The pet industry is an economic force to be reckoned with. We take a closer look at several trends in this industry.
Number of pets and the supplying industry
It is evident from reports of the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) on the European pet industry that the number of pets has been on the increase since 2012, mainly for dogs +8% (81 million), cats +11% (99 million) and small mammals +2,5% (29 million). The number of birds and rabbits shows moderate growth while the number of reptiles (7.3 million) and aquariums (12.6 million) has dropped by 15%. The number of households with at least one pet has increased by 4% and comes down to 75 million.
The last few decades have shown a clear shift from keeping dogs to cats, which can mainly be explained by the strong rise in the number of second earners and single households. Many people findit unpractical and unfeasible to keep dogs because they cannot walk them during the day. There is also a tendency towards keeping smaller dogs, partly driven by financial reasons.
In general, the pet sector shows a diverse picture and represents substantial economic value when looking at employment and revenues in the areas of live animals (also pedigree animals), pet nutrition, supplying industry, pet boarding, shows, magazines, training and services including health care, behavioural therapy and training, pet insurance andanimal welfare organisations.
An estimated 80,000 people work in the pet food industry in Europe and another 700,000 in other sectors, including 200,000 vets and 60,000 employees in pet specialty stores. This represents a vast increase, despite the economic recession. Dutch research has shown that animal-related e-commerce is substantial and appears to be increasing. In the Netherlands, a country of 17 million inhabitants, more than 8,000 new ads were published in one week, a study has revealed. In the ads, over 20,000 animals were offered for sale, mainly birds, followedby puppies and rabbits.
One Health and the humanisation of pets
The so-called One Health concept has regularly been in the news in recent years. This indicates that there are important similarities between man, animals and living environment, but that there also is a risk of diseases (zoonoses). Therefore, it is worthwhile to strive for better cooperation between the human health care industry and animal health care industry. Emphasis was initially placed on livestock farming, due to the outbreak of aviary influenza and Q fever.
It is assumed that pets, which live in close proximity to humans, possibly play a bigger role in the potential transfer of certain infectious diseases (zoonoses) than farm animals. The causes are the way we are in direct contact with our pets, such as pets sleeping on the bed and letting them lick our faces. Indirect contact takes place through contact with animal faeces in sand boxes, parks and playgrounds.
Humanisation trend in pet food
The humanisation trend is also becoming increasingly visible in the pet food industry. There are indications that consumers have a growing tendency towards natural food and ingredients, such as all natural food, free of additives, organically sourced and GMO free. More product products have a natural claim; in 2015 about 40% while this percentage was under 30% in recent years.
In another development, consumers want to feed their pets the food that their wild counterparts eat, such as raw meat or commercial food with higher protein content and no grains. Consumers also expect their pet food ingredients to be of the same quality as those for human consumption.
We have seen the introduction of more canine snacks that could be mistaken for ‘human’ snacks, such as pizza, popcorn and chocolate-type products. Although some of these human food products are safe for pets, several ingredients pose a health risk including chocolate, which is highly toxic for dogs. These risks are not present in composed pet food. Another example, snacks for rabbits and rodents may contain colourful kibble, which usually is not a natural ingredient at all. These products are primarily marketed as teasers for pet owners, because they want to pamper their pets occasionally.Despite the fact that gluten allergy is extremely uncommon in dogs, the number of gluten-free pet food products has surged.
Animal health and welfare
A major development in the industry is the rising interest in animal welfare, which is expressed by the rising number of adoptions of animals from Southern to Northern Europe and increasing awareness of puppy trade in Eastern Europe. Several critical reports have been published discussing issues in pet health and welfare. Regulations in the area of transport, age, vaccines and registrations are regularly breached. Governments have responded by changing legislation and introducing heavier penalties.
The pet health care industry is scaling up production through increased cooperation among partners, franchising (chain formation) and vets establishing their practice in or are employed by garden centres and DIY stores. Focus is shifting to preventive treatment, such as vaccinations and tailor-made parasite treatments. Pet owners can subscribe to various health care plans with their vets to spread the costs and ensure their pets receive the best possible care. The number of pet health care insurances also continues to rise steadily, while in curative care there is a distinct growth in dental hygiene, oncology and endoscopic surgery (keyhole surgery).
In summary, it is clear that the pet industry is an economic force to be reckoned with and is developing rapidly, not only in terms of numbers, but also pet humanisation, online services and attention to animal welfare.
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