The strong bond between Aussies and their pets is increasingly visible as the number of “pet-friendly” businesses is flourishing throughout the country. As a matter of fact, Australia has seen an array of creative initiatives attesting the wider potential in the market. Businesses, such as cafés and hotels, which cater to the increasing willingness of consumers to humanise and indulge their pets, are gaining momentum.
A good example is Australia’s crowd funded project, Catmosphere Cat Café, which opened in Sydney in July of this year. Initially established in Thailand, Catmosphere Cat Café boasts that it is the world’s first space-themed cat café franchise. The first “regular” cat café in Australia opened its doors in July 2014 in Melbourne. Another one present in the country, Sydney-based Mad Paws, is described as an” Airbnb-style service for pets”, which aims to connect owners with “trusted” local pet sitters”. Both owners and sitters can post profiles on the café’s website, and they can search for a match based on their pet’s medical issues, exercise and food preferences, in addition to the sitter’s interests, other pets, availability and, nightly boarding rate.
The food delivery and takeaway service “Delivery Hero” meanwhile claims to cater to the whole family, “including our furry friends”. Once just a namesake, “doggy bags” are also becoming popular and are now offered by restaurants in a number of Australia’s major cities through the delivery service. Following in the steps of cafés that are both cat and dog friendly, the company aims to offer a service that will allow contributing restaurants to differentiate themselves. Such initiatives are testament to the potential in the region and speak to Australian’s love for pets.
The pet care market
In value terms, Australia’s pet care market is worth US$2.2 billion, experiencing 5% growth over 2010-2015. Premium dog and cat food have been the most successful, being the largest in value terms and posting the fastest growth. Moreover, dog and cat treats are also on the rise, growing by a 4% and 5% CAGR, respectively, over 2010-2015. Other pet products, which includes pet toys, clothing and beauty, saw the highest growth within pet care. Indeed, the category is worth US$251 million and accounts for nearly 50% of sales of pet products.
Demographic shifts impact pet population
Australia has become one of the most urbanised countries in the developed world, at 89%, which has impacted the living conditions of both pets and humans. The move from rural areas towards city centres, specifically Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra, has shifted the demographics of animals as pets in the country. According to recent Australian Census data, 1- and 2-person households now represent 54% of all households in the country, and young people, particularly women in their 20s, dominate this segment of the population. Across the country, 40% of new dwellings are now apartments, and building approvals for these outnumber those for houses. In Melbourne, for example, the inner city is seeing an increasing number of high-rise residential towers (above 30 storeys), with almost half of them including apartments smaller than 50 sq m.
In Australia, 39% of Australian households own a dog and 29% own a cat, but, as in many other markets, one of the consequences of the strong urbanisation trend towards smaller dwellings is a growing trend towards “pet downsizing”. In this sense, small dogs’ popularity is on the rise, as is the popularity of cats. Between 2010 and 2015, the small dog population grew by 10%, whereas the large dog population declined by 7%.
Threats and prospects
Despite slower economic growth being forecast, Australia remains an attractive market to pet food and products manufacturers. Pet products will remain the most attractive category in terms of growth, with 13% (constant 2015) value growth expected over 2015-2020. Humanisation is also expected to continue to gain traction and pet owners will continue to pamper their pets.
However, some threats are looming, due to pet permissibility laws, which are becoming more pronounced in city centres. Landlords are introducing laws preventing tenants from keeping pets. As rising numbers of Australians are finding it difficult to purchase a property and must rent instead, many are therefore finding that pet ownership is becoming a choice that is not open to them, which may pose a future challenge for pet ownership.