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  • Narrator: The price of pet food has increased

  • from an average $1.71 per pound in 2011

  • to $2.55 per pound in 2017,

  • and it plays to an increasing trend towards owners

  • pampering their pets.

  • Pet owners' total spending per year

  • in 2007 was $41.2 billion.

  • Ten years later, it hit $69.5 billion.

  • So what's causing this shift?

  • Evidence points to millennials.

  • Mary Hanbury: Experts say the

  • millennials are treating their pets

  • like their firstborn child, and it's kind of filling a void

  • that maybe previous generations would

  • have already had a child

  • and moved into houses.

  • Narrator: According to a report

  • by the Pew Research Center, millennials are 50% less likely

  • than the Silent Generation to be married.

  • They're also delaying parenthood.

  • Instead, they're becoming pet owners.

  • In 2017, millennials became the largest demographic

  • of US pet owners at 35%.

  • These pet owners not only act differently

  • than previously generations, they also spend differently.

  • Hanbury: So the data shows that

  • millennials are spending a lot more

  • on their pets.

  • Narrator: 76% of millennials

  • are likely to splurge on their pets

  • compared to just 50% of baby boomers,

  • and it's starting to show.

  • According to Nielsen, annual household spending on pets

  • increased by 36% between 2007 and 2017.

  • This shift has led to a flurry

  • of new brands entering the market.

  • In 2017, 4,500 new pet food products were introduced,

  • a 45% increase from the year before,

  • and many of the new entrants

  • were labeled as premium products.

  • Hanbury: It's kind of two pieces moving at once.

  • Owners are wanting to spend more on their pets,

  • and then the market is being slowly saturated

  • with more options of premium pet food brands.

  • Heinze: Premiumization is the idea that you can enhance

  • the perception of value of a product by marketing

  • or by even something very simple

  • like calling it a premium diet.

  • In this case, pet food.

  • Premium diets don't necessarily have anything

  • that a nonpremium diet don't have.

  • It's more the perception of what they have.

  • So it's playing to what pet owners feel in their gut

  • should be in a high-quality pet food.

  • Narrator: A 2007 study conducted

  • by the California Institute of Technology

  • and Stanford University found that a product's price

  • can alter our brain activity in how we perceive the product,

  • finding that our brains equate more expensive with better.

  • - There really is no scientific nutritional difference

  • necessarily between a so-called premium pet food

  • and a just average type of pet food.

  • Narrator: Many premium pet foods market

  • the product based on the human-grade ingredients it uses

  • or by what Cailin calls...

  • Heinze: The "no list,"

  • meaning they market themselves on what they don't contain.

  • No corn, no wheat, no grains, no byproduct, no potato.

  • The list is actually getting longer and longer.

  • Artificial preservatives, artificial colors,

  • all of that kind of stuff.

  • And the thing is, is for the vast majority of that,

  • there's not any evidence that it's any better.

  • Narrator: So who is testing pet food?

  • Well, the FDA only gets involved in pet food research

  • when it comes to specific health claims.

  • There are some universities that conduct research,

  • but a majority of the research being done in pet nutrition

  • is done by pet food companies.

  • Heinze: You can't judge the quality of a pet food solely

  • based on its price because some of the most-tested pet foods

  • out there that are the most based on science are actually

  • at a lower price range than many people would expect,

  • and some of the diets that are at the highest level,

  • you're not getting anything more for that other than maybe

  • that feeling that you're doing more for your pet.

  • Hanbury: I think this is connected

  • to a health and wellness craze

  • at the moment where people are taking what they eat

  • a lot more seriously, and obviously the next thing

  • when you're not thinking about yourself

  • is the thing closest to you, so your pets.

  • Heinze: Pet owners are often going to be feeding their pets

  • the same ways that they're feeding themselves.

  • So if organic is important in their diet,

  • they're gonna be looking for organic pet foods.

  • If they see their pet as a furry member of the family

  • like many of us do, then when they're going to buy pet food,

  • they're looking for pet food that is as close

  • to what they're eating as they can get.

  • They're not necessarily looking for food

  • that is designed for the dog.

  • Narrator: And with millennials dining out 30% more often

  • than other generations, it may just be a matter of time

  • before Sparky joins them for a night out.

Narrator: The price of pet food has increased

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