Pet ownership has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and we expect U.S. e-commerce sales for the pet category to see double-digit growth through 2025. Insider Intelligence spoke with Katie Spies, founder and CEO of raw dog food brand Maev, about changing consumer demographics and her mission. to create a pet brand for the millennial consumer.
Insider Intelligence: What consumer changes have you seen in the pet market?
Katie Spies: The pet products market has exploded in recent years, with dog and cat food passing $100 billion in market size. Part of this was due to population growth: A quarter of all Americans had a dog during COVID-19, and the dog population has increased 5.5%. Half of millennials now own a dog, which means the target consumer is very different today than 10 years ago because they are younger.
II: What factors are most important to these young pet owners and how do you communicate them?
KS: The millennial consumer sees transparency and credibility as more important brand values than others. Some millennial consumers care about formal authoritative sources, but many are skeptical because they know that some brands pay for those formal authoritative sources like a veterinary office or an industry board pushing the products.
We do our research on informal sources of authority such as reviewing user-generated reviews, photos and testimonials, real reviews from friends and recommendations from friends, because these matter a lot to a millennial consumer. We find that our clientele is very curious and ready to get into the weeds of education.
Many dog owners are better informed about the benefits of raw nutrition than they were five or 10 years ago, but the biggest challenge for us is creating educational content to provide credibility and trust. that our product has high efficiency. Consumers don’t want to see a textbook on the website, and they don’t want to be hit with deeply complicated scientific information in a Facebook ad.
Our challenge is to take complex nutritional information and consume it in an informal, digestible way and do it with a believable purpose as we are formulated by veterinarians. Most dog food companies are not formulated by certified veterinarians. We had to show our credibility around user-generated content and real user reviews and testimonials.
II: What is your outlook for the companion animal market in the coming years?
KS: The natural products industry has moved from cleaner ingredients to real efficacy and using science to make products that improve health, and the same must happen for pets. We’ve seen the best-for-you segment of the pet aisle explode, and there are so many new brands. but we need to take a science-based approach to advocacy and work with veterinary teams to find the real health benefits your dog will see with new products.
As a consumer, I love brands and finding products that tell me something meaningful. In the pet business, branding is often an afterthought. Most brands in the pet market are relatively undifferentiated. They don’t look and feel the same as brands in human categories like fashion, beauty, or skincare. We see this come out in the data where the pet aisle has one of the lowest brand awareness scores in the entire grocery store. Pet brands just don’t mean the same thing as brands in other categories, and that’s because we don’t build pet brands the same way.