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ChaseDesign Retail Report #2: Need for Connection Boosts Pet Care

Dog Treat

Humans are social creatures, but quarantining, sheltering in place, and social distancing have left many feeling isolated. We’re missing friends and family outside our households, and it’s taking a toll on our collective wellbeing. Our need for bonding is causing us to seek out love, connection, and companionship in new ways. 

Adoptions and Pet Supply Sales Grow 

With people seeking connection, many are relying on pets for companionship. Animal shelters have seen a record number of pet adoptions and fostering with rates increasing by 90% in some cities. Some pet shelters are completely empty, and brands are coming up with creative ways to pair people and pets. For example, Pedigree is facilitating online adoption via Zoom. This is great news for pets everywhere and equally great for the pet care industry.  

In March, pet food dollar growth was up 24% from the previous year and supplies were up 10.1%. Purina has seen double-digit growth, and Chewy recently announced that they’re hiring up to 10,000 workers to keep up with the demand. The pet food market shows a 4% growth forecast as people stocking up and rates of pet ownership are causing growth. There’s been a decline in services, given the need for in-person appointments, but pet food and supplies are thriving as people are stocking up.

Pet Care Market Is Recession-Proof 

People tend to spend even more money than usual on their pets during times of recession, cutting back on themselves before their pets, leading many to call the pet industry “recession-proof”. Pets have always been an extended part of the family, but many of today’s owners view themselves as pet parents. The emotional connection they share makes pets essential during these difficult times. 

Recessions come with lower job security, lost income, and increased financial stressbut studies show that spending time with pets has a proven calming effect that reduces anxiety and depression. Pets are so beneficial to our health that studies have even shown that pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors. With pets being so good for your health, it’s not surprising that the pet care market would remain strong during recessions. 

Emotional Connection Is the Key 

Consumers are seeking connections and bonding. Whether you market pet food, human food, or personal care products, now’s the time to reconsider how your brands talk to consumers. Food means connecting with families over shared meals. Beverages create a shared moment with someone you care about. During this time of isolation, how can your brand help people build bonds? 

For pet care marketers specifically, it may be time to consider adapting strategies to account for the following changes:  

  • For both new and existing pet parents, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant spending much more time at home with pets, building richer and deeper bonds. Once pet parents return to work, they’ll likely be seeking more bonding time on weekends, providing a huge opportunity to create and sponsor events and outings themed around pets and their owners. 
  • Pet parents may increasingly show their love through food, especially as the guilt of returning to work settles in. This is an opportunity for the snacks and treats category, which is, by definition, expandable consumption. Main meals may benefit as well through further premiumization.  
  • Online pet food purchases are up, but The Food Industry Association (FMI) expects shopper behaviors to largely return to pre-COVID-19 patterns. Get your eCommerce business in order, but also remember that the store remains essential. You just need to make it worth the trip. 
  • Retailers should shift from being a functional point of distribution to a partner in helping consumers raise and love their pets. Category design and integration of services are good starting points. See how you can leverage your app as a shopping tool that connects your in-store and online experiences. 


Now’s the time to rethink your retail strategies, including how your brands and categories can win at top retailers. We can help. Contact Peter Cloutier at