Pet care has never been more luxurious than it is now.
Reversible puffer coats, dry shampoo, CBD oils, freshly prepared meals delivered to your door on demand, and stretch-knit balaclavas with the word "Ski" printed on the front. These items are no longer just for humans; you may now purchase items that are specifically designed for your pets.
It makes you wonder when our pets became so opulent. (Or, to put it another way, when did everything get so expensive? Inflation, which is the typical answer these days, only goes so far because prices on practically all consumer products and services are growing this year.)
Many new, independent firms have recently entered this market—at higher price points—recognizing that younger pet owners are ready to spend more (or spoil, depending on your perspective) on their four-legged best friends than ever before. Sure, some of it is for social media, with owners dreaming their pets will be the next Jiffpom (9.8 million Instagram followers) or Doug the Pug (3.8 million followers on Instagram).
Others, on the other hand, may be more inclined to spend money on a brand if it appears to be healthier and/or more sustainable than traditional pet stores. And there's been a lot of talk in recent years about how more and more millennials are leaning toward pet adoption rather than having children, and that they're instead spending their money on cats and dogs. Last October, a MetLife survey found that some pet owners spend more on their pets than they do on themselves.
Patricia Machado, cofounder of Pride + Groom, a high-end line of grooming products for dogs, says, A pet's status in the home has finally transitioned from possession to full-fledged family member.There's a reason our pets are called 'fur babies. They sleep in our beds and live on our furniture, which has prompted pet owners to keep their pets cleaner and fresher.
The root of this current wave of pet sector startups, according to David Sprinkle, analyst at Packaged Facts, is twofold.
For one thing, the pet sector has long been a darling of Wall Street [and] venture capitalists, with a well-deserved reputation for being recession-resistant, as evidenced by COVID's boom performance, Sprinkle notes. Though the pet sector isn't exactly in the spotlight right now, thanks to some tempering of initial COVID-era enthusiasm for the pet market's prospects. Startups are interested in what Wall Street [and] venture capitalists enjoy.
Second, many firms, especially those created by younger entrepreneurs, want to be mission-driven, or at the very least positioned as mission-driven (rather than profit-driven). Pet products and services can easily fit into a mission-driven company story, given the practically universal love for pets and heightened knowledge of the benefits (including mental and physical health) of pet ownership and of the human-animal link.
Given the economic and political uncertainties of the previous several years, Americans adopted new pets in record numbers when the pandemic began in 2020. "The epidemic taught us that no matter what life throws at us, our pets are an unwavering source of support and unconditional love," Machado, who has a four-year-old Shi Tzu named Leo, adds.
COVID-19, of course, drew more attention to human health and wellness, including "some somewhat newfangled concerns like pet anxiety and stress," according to Sprinkle.
"It's not by chance that younger pet owners, who are well aware of the mental health benefits of having pets, are particularly concerned about their pet's stress [and] worry," he observes.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans spent $103.6 billion on their pets in 2020, and an expected $109.6 billion in 2021.
Having a pet does not have to be prohibitively expensive. According to the APPA, dog owners spent an average of $1,880 per canine in the previous 12 months on food, treats, toys, vitamins, grooming, doctor appointments, and dog-walking/kennel services. During the same time period, cat owners spent an average of $902 per kitty. Vet costs are often the most expensive part of owning a pet, and many individuals are unable to afford them due to a lack of access.
With the introduction of Dutch, Joe Spector, cofounder of telehealth service Hims (for humans), chose to expand his portfolio into online, virtual pet care. The company offers online consultations with veterinarians, who can prescribe medication as needed and then transfer the prescription to a pharmacy for delivery to the patient's house. A Dutch membership costs $15 per month and includes unrestricted video chat with a veterinarian. The company recently finished a Series A round of funding.
Spector claims that his time with Hims, as well as his own personal experiences with pets, prepared him perfectly for the introduction of Dutch. "As I watched my brother's frightened dog go untreated, I was motivated to establish a modern type of veterinarian care that was more accessible, affordable, and provided timely, high-quality treatment plans," he explains. "There are so many common, non-life threatening ailments that our pets suffer from that feel less of a priority to cure at the time, so we often wait until there's a bigger problem before taking them to the vet for a more thorough examination."
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light some of the most pressing issues confronting medical professionals, including a rising shortage of skilled veterinary workers and clinicians due to burnout and weariness, resulting in long wait times and increased worry for dogs and their owners. This, paired with the worldwide pet boom, has created a slew of new pet-related business prospects, according to Spector.
"People are finding deep camaraderie in their pets more than ever before, and they are exploring methods to treat them more like family," says Spector, who has a one-year-old corgi named Eddie. "We are now more willing to provide superior items and services to our dogs that fit our own high standards." We are ready to find new brands that offer our pets with the care they deserve as a community obsessed with our pets, thus there is plenty of opportunity for developing brands to come into this industry at this moment."
Posing with a Frenchie dog Next to each other Side by Side Pet Treats Carol Bramson, the founder of Pet, says she set out to create a pet food company that prioritized four key elements: actual whole foods (no powder alternatives), species-appropriate ingredients (no human fads like pea protein), minimal processing, and personalisation (matching the right food to each individual pet to support their health).
Carol Bramson, founder of Side by Side Pet, which creates all-natural pet food in small quantities using whole foods and the Eastern Food Therapy (EFT) concept, says that the humanization of pets has resulted in new approaches to better care for pets and integrate them in our homes. This tendency to humanize domesticated animals has taken root in the pet food aisle, which is now crowded with labels on items that you'd find in any Whole Foods, including phrases like grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, grass-fed, and so on. However, it can also be found in various hard and soft things, such as dog strollers and trendy rain jackets.
Individuals working from home given the opportunity to finally incorporate the pet in their household, and the comfort these animals have brought during these difficult times has also been beneficial, adds Bramson, who has a 7-year-old labradoodle named Wrigley, whom she adopted in 2015. Giving back to these furry family members through better food, more comfortable beds, and new exciting toys has all boosted demand and entrepreneurship in the field.
Side by Side Pet was introduced in 2018 and is called by the way we live with our pets: side by side. Side by Side Pet manufactures pet food, snacks, and supplements based on four principles: a foundation of real whole foods (no powder alternatives), species-appropriate ingredients (no human fads like pea protein), minimal processing, and personalisation (matching the right food to each individual pet to support their health). Duck l'orange jerky ($15), freeze-dried beef and salmon patties (up to $41 for a 12-pack), and "belly balance" pills for digestive support ($24) are among Side by Side Pet's offerings.
Bramson, who is committed to a healthy lifestyle and proper diet, says she wanted to ensure that her animal family member had the same benefits. I was given Kibble as a recommendation, and I was immediately alarmed. The dark, dried chunks didn't appear like food; instead, they looked like cardboard, she recalls.
For our clean, amazing-smelling, coat-specific line of grooming products, we studied and sourced essential oils from all over the world, developing a unique blend,' explains Pride + Groom cofounder Regina Haymes.
Pride + Groom provided this image.
According to Haymes, who has a seven-year-old cavapoo named Penny and a three-year-old standard poodle named Kiki, the cofounders of Pride + Groom spoke to more than 200 dog parents, none of whom had a favorite brand.
Regina Haymes, who is also a cofounder of Pride + Groom, adds, My partners and I are fanatical pet lovers—between us, we have seven dogs and two cats. When we asked each other, 'What's your favorite grooming product brand?, we discovered that none of us had a favorite product line or even a favorite shampoo. That was our lightbulb moment, and we resolved to make one.
"Almost every existing product smelled like chemicals or cotton candy, and the ingredients were terrible," she claims. The women set out to establish the first beauty brand for dogs, combining their different professional skills in chemical engineering, advertising, marketing, and design. When I called my partner Jane [Wagman] in August 2019 and said, I know—be let's the next Vidal Sassoon of dog shampoos! she agreed she was all in.
The crew quickly recognized that different breeds have varied needs, such as hair versus fur, shedding versus non-shedding, and so on, according to Haymes. Jane Wagman, cofounder of Pride + Groom and owner of two goldendoodles (Pepper, 9; Schnitzel, 7) and two chihuahuas (Seashell, 13; Waffles, 7) reveals that she cleaned her dogs with the same shampoo she used on her own hair before starting the company.
Wagman notes, That was also before I knew that pets had very distinct needs from humans and, more significantly, from each other for so many reasons—from PH balance to undercoats. We want to know exactly what goes into the grooming, feeding, and treating goods we use on our pets." We want to do everything we can to provide the best for our pets so that they can stay healthy and enjoy longer, happier lives.
The shampoos from Pride + Groom start at $16 for an eight-ounce bottle. The "Proud" deodorizing spritz ($24), a microfiber towel ($30), and a pin bristle brush ($38) are among the other accessories.
Analysts like Sprinkle believe that, in the long run, the cost for pet items and services will continue to rise, rather than falling dramatically from prior decades or generations.
As time has proven, several pet stock valuations at the peak of COVID-triggered enthusiasm for the greater centrality of pets in our lives, including pet adoption among younger generations and spikes in pet care spending, had bubble aspects, Sprinkle notes. However, the pet sector has bright prospects for the foreseeable future. Never rule out dogs, and cats are finally receiving their due in the United States.
According to Dutch's Spector, today's consumers are asking for two things that weren't always available before: quality and accessibility. The pet market isn't new, but we haven't seen the rise of high-quality pet products and care that we trust and want to offer our pets with until recently, he says. While more pet companies are aligning with the idea that our pets are cherished, valuable members of the family today, many brands are still out of reach for the majority in terms of price.
It's also worth noting that quality can mean different things to different people, especially when it comes to what they buy.
To put it simply, we want our pets to have the same degree of luxury that we do, Wagman adds. Almost every high-end brand (such as Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and so on) has branched out into pet accessories. It's just pure fun for me and my dog Seashell to walk down the street in matching faux-fur coats!" she chuckles on the surface.