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Shifting demographics in Asia and its impact on the pet care industry

by Anh H. Nguyen

(credited to Pet Fair Asia)

The era of pets subsisting on table scraps and sleeping outdoors has long passed. Nowadays, Mr. Whiskers and Ms. Fluffy are treated to gourmet meals and dressed in fashionable finery. They sleep on plush beds, possess as many toys as human children, attend veterinary checkups, and indulge in spa treatments. While this scenario may not be new in Western countries, it represents a novel reality for pets and their owners in Asia.

Euromonitor International projects that the Asia Pacific pet care market will reach $29 billion by 2024 and retain its status as the third-largest pet market globally by 2029. China is expected to remain the top contributor to this region's pet care market. Declining birth rates in China, Japan, and Korea influence the trend of pets becoming child surrogates to a large degree. However, these falling birth rates are merely symptoms of broader modern-day issues: the stress of managing high living costs, prolonged work hours, social isolation and disconnection, and diminished libido, all of which have a negative impact on the decision, desire, and capacity to have children.

In light of these grim circumstances, pets look more and more appealing. The expenses associated with acquiring and caring for them remain pretty stable, only surging when medical attention is necessary. Pet ownership eliminates the need for maternity leave, staying home with ill children, or hindered career progression due to parenthood. Furthermore, pet owners are not burdened by the costs of college tuition or private school fees. In Asia, where many parents are expected to provide their offspring with real estate or contribute financially, the expense of raising children could be potentially many times over that in the West.

Of course, there will always be pet owners who go above and beyond: enrolling their furry kids in training academies, throwing them lavish birthday bashes, or even naming them as primary beneficiaries in their wills. However, these individuals represent a minority, and the pets themselves are largely indifferent. For the most part, pets require affection and simple routine care, which owners are glad to provide without substantial financial strain. In exchange, the love bestowed by pets can serve as potent doses of joy, even possessing therapeutic qualities.

So it is really no surprise that pet humanization is here to stay in Asia. Two examples:

First, from the consumers’ side: In Korea, the record low birth rate and the increasing trend of pet ownership have caused the consumption of dog and cat products to surpass powdered milk. E-commerce platform Gmarket said that in the first month of May 2024, pet food accounted for 69% of total sales. This figure is more than double the 31% of formula milk and baby food products. According to data from the medical and veterinary industries, the number of hospitals for dogs and cats has also increased twice as much as medical examination and treatment facilities for children, as of November 2023.

Second, from the manufacturers’ side: In China, a small town in Zhejiang province called Shuitou dominates the global market for novelty pet accessories, mainly dog leashes, cat carriers, and pet clothing. $630 million of pet products are manufactured here a year, which are then exported to more than 60 countries. Approximately 60% of the global supply of dog chews originates from this location. A single factory in the area churns out an astonishing 50 million leashes annually. Over 80% of American pet owners utilize products crafted in Shuitou.

Other Asian nations such as Singapore, Japan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong are projected to experience substantial per-pet expenditure in 2024. The market is large, competitive, and promising. A few trends are gaining popularity:

  • Distribution: Utilization of digital channels to offer a seamless shopping experience, attractive package deals for time- and price-sensitive consumers, specialized stores, and a range of price points catering to various budgets.

  • Experience: Pet owners may seek more meaningful bonding activities to spend quality time with their pets. This could include pet-friendly restaurants or hotels, pet cafes, pet contests, and gatherings with fellow pet owners. Also personalized items and pet mementos will not go amiss.

  • Enhanced pet care: High-quality, specialized, and premium food and healthcare for pets, including dental care. Tailored, individualized services such as dog walking or pet sitting, and compassionate euthanasia options.

In conclusion, the Asian pet market is experiencing significant growth and transformation, with pet owners treating their furry companions as cherished family members seen as the norm. As the market continues to evolve, businesses that cater to the changing demands of pet owners by offering convenient distribution channels, memorable experiences, and top-notch pet care services are likely to thrive. 

By staying attuned to these trends and adapting their strategies accordingly, companies can capitalize on the immense potential of the Asian pet market, forging stronger connections with pet owners and improving the lives of pets across the region.



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