Top 10 Pet-related Small Business Trends 2011

IMG_1709 Just when you thought Trend Season was over for 2011, the Embrace Pet Insurance annual pet-related small business trends article is now available on the Embrace website for your reading pleasure.

In the meantime, here is a summary for you, just in case you don't have time for the full version.

The current recession continues to affect the pet world. Although the pet industry has delivered positive growth in spite of the Great Recession, the pet industry is not immune to sagging consumer sentiment. Pet-related spending in 2011 will show an increase over 2010 levels but not at the robust rates we saw prior to the recession.

1. Spending on Pet Accessories and OTC Medicine Up

Even during the darkest days of the recession, spending on accessories and OTC medicine grew at 2%, showing that pet parents will cut back on their own expenses before those of their pets.

The APPA projects growth levels back to pre-recession levels of 5.8%. Whether we see a rebound to to this level remains to be seen but there’s no doubt it will pick up again in 2011.

2. Continued Growth in Services for Pets

According to the APPA, pet services continued to show growth in 2010, although not quite reaching the 6% level projected. In fact, growth is projected to nearly halve, from 5% in 2009 to 2.8% in 2010.

Retail behemoth Wal-Mart has rolled out pet grooming facilities but not with the characteristic aggression you might have expected. Pet travel services, such as temporary day care for pets, are definitely a niche with plenty of room to grow. Who better to pioneer the idea than Disney, which has finally caught on to the trend of vacationers travelling with their pets, opening the Best Friends Pet Care luxury dog and cat resort right across from the Walt Disney World Resort.

3. Veterinary Spending Doggedly Increases

While growth in pet supplies and services might be “languishing” in the 2 to 4% range over the last couple of years, veterinary services continue to surge ahead. This year, the APPA projects 6.2% growth but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were even lower given the historically low level of veterinary inflation we’re experiencing.

General veterinary hospitals will benefit as pet parents choose to have complicated surgery and treatment at their regular (and cheaper) veterinarian rather than at a specialty hospital.

4. Pet Insurance Inching Into Mainstream

The US pet insurance industry was not immune to the recession in 2009 and 2010. Gross written premiums (GWP) reached $290 million in 2009 [2] and are projected to reach $327 million (12% growth) at the end of 2010. I expect overall premium growth of 14% in 2011 that will see the US pet insurance industry grow to $374 million in GWP.

5. Digging Further into Cat Health

CATalyst, a non-profit group aimed at reducing the perception of cats as aloof and not needing human contact or care, launched a new program in 2010 to encourage and educate veterinarians to turn around the declining number of vet visits and it may be one way veterinarians are bolstering their revenues during the tail end of the recession.

6. Pet Businesses Thrive Socially

Social networking in the pet space went mainstream in 2010, drawing out large and small organizations, as well as pet-focused individuals looking to help out pet non-profits who amongst companies of all sizes.

2010 saw the first social media conference solely for pet bloggers, Blogpaws, closely followed by BarkWorld, covering a broad spectrum of pet social media. On the non-profit side, while many rescue organizations are using social networking as part of their funding drives, pet lovers are taking fund-raising into their own paws with online “pawpawty” events on Twitter that raise thousands of dollars for charity at a time, as well as “personal” fund-raising drives, where pet parents finding themselves in a financial predicament over their pet’s health are turning to organizations such as GiveForward to help raise the necessary funds.

7. Large Retailers Still Playing to Win

Target and Wal-Mart continue to expand their pet aisles and, in the case of Wal-Mart, their pet services; however PetSmart and Petco continue to dominate the pet retail space despite these encroachments.

8. Customers Are Talking About You Online

Online reviews continue to have great impact on the purchase of pet products and services. Pet parents looking for a new veterinarian in their area can turn to, those checking out pet insurers go to, and of course, Amazon provides customer reviews for everything they sell or advertise.

9. Pet-related Businesses Have Unfulfilled Ecommerce Aspirations

In 2010, there was a paucity of web development in the pet world – a missed opportunity indeed. This really is an area that can make a small business stand out but it is much harder and more expensive to accomplish than one would think.

10. Pet-related Blogs Become Everyday Reading

Pet-related blogs will continue to influence in 2011 as pet parents integrate blogs as a daily part of their informational lives.

Bloggers such Pet Connection, Pawcurious,’s Dr. Janet Crosby and Yes Biscuit! continue to gain respect and readership, building a small but influential community around their blogs. There are few more mainstream pet bloggers, Martha Stewart being the only one I can think of (both Martha and her dogs blog), which surprises me. Most large pet-related brands have a blog, although some are not much more than blatant product marketing instead of quality conversations with pet parents. Eukanuba and Petco lead the pack in engaging readers with their brands. Look for more large brands to jump on this wagon in 2011.

And one final bonus trend…

11. Veterinary Advice Goes Virtual

If you ask most veterinarians about online veterinary advice, they’d strongly denounce such interactions as amateurish, unqualified and even life threatening. Having said that, there is a need for a second opinion on a condition or perhaps clarification something their own vet that can be provided by qualified online veterinary services such as or I expect we will see discussion around and use of this convenient veterinary service grow in 2011.

You can find the details on the Embrace website on the Pet Business Trends 2011 page. 

Related Posts:
Pet Industry Trends 2011
Pet Industry Trends 2010

Pet Industry Trends 2009
Pet Industry Trends 2008
Pet Industry Trends 2007
Pet Industry Trends 2006

Laura bennett 2008 80 redo About the author: Laura Bennett FSA CFA is the CEO and Co-Founder of Embrace Pet Insurance. Her career working in the insurance industry has taken her from Toronto, Canada and Dublin Ireland to the US, where she obtained her MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Laura was the first pet insurance actuary in the United States and was named to the Society of Actuaries Top 100 Actuarial Pioneers for her ground-breaking work in pet insurance. Laura strongly believes in furthering awareness of pet insurance across North America and leads that work in her current role of Chairman of the Board of NAPHIA, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Laura also writes a blog on pet-related issues, the Embrace Pet Insurance blog.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009 from Embrace Pet Insurance!

I am thankful for

IMG_1556 family's good health (children, kittens, cats, and adults alike)
...Embraced pet parents who take the time to email me with their comments neighborhood babysitting co-op funny and exceptional and caring Embracers - the Embrace bedrock (yabba dabba dooo)
...random people who kick me up the rump every now and then friends all around the world - I do miss you so
...smiling faces at the dinner table

I know everyone is stuffing themselves with turkey and dreaming of shopping and not reading blogs but I did want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that your list of thanks makes you feel as good as I do.

Happy Cinco de Mayo from Embrace Pet Insurance

Happy Cinco de Mayo from Stella Couldn't resist - Happy Cinco de Mayo from Embrace... and Stella, an Embraced bulldog.

Gratuitous Embrace articles and a Free Webinar

Pugsly sacked out 11-22-06 First, a couple of gratuitous mentions of articles highlighting Embrace, the first being "In the Doghouse", an article on the Lloyd's of London website covering heriditary conditions in purebred dogs. With the recent controversial stance by the BBC not to show Crufts, the 118-year old dog show (equivalent to the Westminster Dog Show here in the US), the article talks about different costs for different breeds with a few quotes from me.

The second is an interview I did with Dr. Janet Tobiassen over at the Veterinary Medicine site talking about Embrace and our pet insurance product. Check it out - I'm sure you'll learn something about Embrace you didn't know before.

And finally, join me for a free webinar I'm presenting on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM EDT. It's a business blogging case study based on Embrace Pet Insurance and is kindly being hosted by Worksmart Emarketing, based here in Cleveland. Do come and join in the fun.

Barnes follow up

It's been a week since Barnes moved on to bigger and better things and slowly the hole in our lives starts to heal. It's going to be a very long time before I don't look for Barnes in the bathroom when I get up in the morning and on the bed when I turn out the light to go to sleep. Sometimes I feel he's still there, but he's not.

I dropped by the vet's office today to pick up Barnes's ashes to put on the shelf beside Simon, his litter mate (RIP Aug 21 2004). One day this spring, we'll plant a hydrangea in a sunny spot and use Simon and Barnes's ashes in the base. They both loved going outside so it only seems fit to have them lounging under a bush together, just like the good old days.

I also dropped off all the left over cans of low protein cat food we'd tried on Barnes over the last few months. Our vet assured me that they would go to a good home - likely a shelter that could use the food for their older cats.

Lily doesn't seem too affected, although very confused that I moved her food bowl from her old "subordinate" spot in the kitchen, to her new "head of the family" spot where Barnes's food used to be. We will probably adopt another cat later this year to keep her company, but for now, we're showering her with love and attention and appreciating her joy at the spring weather (exception was the snow today - no-one was very excited about that today).

Time for spring and new life and sunshine to grace our lives...

Time to say good bye to Barnes

Barnes making me smile As you may know, my cat Barnes has dealing with his kidney disease for a while now - for nearly six years - and he has been doing pretty well all things considered. 


As with chronic illnesses like this, he's had his ups and downs but a couple of months ago, he was definitely on an up, galloping around the house with Lily, his little "sister", shaking off the winter blahs. 


But then in the last month, his appetite dropped off and he started to loose weight and things started to go down hill from there. I've been hydrating him with sub-Q fluids and we have been working on his food, trying to get him to eat, but to no avail.


Barnes working hard Feb06 Early Sunday morning (yesterday), he retired to the basement and only came up because I carried him. Then he couldn't jump up on the bed. Then last night I noticed he'd stopped drinking - a very bad sign for a cat with kidney problems.


This morning, when he could hardly walk, we knew it was time to say goodbye to the old fellow and I held him in my arms as he was put to sleep. He looked at me with his lovely green eyes just being with me as he passed on.  


Thank you Barnes for your friendship and love. We will sorely miss you.

Related Posts:
Lily and Barnes visit our new office
Update on Barnes
I Heart Barnes
Lily and Barnes at the vet

What a let down - free coupons from Bayer didn't hit the mark

Pardon me while I rant.

So all this month, I've been trying to get my $20 coupon to go towards Barnes's wellness visit coming up this week. Have you heard about this viral promotion by Bayer - the Help Your Pet, Get to the Vet promotion? You must have (or several million of our friends have) because it's practically impossible to get a voucher - they are always "sold" out.

The way it works is that there are 80 coupons available every hour, 9am - 9pm, and when those coupons are gone, you have to try again the next hour. Even when I've tried right at the turn of the hour, surprise surprise, 80 people have already scooped up the coupons in a matter of microseconds. Really?

So, I was very excited today when at the stroke of 11:00am, I managed to squeak past the bots and get my coupon... or so I thought.

In order to print out the coupon, I needed to download software from to be able to print it out - I think not.

First of all, I can't download software on to my laptop. Yes, I know I'm the CEO of my own company but even I can't put whatever I want on my laptop. It's highly irritating most of the time (having to grovel to my IT guru to add Facebook picture download software is a bit embarrassing), but it does make sense not to let me add software that at best might slow things down or at worse interfere with our systems, blow up my laptop, and I'd get a telling off big time. Best not to leave software downloads to my discretion.

But the question is, why should I have to download software to print out a coupon? If CVS (our regional drug store chain) can let me print out their coupons without software, surely Bayer can do something similar. It's not like they are some itty-bitty start up with no budget.

Software for something so minor (printing hardly needs software) means the download is for another reason - like spamming or monitoring my online activities or advertising. Not sure what the case is here but I don't want to find out.

I get the idea of what Bayer is trying to do - encouraging people to get out to their vets for their regular check ups and of course, hopefully buying Bayer products. Fine by me. Even though the economy is down the tubes, pet parents should still go to the vet for regular check ups and we're all grown-ups and can choose what products we buy.

And I'm sure approach was a quick and easy way to avoid evil pet parents using multiple coupons or other online fraud (although if they are all going to the vet and the promotion is doing what it's supposed to, what's the harm in that?) Is it really worth it?

Bottom line - I refuse to download software that is going to track what I do online to get a one-off $20 coupon. Forget it. And I'm cheesed off that I worked hard to get that damn coupon only to find I couldn't get it. Not a good experience.

Maybe the coupons are flying off the shelves as they seem to be so nobody else cares about this but I can't say I'm impressed. I'll just be taking Barnes in on Thursday without his coupon - and won't be loading up on Bayer products when I'm there.

[Rant over - back to regularly scheduled normalcy shortly]

Made me look...

Burton_and_taylorToday, 2 of our new policyholders, one right after the other, had the names Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Both from completely different parts of the country, with completely different pets (no, they aren't the famous couple) but it made me look for a moment.

What a wonderful coincidence for the day...

[if you are like some people I pointed this out to and don't know who Liz and Richard are - gasp! - you can learn more on wikipedia.]

Embrace wishes you a Happy Independence Day

Bailey_the_patriotic_goldendoodle_5  At Embrace, we're all off having a well deserved break with our 2 legged and 4 legged family but we wanted to wish you a good one for today.

Have a fun and safe day for all involved (and perhaps those that aren't involved too.)

And we're looking forward to seeing the pictures tomorrow - do send some along!

In which I ponder on my love for electricity and gratuitous puppy blogging

OK, so I'm behind in my blogging.

Img_3872_2 Besides an update on how the pup-sitting went on the weekend, I have a great pet health story coming up. But all my good plans were thrown for a loop this weekend when a freak storm (yes, it was freaky) knocked down some serious tree parts 2 houses down, tearing down 2 power poles and blocking the road for 2 days. Luckily no people or pets were hurt and no property was damaged but it was lights out for 6 lucky houses in the neighborhood - ours included.

And of course, as luck would have it, the Illuminating Company had sent their emergency staff off to Toledo thinking that that was where the action was going to be; hence, no power at home on Sunday night or Monday until past midnight (and that was a miracle I think.) Harumph!

In a pinch yesterday, I rented a generator to save the food in our fridge and 2 freezers (I like to cook in bulk and freeze it all and Costco is our best friend) and I did manage to get in some work done in the heat of Monday night, eating melted chocolate ice cream :), but it all rather threw me (and the girls and the cats ) for a loop (John stayed at work late in his lovely air conditioned office - envy envy.)

So while I try to catch up this week, you can check out see some video footage of Ruby, the talkative Golden-Doodle, over at my Facebook profile to keep you amused. She certainly did have fun at the office.

Get an Embrace Pet Insurance Quote