Case Study

Segmenting Dog Owners by Those Seeking Quality Ingredients for Their Dog


In response to the dynamic shifts within the dog food industry, characterized by the ongoing humanization and premiumization trends, our client, a major dog food manufacturer, was planning a strategic research initiative. The goal of this comprehensive initiative was to dive deeply into the nuanced preferences and behaviors of dog owners, specifically focusing on their attitudes toward various ingredients and non-food nutrition, such as treats and supplements. With the added challenge of escalating prices within the category, our client needed to uncover insights into the acceptance of innovative ingredients and the factors driving ingredient avoidance. By aligning with evolving consumer demands, this research will enable our client to navigate the complexities of the market, with particular focus on identifying prime prospects to who are interested in premium ingredients for their dogs for targeting and messaging strategies to grow their brand.

Given their long-standing partnership with C+R, this client wanted us to implement this strategic initiative. C+R created a multi-phase qualitative and quantitative project culminating in a comprehensive segmentation of dog owners.


Need to Understand Dog Owner Ingredient Preferences Amid Rising Costs

In response to shifts in the dog food industry towards humanization and premiumization, our client, a major dog food manufacturer, initiated strategic research to explore dog owners’ preferences and behaviors toward various ingredients and types of nutrition amid rising prices. This research aims to uncover insights into the acceptance of innovative ingredients and the factors driving avoidance, allowing our client to target prime prospects interested in premium dog food ingredients. Specific objectives of this endeavor include:

  • Assess growth trends, consumer perceptions of product/price tiers, and potential price barriers in the dog food market.
  • Understand dog owners’ needs, preferences for ingredients, and factors influencing purchasing decisions such as price, brand, benefits, and retailer.
  • Expand insights beyond traditional retail channels.


Exploratory + Up Close and Personal with Dog Owners (Qual) followed by comprehensive segmentation (Quant)

C+R developed a multi-stage qual and quant project that included two rounds of qualitative – 1) exploratory (via online discussions) to understand the category while developing consumer language and attribute lists for the quant phase, and 2) in-person qualitative to deep dive into themes from the first phase and bring consumers to life for stakeholders.

The learnings from the qualitative phases were used to feed into the survey and supplement/support the quantitative segmentation solution. Via a large-scale segmentation, C+R identified the values, needs, and motivations for dog food purchasers and using this information, dog owners were then segmented on the differentiating motivations, needs, and values.  A deep dive of each segment was delivered, including segment size and each segment’s story to help guide targeting and messaging strategies.

The result

Fueling Growth and Innovation Strategies

C+R uncovered universal themes that define the attitudes of dog owners, which led to five distinct segments and were used to ground stakeholders to participate in an activation session. Specifically, C+R conducted an on-site activation session with key client staff in operations, insights, product development, and marketing. During the session, we discussed and deeply got to know each segment and identified which provided the best opportunity for each of our client’s portfolio of brands.

C+R also provided reports/scorecards that showed how each segment was aligned with the client’s current strategy, and where disconnects existed.  After an opportunity was discovered in the activation session for this client to diversify dog food forms (focus more on wet, frozen, and fresh food), C+R prepared a topical report on the qualitative and quantitative evidence for expanding food forms beyond dry kibble, including recommendations for future product development and marketing to each segment of dog owners.

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