The Pandemic Pet Boom

How the pet industry came out on top in the past 12 months.

It was in the first few months of lockdown, around the time of banana-bread making and the release of Netflix’s Tiger King, that a new trend began to emerge: people who had never considered them before, were suddenly getting pets. With people around the world spending most of their time in their homes — and a drastic shift towards remote working — it seemed like the perfect time, for many, to introduce a furry friend into their lives. 

With a total of 3.2 million households purchasing or adopting a pet since March 2020 — in the UK alone — the pet industry has certainly experienced a boom this past year; and with many of these pets having a ten-year-plus life expectancy, there’s sure to be a lasting impact across the sector.

Why pet care was pandemic-proof

Pre-COVID, the pet industry was thriving. Having followed a growth trajectory for the past 30 years, it’s expected to reach $281 billion by 2023, with pets becoming more central to family life — and some taking place of children as millennials waiting longer to get married. Between 2007 and 2017, annual pet food spend rose an incredible 36%, illustrating the industry’s success well before March 2020.

The pet industry has long been considered a recession-resistant category, with pet spending growing during both the recessionary dips of 2001 and 2008. Of course, the drive towards pet ownership throughout 2020 went beyond what had been a steady ballooning of the industry.

Lockdown loneliness and flexi-working

With stay-at-home orders in place across the globe, and many isolating alone or in single households, many of us yearned for the emotional and social connections that we’d had pre-pandemic. Pets – especially dogs and cats — have long been credited with their ability to provide stress-relief and emotional wellbeing, not to mention an excuse to get outside and increase daily steps. According to one study, 72% of pet owners agreed that time spent with their companion helped to reduce stress. 

The science is there to pack the opinion, with research showing that an interaction with a pet lowers cortisol levels and blood pressure while stimulating feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. And with one study revealing increased loneliness in 65% of its participants during lockdown — alongside reports of anxiety, depression and loss of feelings of connectedness — it’s no surprise that so many turned to pet ownership to help fill the gaps.

Beyond the emotional support aspect — and with many having to forgo their commutes to long days in offices as governments advised working-from-home — there was newfound flexibility for those who had wanted to purchase or adopt a pet, but never quite had the time. And for those existing pet parents, remote working allowed them to spend longer hours with their beloved companions, as well as investing more in their care. 

Driving eCommerce sales

More pets, and more time spent with them, meant that 2020 was one of the best years yet for the industry. In the US, sales in the sector exceeded $100 billion for the first time during 2020, with treat and pet food sales leading the way at $42 billion. At a 9.7% increase from treat and food sales in 2019, it goes to show just how impactful the pandemic was to an already booming industry.

With many of their customers limited to their homes, some of the biggest brands either went online or put more focus on their eCommerce offering. At J B Cole we saw this firsthand while working with our industry-leading clients including Pets Choice and MPM Products. During 2020 we rebuilt the website Pet’s Choice’s Webbox and created the dynamic Webbox Food Finder Feature to help customers source the right food for their pets. During the same time we launched a brand new site for Applaws and their sub brand Taste Toppers — cementing the brand and ensuring its visibility over a burgeoning global market.

Through working remotely together, we spent time getting to know the pets of J B Cole — which include several cats and dogs, many of whom have popped up in meetings or made a photo appearance in Slack. 

The post-pandemic world of pets

As the world begins to open up once again, it’s doing so with many more pets in the mix. Some bars and restaurants have decided to welcome pets in a bid to drive customers their way — while many employers are considering how to create pet-friendly office environments. And while the ‘pet mania’ of the past year-and-a-half might not subsist — the continued trend towards remote working may inspire more people to buy pets.

Amman Ahmed, founder of RelaxMyDog and RelaxMyCat — a music streaming service for animals — believes the trend is here to stay. “People were generally moving towards a trend of having less kids — or no kids at all — and having pets instead. They were already being seen as family members pre-pandemic. During the pandemic, pet ownership increased massively — but the trend towards having pets is going to keep expanding around the world. At RelaxMyDog we’re seeing a growing fanbase in areas like Pakistan, India and the Middle East.”  

The pandemic puppies of 2020 are the dogs of 2021 and beyond — with many more years to come for industry success. 


This article was originally published in Issue 04 of The Colectiv. To read the issue in full, click here.