US Pet Spending by Generation – The Boomers Bounce Back

December 12, 2018

By The Pet Business Professor

According to John Gibbons, president of A GPS for Pet Businesses, U.S. consumers spent $7.8 trillion dollars in 2017, up $383B (+5.2%) from 2017. However, the pet industry had an even better year. Americans spent $77.13B, 0.99% of total expenditures, on our companion animals. Increases in the three largest industry segments drove overall pet spending up $9.84B (+14.6%) in 2017. U.S. consumers are heavily driven by value and in 2017 they found it almost “across the board” in all industry segments. Even the services segment, which had a small decrease, had an increase in purchase frequency. Pet parents just paid less. We’ll continue to monitor the situation to see if this spending behavior continues or evolves.

We’ll start by defining the generations and looking at their share of U.S Consumer Units (CUs are basically Households)


  • Millennials: Born 1981 to 1999
    • In 2017, Age 18 to 36
  • Gen X: Born 1965 to 1980
    • In 2017, Age 37 to 52
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964
    • In 2017, Age 53 to 71
  • Silent Generation: Born 1928 to 1945
    • In 2017, Age 72 to 89
  • Greatest Generation: Born before 1928
    • In 2017, Age 90+

The most significant change is that Millennials are “coming of age” with increases in all areas. The oldest Americans are fading in all measurements but homeownership, which registered an increase from all groups but the Gen Xers.

Next, we’ll compare the generations to the National Average:

  • CU National Avg: Income – $73,573;
  • Total CU Spending – $60,060;
  • Total Pet Spending – $593.63;
  • Pet Share of Total CU Spending – 0.99%

Boomers continue to dominate Pet Spending and their share is back up to 46.8% after falling to 44.0% in 2016. In 2017, the Boomers led the way to a record spending year, but they got strong support from Gen Xers and Millennials. Combined they were up $10.5B, but each group was up over 10% with an increase in excess of $2B.

Most groups cut back on supplies spending in 2015 due to a combination of rising prices and an attempt to compensate for the cost of upgrading their pet food. Supplies started their comeback in 2016 when consumers value shopped for food and spent some of their saved money on supplies. Then supply prices dropped in 2017 and basically everyone under 90 years old recognized the value and spent more on supplies – $2.74B more!

Gen Xers and Millennials are ultimately the future of the industry, so everything should be done to encourage them and to make their pet parenting experience easier and better. However, by any spending measurement, the “here and now” of the pet industry is still the Baby Boomers.

See the full report here.

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