At the start of the pandemic, CivicScience conducted a survey to better understand how the pet food industry was evolving. Nearly a year later, the data show consumer behaviors and preferences are nearly the same, but digging deeper reveals a few crucial insights.

Just as many pet owners this year (75%) compared to last year (76% in 2020) are concerned about the quality of pet food they buy.

The most common places to buy pet food are still big-box stores and grocery stores, but online ordering has significantly increased, whether through Amazon or another retailer like Chewy. Unsurprisingly, purchasing pet food at retail locations decreased over the last 12 months.

Online pet suppliers have experienced steady growth in the last two years–rising from 11% to 15% usage. In fact, shares of the popular online retailer Chewy have gained more than 270%. Thirty-three percent of the Gen Pop either uses Chewy or plans to use it for their pet needs, compared to only 23% who said the same in July 2019.

As income rises, so does usage of Chewy among American adults, but lower-income brackets show the greater intent to try it. CivicScience data has previously shown the relationship between a lower income and greater concern about the pandemic, so it is logical to assume that more people are willing to try getting their pet food and supplies delivered than risk being in public spaces.

Overall, people making under $50K a year are still buying pet supplies at grocery stores more than any other location. 

One of the draws of purchasing pet food from a certain location may be access to specific brands or a great price. As the data show, brand has become more important in the last two years. 

However, income has a very clear influence on whether or not a pet owner considers brand or price more important. Again, using the lowest income bracket as an example, those making under $50K per year are much more likely to say price is more important when shopping for pet food. This suggests that grocery stores are either offering the best deal or are offering food packaged in smaller and therefore more immediately affordable amounts.

Lastly, income data reveal that dog ownership is most common among high-income households, while cat ownership is most common among low-income households. It’s possible that larger animals require more space and food, making them less budget-friendly for people who like animals.

Many aspects of pet ownership are related to income, so during a time of economic uncertainty, income data becomes a lot more important for the pet industry. In addition, while Chewy and Amazon have become more popular places to buy pet food, long-time pet supply stores still maintain high favorability ratings among the Gen Pop.