With over 62 million pets – 8.2 million dogs and 7.9 million cats – Italy is definitely a pet lovers’ country!
Pet companions during COVID-19
In Italy, almost four out of ten households have at least one pet. The Italians’ favourite ones are dogs (48.8%) and cats (29.6%). But you will find many homes with both!
Because of the COVID pandemic, this number has – according to the ‘Ufficio Studi Coop’ Report – further increased to 3.5 million new pets being adopted this past year alone. With people spending more time at home and alone, pets are welcome companions to pass the time with.
E-commerce still on the rise
The pandemic has also influenced the purchasing habits of Italian pet parents: online channels note a double-digit growth since 2018. Sales reached a peak of +220% in March 2020, compared to the same month of the previous year.
During the lockdown, many Italians discovered the ease of online purchasing. Born out of necessity – because non-essential shops were closed – online shopping has remained a much-favoured channel since.
In a recent survey of Italian pet owners, 45% indicated having to buy products online for their pet during the COVID-19 lockdown. 79% stated to have purchased online at least once during the past year and 53% bought most of all their pet products online in the same period.
Currently, 52% of Italians buy pet products online at least once a month. Amazon and Zooplus are Italian pet parents’ favourite e-retailers: with Amazon being preferred by dog owners, and cat owners favouring Zooplus. Certain product categories are particularly popular online: pet food (good for 72% of sales), and toys (36%).
Stone and mortar sales
Despite the significant growth of online sales, high street retail still has an important place in the Italian pet market.
In 2020, the Italian pet food market grew by 4.2% compared to 2019. The year showed a turnover of over €2 billion ($2.36 billion) in the main distribution channels: grocery, traditional pet shops and pet superstores. Sales volumes also increased by 2%. (Source: 2021 Assalco-Zoomark Report.)
Cat food is the fastest-growing category in pet food, increasing by 5.9%. The segment which showed the biggest increase in 2020 is healthcare & hygiene: products like shampoos and other grooming items, training pads, pet wipes, brushes, et cetera. This segment grew by an astounding 14.7% in the grocery channel.
Such figures do not include the €34.3 million ($40.55 million) in turnover generated by a typical Italian distribution channel: specialised pet stores owned by grocery chains. These include Amici di Casa Coop or Conad Pet Store (Coop and Conad being two of the leading grocery chains in Italy).
These specialised stores are characterised by their broad product assortment, focus on the premium segment and in-store services. Such services typically include dog grooming, a vet corner, insurance, training services and more.
This peculiar format is expected to develop further, with new openings in the short/medium-term and increasing orientation to customer experience, with the aim to attract new clients and build (their) loyalty. Private label sales are also expected to benefit from this emerging channel, both in terms of revenues and further premiumisation.
Interest in sustainability
In a recent survey (Permanent Pet Watch, Pet owners and Sustainability Survey, September 2020 and February 2021) Italian pet owners indicated that they were more conscious about sustainability issues. Especially the under 30s are concerned about the environmental impact of society as a whole.
As for pet food, the survey showed that Italian pet owners have three main concerns:
- Respect for ethical principles by pet food manufacturers
- Sustainable packaging
- Sourcing of sustainable raw materials
When purchasing pet food, Italian pet owners indicate that they are willing to purchase another brand than their usual one, if the other brand is perceived as more sustainable. They are also willing to pay more for a sustainable choice.
The shift to buying sustainable pet products could be an interesting opportunity for pet food manufacturers. It could be worthwhile to develop a brand proposition and strategy that sets out and applies eco-sustainable company values. Such a strategy can help anticipate and meet new trends in pet parents’ needs: boosting their trust and long-term brand loyalty and justifying their willingness to spend more.
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