Pet Food in Asia: How to Find Potential? – A Lesson from Korea

Asia Pacific has dog ownership patterns that are similar to those in mature markets, but per capita spending in the region is the lowest in the world. Most dogs and cats in Asia Pacific still do not eat commercially produced pet food. The region is, however, predicted to see the fastest value growth in pet food sales over the forecast period.

In many developing Asian markets, there is limited awareness of economy food options, and often a lack of availability. Attitudes towards pets in developing Asian markets differ from those in mature pet care markets. Many Asian consumers feed their pets leftovers from their own meals or leave their pets to look for food waste on the street. In general, there is less concern for animal welfare in these markets than in more developed countries.

However, by positioning economy pet food as a better option than leftover human food or table scraps, commercial pet food brands can shrink the prepared gap, as has been the case in South Korea. South Korea has seen a gradual rise in the proportion of consumption accounted for by prepared pet food, from 30-40% for dogs and cats in the early 2010s to more than 50% in 2019. This reflects efforts made by manufacturers, governments and local social service organisations.

Changing consumers’ perception that leftovers are cheaper

Owing to the successful strategy of manufacturers producing economy pet food, its sales of economy dog food in South Korea rapidly increased during the last 10 years with much higher value and volume growth rate comparing to the global average. Major players historically were established leaders in cheap dog food mainly distributed to dog farms (which was operated for dog meat). However, with changes in social attitudes and culture, they were successful in repositioning their brands by targeting dogs living in households in rural areas.

Thanks to stray cats, economy cat food has skyrocketed in South Korea

There is another learning point from economy pet food market for stray cats in South Korea. The South Korean local government has participated in changing citizen’s attitudes towards stray cats by expanding food station with social organisations, consumers and manufacturers together. The efforts by diverse players, not only was a social hygiene issue caused by stray cats resolved, but people’s attitudes towards cats have gradually become more positive. In line with the global trend of single-person households favouring cats, the cat population in South Korea has rapidly increased. In addition, in South Korea, the volume sales ratio of economy cat food has skyrocketed.

Premium home-made pet food as a threat to the commercial market

The pet humanisation trend which has characterised Western markets has contributed to a shift upmarket in pet care, as owners seek to treat their pets in a similar way to that in which they treat themselves. This does, however, have the potential to go further, with pet owners feeding their pets home-made meals and treats, with a consequent negative impact on sales of prepared pet food.

Manufacturers need to emphasise the superior nutritional content of their higher-end products in order to appeal to wealthier pet owners. Although pet owners feeding super-premium home-made food and treats can be beneficial, it is can also lead to unbalanced nutrition, which can negatively affect pet health in the long term. Manufacturers can respond by developing dietary supplements in a treat format, as has been the case in more mature pet care markets.

For more insight on the strategies and key takeaways with suggestions, check out Euromonitor’s strategy briefing:  How to Grow Commercial Pet Food in Emerging Asia: A Lesson from South Korea

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