• Pet owners spent a total of $69.5 billion in 2017, an increase from $41.2 billion in 2007.
  • The price of pet food has increased from an average $1.71 per pound in 2011 to $2.55 per pound in 2017.
  • Millennials are the largest demographic of pet owners in US.
  • 2017 introduced 4,500 new pet food products, many of which were labeled as “premium” products.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

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.

Cailin 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.

Heinze: 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.