Post-Brexit, a Dog Is an Investor's Best Friend

Editors' pick: Originally published June 30.

Rattled by Brexit? It might be a good idea to turn to pets for support.

And not just emotional support, but financial support as well. The pet industry is one of the most steady in the world, with the market size growing consistently every year this century. And the market stability makes it particularly warm and fuzzy to investors. For example, the store sales for Idexx Laboratories (IDXX) , a corporation that creates and distributes animal products and services, saw a positive rate of growth even in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

"We're seeing this industry continue through good times and bad times," said Seth Mendelson, group publisher at the magazine Pet Business. "It's recession-proof." Perhaps even in bad times, consumers rely on the comfort of their pets and spend accordingly to spoil the creatures who provide them with such support.

Americans spent $60.28 billion on pets in 2015. In 2016, that number is estimated to rise to $62.75 billion. 

Does that forecasted growth mean more pets will be bought this year? Not necessarily. It may have more to do with a higher standard-of-living for pets.

"Pets are living longer, and they've been upgraded to children status in households," says Philip Cooper, president of the consulting firm Pet Industry Expert. "We've seen people habits crossing over to the pet side become entirely normal."

The proliferation of pet products that meet human standards proves Cooper's point. In recent times, everything from pet fitness merchandise to gourmet dog food has landed in the marketplace. And these products have done well, as the standards of the family and the standards of the pet increasingly align.

And it's highly unlikely that the industry is harmed by external factors, such as declining markets. In a recent survey, 74% of pet owners said they were not affected by the economy when it came to their pets. "People aren't going to cut back on their pets," Mendelson said. "What, are they going to cut back on their kids?"

It seems that the only thing that could harm the pet industry is a decrease in pet ownership. But that seems like a long shot, given the consistent growth in the industry in the past few decades. "There's always talk that the next generation is going to own fewer animals," Mendelson said. "But it's never happened. When people settle down, they want to own a pet, because it completes the family."

Indeed, a recent poll found that 70% of pet owners want their children to grow up with a pet: when you grow up with a pet, you want your own child to have the same experience. It's a never-ending cycle -- and a lucrative one to companies that sell pet products.

And so, if you're sniffing around for a reliable industry post-Brexit, look no further. Companies that deal in pet care, such as Idexx Laboratories or Zoetis  (ZTS)  are bound to be smart investments. Other big plays include veterinary company VCA Antech (WOOF) , up 3% over the last month, and pet supply company Central Garden & Pet (CENTA) , up nearly 18% over the past month. Recent analysis from RealMoney suggests that PetMed Express (PETS) is a promising prospect as well. With these kinds of investments, your portfolio may just become as reliable as Fido.

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