The rise of pet ownership during the covid-19 pandemic has grown the already flourishing trade in petcare. As lockdown eases and people’s lifestyles change again, Mars Petcare argues now is an ideal time to put the category on a new footing.

The British pet population has sky-rocketed to an all-time high, comprising 20 million cats and dogs, which is nearly a third of country’s human population1. According to research from Mars Petcare 47.7% of households have a cat or dog in the UK2, meaning that the £6.3bn petcare category is serving almost half of the homes up and down the country3.

At twice the size of the baby and toddler category, petcare retains loyal customers for longer in comparison and these shoppers spend more. Pet parents, as some call themselves, spend 15% more on groceries than those who don’t own a pet4.

The size of the prize is clear and growing. Four years of continuous growth preceded a sharp increase of new dogs in 2020 as the UK turned to pet companionship when faced with isolating lockdowns. Almost a third (32%) of new dog owners and 42% of new cat owners in 2020 had no previous experience of pet ownership5, further strengthening the opportunity for big name brands and retailers to influence purchase decisions and set the scene.

At a time when 68% of people are shopping in two channels each month for fast-moving consumer goods (fmcg) and 26% are using five or more channels6, having the right pet food brands on the shelves can encourage repeat custom.

“40% of owners see their pet as a child or family member7, demonstrating the importance of the decisions they make on their behalf. What they feed their beloved companion is one way for them to bond and spoil their dogs and cats,” says Arthur Renault, marketing portfolio director at Mars Petcare.

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“As a result, we know that super premium options such as Sheba and Cesar are growing, and treating occasions have also risen during the course of the pandemic. However, there is still a vital role for ‘everyday enjoyment’ brands such as Pedigree and Whiskas which offer quality products and great value.”

Worth £1.3bn, the everyday enjoyment segment delivered an impressive 44.2% of UK petfood retail sales value last year8. Backing the bestsellers is key to unlocking a lucrative sales opportunity with pet parents, with a fifth saying they won’t shop the petcare category in a store if they can’t find their favourite brands9.

Adoption Mission

But are big name brands on their own enough to keep existing shoppers and a new generation of pet parents coming back for more? Mars Petcare believes that purpose-driven campaigns have a valuable role to play, including its own programme striving to make a better world for pets.

As a crucial part of its global ambition to end pet homelessness entirely by 2030, Mars Petcare recently launched its Adoption Mission. Using two of its most recognisable brands, Pedigree and Whiskas, this will see the company donate three million meals to dogs and cats in rescue centres across the UK10.

A special programme of support will also be delivered to shelters and owners to ensure all pets are wanted, cared for and welcomed. With a new TV advert from Pedigree already live featuring the tag line ‘Feel the good. Adopt’in-store activation kicking off in August will also encourage new and existing shoppers to support the campaign through their choice of purchase.

“The Adoption Mission will see us working directly with animal shelters to identify the misperceptions and help tackle the challenges around pet abandonment and adoption,” Renault says.

“It is a subject very close to our hearts and the work we’re doing resonates with pet owners. It helps them to see that behind these brands are real people who are pet lovers first and foremost. We know the passion people have for making sure their pets get the very best food and care, so it is important that we bring shoppers on our journey.”

Good advice

While owning a pet comes with incredible reward, it reinforces how important access to advice and understanding good petcare is. Over the course of the pandemic, with the pet population on the rise, it’s been reported that owners are turning to reselling or animal shelters when reality doesn’t meet expectation.

Coinciding with the lifting of lockdown restrictions, Mars Petcare’s commitment comes at the perfect time, aiming to keep pets within loving homes.



1 PDSA, Annual Survey, 2020
2 Mars Petcare, Pet Ownership Study, 2020
3 Combined Read – Nielsen – Petfood, Mintel – Petcare, Statista Grooming & Vet Services
4 Nielsen MAT January 2020
5 Mars Petcare, Pet Ownership Study, 2020
6 Nielsen Homescan data to w/e 27.02.2021
7 Mars Pet ownership study, 2017, UK Market
8 Nielsen CPS database
9 AcNielsen, Euromonitor, Wet shopper study Nov 2013, Globaldata Top trends petfood 2017
10 July 2021 to July 2022. One meal equivalent to 239 calories of Pedigree Dog Complete Dry with chicken and Vegetable, based on the average size dog of 14.8kg and 3 meals a day