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It is a known fact that pets play an increasingly significant role in German society. This is partly due to ongoing growth in the number of single-person or small households. In 2014, the number of single-person and 2-person households grew by 2% and 1% respectively over the previous year. In addition to ongoing growth in internet usage and digitalisation, this is an indicator of the increasingly isolated lifestyles led by many Germans.

Pets are often welcomed as providing balance to these consumers’ hectic and career-focused lives and sometimes even viewed as taking the place of a partner or child. They are considered beloved companions that enhance their owners’ wellbeing and quality of living. Dogs are also viewed as supporting their owners’ fitness and health and as helping them to reconnect with nature on their daily walks. As a result, the German pet population is growing at rates almost parallel to the number of small households.

Aside from their role as valued companions, the number of working animals also continues to increase. In 2014, more than 5,000 dogs were employed by police and customs, not including the countless and constantly rising number of support animals such as guide dogs or pets used in animal-supported therapy and education. This gradual shift in the status and roles of pets in Germany not only results in owners having more sophisticated demands when buying pet care but also supports continuous growth in the German pet population.

Due to the high impact of pets on German society and economy, it is of utmost importance that quantification of the pet population is as accurate as possible. However, what level of accuracy is possible to achieve?

Change in methodology

In Germany, there are various trade associations representing and supporting the majority of players in pet care. Their main responsibility, aside from consumer education and information, lies in the research of relevant trends and developments, including those covering the pet population.

In 2012, the two leading organisations the pet care industry, Zentralverband Zoologischer Fachbetriebe eV (ZZF) and Industrieverband Heimtierbedarf (IVH), joined forces in order to maximise their synergies and create a wider pool of resources for their statistics. In the process, research methodologies for the determination of pet population data improved. Up to 2012, IVH solely used secondary sources to establish the number of pet owners. As a consequence large parts of Germany’s inhabitants such as immigrants were disregarded since third party surveys and research addressed only German citizens. Hence the assessment of the actual number of pets was inaccurate, with figures being mostly extrapolated.

The new methodology used since 2013 results in an approach that is far more detailed and representative. Via CATI surveys utilising a dual-frame approach, interviews with a total of 3,000 households were conducted. There were no exclusions and, if necessary, figures were checked via additional mobile and online enquiries. This ensures that the statistical basis comprises at least 400 instances of each type of examined pet (e.g. dogs, cats, birds etc.).

As a result, pet population figures changed significantly between 2012 and 2013. The number of pet cats living in German households, for example, was previously estimated at 8.4 million in 2013, but numbers are now believed to have totalled 11.5 million during that year. From a contextual perspective, the new data appears more accurate. Given the high status that pets enjoy and the strong impact they have on the economy and society in Germany, it appears logical that 11.5 million cats and 6.9 million dogs would have been living in Germany, living in 19% and 14% of German households respectively in 2013.

2013 data has meanwhile been additionally confirmed by the latest studies from 2014. This new data has thus been adopted by European trade organisation FEDIAF, as well as by leading manufacturers in pet care such as Mars Deutschland GmbH and Vitakraft-Werke Wührmann & Sohn GmbH & Co KG.

Consequently, Euromonitor International pet population data is being adjusted in line with this new data. This will ensure an even higher level of accurate representation. As opposed to data adjustments made in response to some sources, however, changes are not only being applied to the most recent years, thus leaving a major gap with previous figures. Instead additional research on developments and trends is being used to back-trend the new figures. Euromonitor International thus ensures more consistency and accuracy even for historic data, as growth trends have been checked and confirmed via primary and secondary research over the entire review period.

Regarding the future outlook for pet care, experts anticipate a pet food volume CAGR increase of 1% by 2020, despite a projected stagnation in the pet population. The main factor driving this positive development is likely to be consumers continuing to switch from self-made food to store-bought products. The ratio of this shift will remain the same, while the pet population is now recognised as larger. Consequently, opportunities for growth are also larger than previously thought. In conclusion, not only is the German pet population larger than previously believed, but, more importantly, the future potential of pet care sales up to 2020 might also be bigger than previously expected.

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