Ask @RetailPhil: How Pets and Humans Have Become Equal in Commerce


Is the industry ready to talk about the convergence of human and pet brands? Consumers certainly are and it seems they’ve already spoken! The pet accessories category is projected to be a $91 billion industry by 2019. Conversely, the baby care market is currently at $47 billion worldwide. Meanwhile, in more and more countries, pets are being treated as a companion rather than a household pet. Studies have shown that when humans look at their pets, they feel the same emotional affinity as they do when they look at their children. In fact, 9 in 10 Americans say they consider their pet to be a part of their family.

Furthermore, the average number of dogs per household worldwide is 1.6, while cats are 2.1. The average number of children per household worldwide is 2. While the number of children per household has remained stagnant, pet ownership has tripled in the United States since the 1970’s. Beware children of the world, you’re being replaced!

All these statistics lead up to one simple fact – pet products are changing. Pet food, for one, is now healthier, all natural and ultimately mimics human food tastes and trends. We’ve all seen claims of “fully cooked, all-natural, human grade dog food that is made to order,” suggesting that these brands have a higher quality product than standard pet food. As this market rises, we can expect more products like Bowser Beer, The Bear & The Rat, and Natura Petz taking the lead. Natura Petz promises a better nutritional supplement for pets, while Bowser Beer and The Bear & The Rat give your pets a human food experience.

While these are but a few examples, they drive a lot of questions regarding how these products are going to show up on retail shelves and what sections of a store they belong in. A traditional pet food section in a store currently has no space for such products (which are still considered niche or specialty), so retailers need to expand space in order to get these products on the shelves. Will baby/kids products be reduced to make space for these products? Is it the right solution to shrink a kids section to accommodate more pet food? What about human food shelves? Take The Bear & The Rat – Matt and Meg make ice cream for dogs. As a retailer, where would you sell such a thing? What about right next to Ben and Jerry’s rum raisin or french vanilla?

At the end of the day, pets represent a whole new stream of revenue that retailers can capitalize on if they are able to cross the barrier and make pets equal to humans. Instead of carrying 30 flavors of ice cream, of which 15 are popular and 15 are for assortment, what if 2 of the assortment flavors were dog ice creams? You’d almost guarantee that for every person that had a dog come in, one would buy an extra tub for their dog. The same goes for Bowser Beer!

The only question that remains is, are consumers ready to buy their beer and their dog’s beer side by side?




As the Retail Industry Manager at Hubba, Phil is responsible for uncovering both emerging trends and insights that may impact businesses engaged in commerce. With 20 years of experience under his belt, Phil helps brands and retailers adapt to the the new realities of retail and the next generation of commerce. Phil is a frequent speaker at industry events in Canada and the US, across multiple verticals, and is a featured writer in trade publications such Retail TouchPoints, Pet Product News, BikeBiz, and more.