According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. If you’re human, you can check your horoscope to see what fortune the Year of the Dog will bring for you. If you’re a dog, it’s a safe bet that things are looking pretty darn good. Riding the global waves of internet retailing, animal celebrity on social media, and “pet parenting,” spending on pet products and services is growing all over the world.
Euromonitor International calculates that global pet care sales topped $109 billion last year and will continue to grow through 2022, albeit modestly in established markets like the United States, but more rapidly in the emerging markets that include Brazil, India, China, and Mexico. Spending has been bolstered by an expanding culture of treating animals as part of the family. Research firm GfK surveyed households in 22 countries and found that more than half shared their home with a pet. Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil have the highest rates of pet ownership. Americans aren’t far behind them, followed by European countries. Pet ownership is still relatively low in Asia, but like everything else, its popularity is growing fast in China.
Earth Dog 2018: Pet Parents are in their Element
In Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is associated not only with an animal but also with an element. 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. If earth is your element and you’re looking for eco-friendly pet toys, you can choose natural hemp over synthetic chew toys, a leash made from bamboo, and use biodegradable poop bags.
The makers of pet products have provided us with an endless variety of ways to project social values through our pets. If it’s important to you that women in developing countries work in safe conditions and earn a living wage, you can find companies that offer handmade boiled wool chew toys from Nepal. Finding such specialty products anywhere in the world has never been easier. The Internet enables everyone from mom-and-pop shops to niche distributors to pet superstores to sell online.
More than a third of pet-related product sales in China are through online channels like Alibaba. Zooplus and Pets at Home are popular e-tailers in Europe. Seeing the uptick in online purchases, PetSmart bought Chewy.com last year for $3.35 billion, which at the time was the largest e-commerce acquisition in history.
We are What Our Dogs Eat
Pet food sales are growing faster than most packaged foods for humans. While the U.S. market is the largest by size, Euromonitor projects that sales growth is most promising in the Asia-Pacific region. Canada is the biggest export market for U.S. producers of pet food. They enjoy over 90 percent market share in Canada’s pet food import market. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Canada is the third largest global pet food importer behind Japan and the United States itself.
In the pet food segment as with toys and other pet products, lifestyle choices of pet owners are driving diversity and the rise of premium specialty products. If you don’t eat meat yourself, you can choose a vegan water enhancer for your pet. Devotees of the Paleo diet may be fueling a surge in demand for the chicken and jerky treats exported to the United States from China. Sales of natural and organic pet foods are growing faster than low-cost or mid-priced pet food products. You can find pet foods marketed as “biologically appropriate,” that boast locally sourced, sustainably farmed or fished ingredients. It’s no longer socially acceptable to slip the dog table scraps – their packaged food might just be healthier that what you’re eating.
Move Over Grumpy Cat
Celebrities carrying carefully coiffed Shih Tzus are so yesterday. Pets are now celebrities themselves with millions of social media followers, because really, what’s more uplifting than watching a dog on YouTube doze off and fall over? Doug the Pug even won a Shorty Award for Instagrammer of the Year in 2017. He has 3 million followers.
Dog friends Harlow and Sage were also a fan favorite. When Sage died, Harlow (the Weimaraner pictured above) was introduced to new friends, Indiana and Reese Lightning, a photogenic trio on social media that has spawned a variety of popular merchandise from plush toys in their image to calendars and books. All of this cuteness and silliness is wonderfully enjoyable but it also drives the bottom line in pet product sales as pet lovers have a wide variety of platforms for showcasing and sharing reviews of their favorite products.
Puppy Love Promotes Trade in Pet Products
Humans are taking better care of themselves. As people around the world gain more discretionary income, they are willing to spend money to care for and pamper their pets with regular veterinary care, professional grooming, and maybe even pet yoga classes to practice downward dog. The more we humanize and “parent” our pets, the more we can expect continued growth in the global trade of pet products in everything from rain jackets to doggy nose sunblock, from plush beds to personalized collars and gourmet treats. Why not, they’re worth it.
Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. She is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct fellow with CSIS. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught International Trade for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.