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Brits have long been famed for their love of animals. Now, new research from Mintel on pet care and pet food confirms the nation’s passion for pets shows no sign of abating as 51% of pet care buyers* say they would rather cut back spending money on themselves than on their pets. But it’s Britain’s Millennials (aged 19-38) who are the most prepared to lavish love on their animal friends, with 54% of these pet care buyers saying they’d prefer to cut back spending on themselves.

Mintel research reveals that 30% of Millennial pet care purchasers say they like their pet to keep up with the latest trends (eg clothes, grooming styles), which compares to an average of one in five (19%) buyers. And if you happen to be friends with a Millennial, be prepared to share their love as Mintel research finds two in five (40%) of these pet care buyers would spend just as much money on their pet at special events (such as Christmas or their birthday) as they would on a friend. This compares to an average of 32% of all buyers.

Meanwhile, some 38% of Millennial pet food buyers say they are interested in buying human-style pet food made by regular food brands (eg pet-friendly chocolate) compared to 29% of all buyers; a far cry from the proverbial “dog’s dinner”.

Overall, 59% of British consumers own a pet, with full-time workers the most likely to own one (66%). Proving dogs really are man’s best friend, ownership peaks among men, with 35% of men owning a mutt compared to 31% of women, and younger Millennials aged 19-28 (42%). Meanwhile, cat ownership peaks among Brits aged 25-44. And while the age-old argument over whether cats or dogs are better is guaranteed to send owners into a frenzy, it seems that dogs have the edge, as a third (33%) of Brits own a dog versus three in ten (29%) who own a cat.

Chana Baram, Retail Analyst at Mintel, said:

“As pets increasingly become viewed as family members and are ‘humanised’, pet owners are willing to offer them their own products and unique items, which often carry a higher price tag, and help to drive category growth. This ranges from animal-friendly pancakes and wine to dog hiking boots and animal sleeping bags. While the more pampered of pooches even enjoy dog beds with memory foam mattresses. Our research shows that Millennials are particularly devoted to their furry companions. As the age of having children increases, we know some young people are opting to first get a pet and treat them as a family member. Additionally, there are many pet ‘influencers’ on social media, which are likely to appeal to the Millennial demographic, such as ‘Doug the Pug’, a dog with 3.6 million Instagram followers.”

“There are already pet Christmas and birthday presents available from a number of retailers, but the willingness to spend just as much on a pet as a friend shows that there is an opportunity for retailers to offer more event-specific products. Having pet products for seasonal events such as Valentine’s Day would likely prove popular with young consumers, and this could extend to other key events such as weddings or funerals.”

Brits to spend over £2 billion on pet care products and services by 2023

Brits’ love for their furry friends is expected to see the value of the pet care products and services (including toys and health check-ups) market reach £2.1 billion by 2023, a 25% increase from an estimated £1.7 billion in 2018.

Just under six in ten (57%) pet owners bought pet products in 2017**, with toys (37%) being the number one pet care product purchased. But when it comes to play, it seems the nation’s pups are being the most indulged as 41% of dog owners say they have bought their pups toys compared to 35% of cat owners.

When it comes to pet services, pet health check-ups (17%) and pet grooming (16%) lead the way. Keen to keep their pooches in good shape, 10% of dog owners have paid for dog walkers, rising to almost one in five (18%) dog owners aged 16-24. Meanwhile, 7% of dog owners have paid for pet sitting.

“The pet food and pet care industry is growing well, underpinned by stable pet ownership and an increasing desire to treat pets with premium food, products and services as they become a more integral part of the family. Additionally, with pet ownership peaking among full-time workers, there is an opportunity to provide practical services such as dog walking and daycare.” Continues Chana.

Pet owners risk it with no insurance

Finally, while Brits clearly adore their fur babies, Mintel research shows that as many as 45% of pet owners (34% of dog owners; 50% of cat owners) don’t have pet insurance. More than a third (36%) of owners of uninsured pets believe pet insurance does not offer good value for money, while 21% don’t trust insurers to pay out if a claim is made. Highlighting rising cost issues, 13% say they used to have cover but it became unaffordable. And while pet insurance is far from universal, just 21% of pet owners say that they could afford to pay the vet bills if anything went wrong.

“Brits are clearly passionate about animals, but our research shows that just under half of pet owners still don’t have insurance, highlighting the scope for further growth in the future. Communicating the real expenses involved in taking a pet to the vet for serious treatment, compared to the monthly cost of insurance, is a compelling case in favour of getting cover. Convincing reluctant consumers that policies are comprehensive and pay out most of the time is key to increasing take-up of pet insurance.” Concludes Chana.

*consumers who have bought pet care products or services in the last 12 months ending May 2018

**includes pet toys, flea treatments, litter/sanitary products, leash/collar, grooming/washing equipment, pet furniture, pet clothes, pet tech