Like many consumers in the U.S., some pet owners are experiencing financialdifficulties brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—is that impactingtheir spending on pet food and other pet products?

Not in a significant way overall, according to recent data; but there arepockets of concern. Pet food is considered a basic for pet owners, so unlessthey have to give up their pets, they are continuing to buy pet food. And sofar, fortunately, not many owners report relinquishing their pets, at leastnot according to one survey.

Since May 2020, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) has beenconducting an online survey to track the impact of the pandemic on petownership and behavior such as purchasing channels and spending on pet food,products and services. The first two of the four surveys conducted so farhappened a month apart, in May and June 2020; the third took place inSeptember 2020 and the fourth in late November/early December 2020.

In the most recent survey, 82% of the 2,007 respondents said COVID-19 had notaffected their pet ownership. Though that percentage was down a few pointsfrom the previous three surveys, the change was to the positive, with 11%reporting in the fourth survey that the pandemic had affected their ownershippositively. That was up from 8% in June; in fact, 10% in December reportedgetting a new pet directly because of the situation, up from 6% in June. Only2% of respondents said they had to give up a pet, while 6% said they delayedgetting a pet.

Financial concerns, pet food spending a mixed bag

Despite the positives related to pet ownership, pet owners are increasinglyfeeling financial pain. In the December 2020 APPA survey, 61% said they’revery concerned about their finances over the next year, up from 55% inSeptember. Also rising, to 57% from 54% in June, was the percentage of thosevery concerned about their finances over the next couple of months. And itgoes beyond just worry, with 48% saying the pandemic has significantlyaffected their household finances, up from 43% in September.

Accordingly, a slightly higher percentage of U.S. pet owners—23% in Decembervs. 20% in September—said they’re worried about the expense of having a petduring the pandemic. A similar change happened in terms of owners who considertheir pets’ diet so important, they’re not planning any changes to itregardless of finances; that percentage decreased from 72% in September to 68%in December.

Yet the percentage of pet owners claiming to be brand loyal to the pet foodand care items they purchase has remained steady throughout all four versionsof the survey, at 55-56%; and the share of pet owners planning to spend lesson pet food declined slightly in December (18% to 16%), as did the percentageplanning to switch to a different brand to save money (18% to 17%).

Also, circling back to ownership, the share of survey respondents thinkingthey may have to give up their pets decreased a little, too, from 10% to 8%.

Willing to sacrifice for their pets—to some extent

Another recent survey, though possibly less rigorous, provides a fewadditional data points and perhaps insights. Conducted in early January viaGoogle Surveys by Possible Finance (self-described on its website as “fightingfor financial fairness on behalf of everyday people”), this survey showed that62% of the 1,500+ respondents would “ditch” a personal expense to spend morecash on their pets. The types of expenses these pet owners said they’d bewilling to give up included fitness memberships, dining out and buyingclothes—none of which seem great sacrifices considering continuingrestrictions due to the pandemic. Smaller percentages said they would forgobuying a tank of gas or paying a bill.

Yet in keeping with a more conservative financial outlook by other pet owners,64% of respondents to this survey said they wouldn’t splurge on their petsoutside of meeting their basic needs. Presumably that includes feeding them.

All in all, as we slide into a second year of the pandemic crisis, it seemsmany pet owners are just trying to hang on and get through it with theirfamilies and lives as intact as possible, just like everyone else.

Source: Debbie Phillips-Donaldson __Petfood Industry.

Image: Bigstock

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