• Transform magazine
  • April 16, 2024

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Surviving and thriving in the evolving petcare market

Jessica Carter

Jessica Carter, account director at strategic brand design agency StormBrands, which recently collaborated on Pets at Home’s new health and wellness range, talks about how brands need to behave in the new ‘animal kingdom’.

The petcare industry has been experiencing significant changes thanks to a rise in pet ownership and a shift in consumer behaviour towards their animal companions. And it’s these changes that create both opportunities and challenges for businesses in the sector, disruptor or legacy.

As the number of pet owners has gone up (particularly over the pandemic) – numbers in the UK went from 40% in 2018 to 62% in 2022 – we’ve seen a simultaneous change in consumer spending patterns. Thanks to the shift in mindset from ‘pet ownership’ to ‘pet parenthood’, alongside humanisation trends, we see consumers investing in a much wider range of products that are more tailored to their needs and values. From vegetarian and wellness brands to accessories and fashion, people are choosing items that mirror their own tastes.

The point-of-sale experience is changing too. Traditional retail channels like vet shops and supermarkets are no longer the only sources. Personalised mail services and social media now heavily influence consumer decision-making.

All this presents a great opportunity for challenger brands coming onto the market with innovative products and services. Companies such as everyday wellness brand Itch, for instance, which offers a tailored treatment that takes the stigma away from flea and tick care. And at the other end of the spectrum, accessories brand Cocopup offers stylish, trendy, Instagramable accessories for owner and dog to match. This surge in the market has opened doors for brands with fresh perspectives and unique offerings, creating a highly competitive environment.

But what about the brands that have been around forever? How can they compete? The petcare sector is complex, and for pet owners more choice can lead to more confusion. Legacy business Pets at Home, for instance, has been able to respond to these changes by investing in its offer to stay ahead of trends, while ensuring it continues to leverage its long-standing expertise – Pets at Home has been helping UK animal lovers look after their furry friends since 1991, after all.

StormBrands recently assisted Pets at Home with launching a new health and wellbeing range – developed to offer a holistic petcare solution that is easy to understand and navigate.

Of course, most legacy brands will realise that remaining stagnant isn’t an option if they want to grow or maintain market share. But navigating this changing landscape requires sensitivity and credibility – especially if it’s to be done without sacrificing brand equity.

Understanding evolving consumer behaviours and challenges is crucial for long-established brands in achieving this. Clear creative strategy and brand guardrails are essential for introducing new product initiatives without losing the essence of the existing business; as are a well-defined communication plan and focused messaging strategy when educating consumers about new product categories and reshaping their perspectives and behaviours.

While adaptation is necessary across the sector, the solutions will vary for each brand. Success depends on understanding their unique context and objectives. While challengers and innovators pioneer new approaches and products, legacy brands can flourish and stay ahead of the competition with careful planning and curation.