Driven By Trends, Nestle Purina Moves Into Pet Health Insurance

Girl and dog runningLong known for its pet food and snack products, Nestle Purina is branching out into a different--but according to company officials, related--category: pet health insurance.

"One of our primary focuses as a brand is delivering a lifetime of health and happiness," Bill Broun, director of business development for Purina PetCare, tells Marketing Daily. "This is a move for us that has financial benefits, but it builds on our core franchise of the brand."

The new insurance product, dubbed PurinaCare, will offer programs that vary by monthly premiums and deductible levels, covering everything from routine vaccinations and flea and tick medications to major surgeries and cancers. After meeting a chosen deductible level, consumers will make a 20% co-pay per procedure and can be reimbursed for the remainder. (Coverage fees vary based on geographic location, pet breed, pet age and other variables.)



While many pet insurance plans resemble property and casualty insurance plans, the PurinaCare plan is designed to look like health insurance plans that people are familiar with for themselves, Broun says. "Consumers said there was an unmet need for a simple plan," Broun says. "We're trying to mirror what [they're] used to."

The move into insurance for Purina was driven by three trends, Broun says. First, there's an ongoing trend toward "humanization" of pets, viewing them as a part of the family. Second, people are also more interested in wellness for themselves and their pets, including diet and exercise. And, finally, advances in veterinary medicine are helping pets live longer, Broun says.

To market the insurance, the company will lean on its well-known brand portfolio and iconography, which includes Puppy, Dog, Kitten and Cat Chow, and treats such as Beggin' Strips and T-Bonz. "We'll start from the Purina partner brands and the checkerboard logo, which is one of the iconic brand logos in this country," Broun says.

Much of the initial messaging will be tied to the Internet, from Purina brand Web sites to search marketing and banner displays, Broun says. "The number one way people go and evaluate pet health insurance is through the Web. So that is a major focus for us," he says.

The company will also promote the insurance through consumer and veterinary trade print ads, as well as extensive brochures and information available in veterinary offices, Broun says. Television ads are not likely to be in the mix early on, he says.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. pet owners spend an estimated $24.5 billion on veterinary care, over-the-counter drugs and other health supplies for their pets. The American pet health insurance industry is dominated by Veterinary Pet Insurance, which accounts for about 80% of the policies in the country. In 2007, the ASPCA came out with a pet insurance product developed in partnership with Hartville Group, which also markets PetsHealth.

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