This month’s Market Review looks at the global pet food market.

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Source: Mintel Market Sizes

A market that reveals much

A study of the pet market can reveal much about a nation. To start with, ownership can be an indicator of attitudes and affluence. To be prepared to fund an addition to the family, or at least take responsibility for an animal, could be regarded as a luxury, or even an indulgence, in some countries. And then there is the position of the pet within the family: is it to “earn its keep”, such as acting as a guard dog or a status symbol, or is it to be a pampered pet. The pet market also reflects the nature of housing; having a small apartment on the 20th floor is not conducive to having a large dog. It can also be a gauge of the regulatory environment; both in terms of strictness of rules about ownership in, say, public housing; and the degree to which such laws are enforced and/or tolerated by neighbours.

A distinctive breed

Additionally, there are the features which make pet food different from other consumer markets; the prime being that the end user is not the purchasing decision maker. Further, competition comes from products which have no consumer value; ie the leftovers of humans. There is also a fashion element; breeds of cat and dog can vary in popularity on a frequent basis.

Paw or claw

Another pointer to the nature of a country’s inhabitants is the balance between cat and dog ownership. This does not only affect the size of the relevant food segments, but also the amount and types of food sold. Most breeds of dog will woof down more than their feline counterparts; hence they take the “lion’s” share of the 19 million tonnes sold globally. Cats may have smaller appetites, but they are usually much fussier. Indeed, in most countries the amount paid per kg is much higher.

For this reason, 27 countries have volume dog segments higher than for cats; while for value it is only 20. So the amount paid per kg of cat food is higher in virtually all countries except two: Norway and Indonesia. The difference is minimal in Norway while the small size of the dog sector in the latter means it retains a premium, niche pricing.

Dishes for the rich?

Even with these peculiarities, particularly the variation in the pet population, it is still worth looking at per capita expenditures. They reflect the fondness for pets and also the willingness to feed them prepared foods rather than scraps. So affluence will be a key factor and, accordingly, the US appears at the top of the list and India at the bottom.

A cultural element

Indeed, the ranking of the countries in between does follow this connection with income: mainly, but not entirely. Anglo-Saxon countries are prominent at the top end (see chart) while Mediterranean Italy and Spain are well down the ranking, with the Nordic countries and Switzerland not as high as might be suggested by their standards of living. In fact, Norway is just pipped by Brazil which, along with other Latin American countries, is ahead of Japan. Indeed, Asian countries all feature at the bottom. All this suggests that cultural attitudes play an influential role in determining market size.

Latin promise

However, because of the low starting base, Asian countries feature among the most dynamic, with compound annual growth rates for 2008-13 at over 20% for China and Vietnam: given the size of their populations, it suggests some longer term potential. However, in terms of sheer volume sales, Mexico and Brazil offer more immediate prospects, with reasonable growth rates forecast in more established markets.