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Title: Are trends in Human Food reflected in Pet Food Purchase?
Authors: Walet E
Keywords: Functional food; Organic food; Functional pet food; Organic pet food; Pet food purchasing; Anthropomorphism; Dog-human relationship
Issue Date: 3-Dec-2015
Publisher: Open Universiteit Nederland
Abstract: Abstract Changes are seen in our eating habits. We eat differently than we did in the past. Functional food and organic food are here to stay. The desire for health and well-being is a strong driver in food marketing (Goetzke and Spiller, 2014a). Next to these changes, humanization—or anthropomorphism—of pets by their owners is seen in consumer behavior. These changes have effect on pet related sales and marketing (Boya et al., 2012). Research of the combination of these two effects is the aim of this study and ads to literature a next layer on the dog-human relationship related consumer behavior and provides marketers with a more detailed perspective on targeting the dog owners. In recent years research has been done on the usage of functional and organic food products. Consumers are becoming more demanding about the products they consume. Health and well-being are receiving more interest from consumers. This is reflected in the way they are looking at functional foods and organic foods (Goetzke and Spiller, 2014a). Other research was done on the dog-human relationship including the bond the dog owner has with its dog. Relationships going from companionship to friendship (Holbrook, 2001; Holbrook, 2007; Cavanaugh, 2008) to unconditional love and affection are even resulting in anthropomorphism (Boya et al. 2012). Anthropomorphism or personification is the attribution of human characteristics to pets. Boya et al. (2012) describes three clusters of ownership; “dog-people”, dog owners who see their dog as a child; it sleeps on their beds, these owners celebrate the dogs’ birthday, etcetera. There is a strong bond and a strong dog-human relationship. Another cluster is “pet-owner”, this dog owner sees the dog as a companion, this companion is still seen as an animal and it is treated well, but is kept as you keep any animal. The intermediate cluster is called; “dog-parent”, this dog owner is seeing the dog as a buddy. Research from Tesfom and Birch (2010) indicated that American pet owners are more concerned about the healthy food for their dogs than for themselves. Goetzke and Spiller (2014b) found claims that health is an important motivation for consumers for the consumption of both functional and organic foods and Boya et al. (2014) saw differences in purchasing behavior of dog-related products from the pet owners in connection with the bond, the owner has with its pet. Are pet owners who use functional and/or organic food also worried about the health of their pets and are they for that reason looking for functional and/or organic pet food for their dogs? Is the relationship Boya et al. (2014) found of influence on this decision making process? This research examines and combines earlier studies on the usage of functional and/or organic products by dog owners and the dog-human relationship these owners have with their dogs. It also studies the position of the dogs in their families and the willingness of these dog owners to purchase functional and/or organic pet food products. Functional and or organic pet food is called specialized pet food. P a g e | 2 In this study, specialized pet food is defined as an A premium pet food, which is therefore made of functional and/or organic ingredients. The conceptual model of this study is presented in the following diagram: A cross-sectional survey design with a single measurement has been employed to 284 dog owners. The survey was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire on a sample divided over the United States (105), the United Kingdom (104) and the Netherlands (75). Results show a correlated, significant relation between the usage of organic and functional products by the dog owner and the usage of functional and/or organic food for their pets. Results also show a correlated, significant relation between the three clusters of ownership and the usage of functional and/or organic food for their pets. The three different clusters of dog owners were identified as being the “dog-people”, the “dog-parent” and the “pet-owner”. Significant correlations were found between clusters of “dog-people” and “dog-parent” and their purchasing of organic and/or functional pet food. No significant relation was found for the cluster of “pet-owner”. Demographic characteristics of the dog owner did not lead to correlation with the usage of organic and/or functional pet food. The differences in the cluster distribution among the countries surveyed were remarkable. For the United States and the United Kingdom most dog owners were seen in clusters of “dog-people” and “dog-parent’, whereas for the Netherlands, most dog owners were found in the cluster of “pet-owner”. The finding of this study indicates that for successful marketing of specialized pet food the purchasing behavior of consumers of functional and/or organic products and their human-dog relationship is “key” for the marketing of specialized pet food. Differentiating between types of dog owners appears most relevant in the marketing of these specialized pet foods. With this new insight pet food marketers are better able to cater to the needs of different dog owners and their pets, and can support the dog owners in purchasing healthy pet food products for their pets. P a g e | 3 Changes in dog-human relationships are apparent. This study identified three dog-human relationship clusters with different willingness to purchase specialized organic and/or functional pet food. Consumers bond with their animal companions in ways that resemble human relationships (Holbrook et al., 2001). By coming to a greater understanding of the different relationships we have with our pets, we come to a greater understanding of ourselves as consumers. Research shows that dog owners vary widely in the nature of their relationships with their dogs, and that there are key components that underlie the human-dog bond and vary among dog owners (Dotson and Hyatt, 2008). A limitation of this survey could be its surveying method. Dog owners were chosen by Survey Monkey based upon their known ownership of dogs. These results cannot be generalized to the overall dog owning public in the United States and the United Kingdom. The same applies to the Netherlands; the used population is made up of colleagues, friends and acquaintances that cannot be generalized to overall dog owning public in the Netherlands. This way of doing a survey makes that the Dutch population is not randomly chosen. A future study on human-dog relationship could help us further understand the humanization of pets and whether this phenomenon affects consumer behavior towards pets in more detail. We might therefore also better understand the impact of this changing human-dog relationship on society. Other research might be, to investigate what is meant by functional and/or organic pet food, what are the consumer needs and requirements concerning this specialized pet food. This would benefit the industry to produce the products that consumers are looking for and is willing to purchase. Also future research could investigate the differences in the cluster distribution of dog owners from not only the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom, but other Western-European countries as well. It might determine whether the cluster distribution of “dog-people”, “dog-parent” and “pet-owner” in for example Germany and France is comparable to the United States, the United Kingdom, or is this distribution the same as found for the Netherlands. The information on the distribution of clusters -the number of “dog-people” and “dog-parent” versus the number of “pet-owner”- and the eating habits of these owners would be essential for the assessment of the market and would guide the marketers how to work the market for specialized pet food. Finally, future research could be looking at the health of pets in relation to nutrition. As relationship is becoming more meaningful, pet as part of the family, the pet health is becoming more important (there is also increasing obesity, diabetes and dental problems in pets). Key words: Functional food; Organic food; Functional pet food; Organic pet food; Pet food purchasing; Anthropomorphism; Dog-human relationship
Appears in Collections:MSc Management Science

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