussion has only gone up in the last few years. 

Many consumers also expressed their joy in receiving a box of curated products tailored to their tastes — this saves them time trying to discern the difference between similar products on a shelf or get an accurate sense of a product online.

As pet care retail opens up, opportunities abounds for the market to get segmented and more niche.

 

Conclusion

Brands can turn towards social media conversations either to plan and move on strategic opportunities or to validate their business decisions. Either way, the social web is full of  insights that can help brands put their finger on evolving consumer preferences and the changing market.

For the full report on consumer packaged goods, click here.

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