Two-thirds of those reporting household use of puppy food are women, though this share represents less of a tilt toward female shoppers than in the dog food category overall, where women account for nearly three-fourths. Even so, women have been gaining in share over the last ten years as puppy food buyers, a product formulation option that previously had a slightly disproportionate appeal among households with men, reports Packaged Facts in U.S. Pet Market Focus: New Dog and Cat Owners (published August 2019).
Households with non-Hispanic whites account for somewhat over half of puppy food buyers, compared with their two-thirds share of U.S households overall, and with three-fourths of households with dogs. African-American and Hispanic households, in turn, each account for over a fourth of overall puppy food buyers, such that African-Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely as average to be purchasers of this pet food product type.
Puppy food usage rates vary much more significantly by city vs. country than by broad geographic region, ranging from 12% for dog owners living in the top 25 and the top 26-100 metropolitan areas to 17% for those living in rural areas outside of the top 100. Dog-owning households outside of these metropolitan areas are therefore a third more likely than average to be buying puppy food formulations, and they are also significantly more likely to have larger dogs (at 51% of rural dog owners, vs. 32% of urbanites, as shown by Packaged Facts December 2018 survey data), thereby increasing volume consumption of pet food even at the puppy life stage.
Even more significantly than for country vs. city, though partly in alignment with that pattern, puppy food usage rates vary dramatically by level of educational attainment. Puppy formula use among dog owners drops from 29% for those without a high school degree to only 8% among those with a college or graduate degree. Given that the distinctive nutritional and developmental needs of puppies are a legitimate focus for specialty pet food formulations, and that the puppy formula usage pattern by educational level is the reverse of new dog adoption patterns, there is room in the dog food category for more effective marketing of superpremium and specialty brand puppy foods.
-- by David Lummis, senior pet market research consultant