Our friend and BlogPaws supporter & speaker, Laura Bennett of Embrace Pet Insurance, is once again sharing her thoughts on trends in the industry and letting the pet community know what's in store for us this year. I've followed all of her posts talking about pet trends and she's clearly got the inside scoop! (click the following link to access ALL of her pet industry trends posts)
Here are 4 of the trends I find most compelling – please hop over to her site for the other six.
1. Veterinary spending
An oncology specialist for your Boxer? An MRI for your cat? Allergy treatments for your Golden Retriever? Yes to all of the above! In many respects, pet owners can access the same quality of care and level of treatments for their pets as for themselves and recent veterinary spending increases of 8% show that pet parents are spending more on pet healthcare than ever before.
Last year, we thought that the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 6.2% growth expectation for 2010  was overly optimistic given the historically low level of veterinary inflation we were experiencing at the time; however, the actual rate of 8.1% growth turned out higher than expected indicating that, while the average cost per procedure (the inflation rate) was only increasing 3-4%, a combination of more expensive procedures chosen and an increasing number of vet visits drove up the overall expenditure.
2012 is likely to continue the trend of 8+% increases in veterinary spending and I expect that 2012 veterinary inflation will pop over the 6% level for the first time since 2008.
4. Pet Insurance Inching Into Mainstream
The US pet insurance industry reflected the recent recession by dropping growth rates from 25% in 2008
to 12% more recently. Gross written premiums (GWP) will reach $359 million in 2011  up from $256 million in 2008. Market stalwart, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), reached $200 million for the first time at the end of 2011.
The three largest US pet insurers, Veterinary Pet Insurance, Hartville Group, and Pet Health,
represented 73% of the market in 2011, a drop from 79% in 2010. VPI and Hartville experienced modest growth of 5% but Pethealth experienced a decline in premium of about 7% giving a blended growth rate of 3.8%. I expect to see the remaining companies’ growth of about 44% in 2012 compared to about 50% in 2011.
Next year will bring some interesting developments. At least two white-label extensions of existing products will appear in 2012, one in the online retail space, one in the banking channel. The retailer is building a new brand so expect to see significant money spend on awareness. Impact on pet insurance premium levels will be more obvious in 2013.
I expect overall premium growth of 12% in 2012 that will see the US pet insurance industry grow to approximately $400 million in GWP.
6. Veterinarians Start Getting Social
While social networking for pet businesses went mainstream in 2010, veterinarians lagged behind, not sure how to participate. Would clinic clients want to “friend” their clinic on Facebook? Would they like to tweet with their vet after-hours? You bet they would, and veterinary clinics worked that out in 2011. Chances are your clinic will be on Facebook in 2012 if they aren’t already there. Clinics like Austinburg Veterinary Clinic and Southern Colorado Veterinary Internal Medicine use Facebook to share pet health info with their clients as well as let them know about clinic happenings.
9. Single Doctor Veterinary Clinics Decline
Did your veterinarian recently retire and sell off his/her clinic? Veterinarians are not immune to demographic trends in the US and they are coming up to retirement in droves. For those with larger clinics, VCA has been scooping up all it can find, including specialty clinics. The veterinary world is destined to go the way of funeral homes. Your local undertaker might look like a small family operation, but likely they are part of a large corporation. 2012 will only continue this trend.
I really believe all of these trends will happen – Laura may have the 'inside' track, so to speak, but just paying attention to what's happening in the veterinary world and the pet community as a whole, can tell you a lot. Laura's post has a great bibliography, showcasing her resources, so hop over and read the entire article - and check those resources out. Well worth your time today.