The Inside Track On The Booming Pet Market

Americans now own 305 million cats and dogs, an increase of 85 million over the past 10 years. The  50+ demographic is responsible for 60% of that growth. With 50+ population expected to grow twice as rapidly as the 18-49 segment over the next 10 years, brands that include 50+ pet owners in their marketing strategies will improve their odds of maximizing revenue growth.

Profile of 50+ Pet Owners

While the desire to connect with animals is cross-generational, the experience of pet ownership can vary from one generation to the next. Consider that 80% of pet owners age 50+ are empty-nesters, compared to just 40% of younger pet owners. Pet owners 50+ are also three times more likely than younger pet owners to be divorced, widowed or separated and three times more likely to live alone. One-in-three pet owners age 50+ are also retired. As a result, pets often take on an elevated status in 50+ households.  

With more time and disposable incomes, pet owners age 50+ are likely to dote more on their pets. According to GfK MRI, three in four of these pet owners believe their pets deserve to be pampered.  In addition, people 50+ spent over $15.6 billion on their pets in the last year, more than all of the other generations combined, according to



The Opportunity

From grooming and boarding to dog walking services to pet insurance, there is no shortage of products and services to help Boomers pamper and make the most of the pet owning experience. The market is also expanding to include more specialty pet foods, such as the grain-free, all-natural Grandma Lucy’s and refrigerated Freshpet.

So lucrative has the pet product market become that celebrities boasting large Boomer followings have entered the market with their own pet product lines. Rachael Ray’s Nutrish brand offers natural dog and cat foods, and Ellen DeGeneres’s partnership with PetSmart has created the celebrity’s eponymous collection of pet products. 

Given the differences between older and younger pet owners, marketers would benefit from marketing to older pet owners differently. Here are five strategies to consider:

1. Celebrate 50+ pet owners. Boomers make a big investment in their pets’ well-being, and their reward is a daily bond that enriches both parties’s lives. Marketing that honors and celebrates the uniqueness and importance of Boomers’s role in caring for their pets is likely to get noticed, and will improve brand impression among this critical pet product consumer.

2. Celebrate pets in 50+ households. Pets bring unique benefits to older pet owners—they increase their owners’s physical activity, provide an opportunity for socializing with other owners, offer companionship and love after children leave home, help establish a routine that brings structure to life after retirement, and can reduce stress. Giving visibility to these benefits in your communications lets Boomers know that you understand their life stage and allows them to celebrate a very important relationship in their lives.

3. Identify a health benefit. As people age, taking care of their own health becomes more of a daily focus, and there’s a good chance that this mindset will extend to the care of their pets. If applicable, make a connection between your product and protecting the health of a pet.

4. Offer a savings opportunity. Boomers have the money to spend, but they want to spend wisely. Whether your price point is meant to attract mainstream or upscale buyers, offering a discount or loyalty rewards program will help them feel good about buying your brand.

5. Reach Boomers across platforms. While digital media budgets continue to increase, it’s important to remember that Boomers are also still heavily invested in both magazines and television. Reaching Boomers with synergistic cross-media marketing plans will maximize reach and the ability to drive consumers through all stages of the purchase funnel simultaneously, regardless of where they are in their purchase journey.

The Bottom Line

Pets play a unique and critical role in the lives of 50+ pet owners, as evidenced by the significant time and money owners invest in their pets’ care and well-being. To effectively attract their interest and loyalty, marketers need to deliver messaging that honors the unique relationship between 50+ owners and their pets. Doing so will unlock the greatest potential to drive a brand’s revenue in the ever-expanding pet marketplace.

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