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By: Damian Shore

This year’s edition of the Iberzoo pet expo took place in Barcelona between 10-12 October. The array of premium pet products on display showed that although pet care sales remain below their 2010 peaks in both Spain and Portugal, there is potential for growth in some areas.

Premium Products to the Fore

The expo’s most striking feature was the wide range of high-end clothing and accessories for dogs and cats on display. This ranged from Oregon, US-based Ruffwear’s “performance” dog coats and even dog packs to cuter articles like a flamenco dancer outfit for small dogs. Branded products were also highly visible – everything from Batman and Superman pet beds to Hello Kitty cat carriers.

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Products aimed at making pet ownership more convenient for the time-poor, such as Petmate’s Portion Right programmable food dispenser, were notable in this regard. Pets on the move was also a strong theme, with many food and water bowls specifically designed for pets travelling with their owners. H204K9, a stainless steel, insulated two-in-one water bottle and bowl for dogs made by Chatsworth, a Californian-based company, was one of many examples of this type of product.

In pet toys, high-tech products such as Knoxville, Tennessee-based PetSafe’s Frolicat BOLT (an interactive laser toy for cats) and puzzles for pets like Swedish-based Nina Ottosson’s MixMax were notable trends, reflecting the ongoing deepening of pet humanisation. Environmentally-friendly pet toys were also popular, such as Bozeman, Montana-based West Paw’s 100% recyclable Zisc (a type of Frisbee).

While the overall market environment in Iberia may be weak, a minority of affluent owners are increasingly interested in humanising their cats and dogs. It is primarily for this reason that the pet care market has significantly outperformed other FMCG markets like packaged food and home care in recent years.

A Shift to Smaller Pets

Many other products showcased at Iberzoo targeted owners of small pets. This reflects an ongoing trend towards urbanisation (smaller homes lead to smaller pets), as well as economic circumstances. Moreover, a growing number of parents regard these types of animals as suitable “starter pets” for their children, before getting them a dog or cat. This is particularly noticeable in Spain, where the small mammal population expanded by 16% between 2008 and 2013, to 1.6 million. Meanwhile, small dogs (up to 9kg) account for close to 40% of Spain’s total dog population and just over 60% of that of Portugal in 2013.

All-in-one habitats and aquariums aim to make the learning curve of keeping fish and small mammals or reptiles as gentle as possible. Products in this vein included Reptibreeze’s Turtletub (“Keep aquatic turtles the way the professionals do”). Many manufacturers now provide online video tutorials to show how these products should be assembled and used.

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Given that many of these pets are owned by children, branding was also highly visible in this area, such as SpongeBob, Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Hello Kitty aquariums.

Chinks of Growth Amid Overall Decline

With austerity still very much the order of the day, pet care value sales in Spain and Portugal are not expected to mount a significant recovery anytime soon. Nonetheless, there will continue to be growth opportunities in areas which tap into long-term social trends, such as urbanisation and pet humanisation.

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