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August 25, 2019

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Be top dog in the cat’s pajamas thanks to fair

FOR more than two decades, Pet Fair Asia has been the main platform for China’s pet industry and an annual festival for pet owners, who arrive armed with suitcases and shopping lists to find great deals and new products.

The 2019 Pet Fair Asia from August 21 to 25 has added four pavilions, and features a record more than 20,000 brands from 1,600 exhibitors. In 2018, it had 16,000 brands from 1,300 exhibitors.

For pet owners, a journey to Pet Fair Asia can be very rewarding.

Across the pavilions, pet food and supply brands are offering free samples after visitors scan the QR codes to follow the brands’ WeChat accounts.

Many come home with bags full of food and treat samples, supplements and toys that are well worth the 50-yuan entry ticket.

The deals are also good, especially imported brands that are usually high priced. For example, New Zealand brand KaiKoa Pet Food’s canned cat food products are either buy one get one free or buy two get one free, a steal compared to the retail price.

According to the Pet Industry White Paper 2019 published by online pet forum, China’s pet market has reached more than 200 billion yuan (US$28 billion), a 18.5 year-on-year increase.

It is estimated that Chinese dog and cat owners will spend more than 5,561 yuan per pet this year, which is not much higher than last year’s statistics.

A larger market can provide more and better products and services for pet owners, but it means fierce competition among pet related brands and companies.

A day before Pet Fair Asia opened, the 9th International Pet Industry Summit-Asian CEO Summit invited leading companies to discuss prospects and challenges in China’s pet industry.

Hu Hua, founder and president of HuaYuan Pet Products, noted that the next three years will be good for the pet industry, but more intense competition will begin.

Brands need to catch up with trends and win over young consumers.

“The way to remain invincible in the pet market is to work hard on product development, improve quality and expand more channels,” he said.

Hao Zhongli, chairman of Yantai China Pet Foods, said that the history of China’s pet industry is short and it’s still at the primary stage.

He’s very optimistic about the future, but the market lacks big companies and brands that could help to promote a sustainable development.

The major spenders in China’s pet industry are young white-collar workers, the middle-class and mothers with children under the age of 12 living in top-tier cities, according to Derek Deng, a partner in Bain & Company’s Shanghai office, who gave a keynote speech on pet industry consumer profiling at the summit.

“The growth of these three groups is second only to the growth of the beauty and makeup industry,” said Deng.

“They are very conscious consumers and there are some ways for brands to make a breakthrough, but the entry of new brands also means the exit of old, so how to win them and stay is a question worth exploring.”

Office workers born post-1985 who live in top cities see pets as company in their urban life. They are spending increasing amounts and constantly upgrade accessories.

The middle-class have higher incomes and more money to splurge on their furry friends, but they are very loyal to the brands they’ve chosen.

To promote products, brands are mostly concentrating on online channels such as inviting influencers with huge followings, as well as celebrities, to promote their products.

Short videos on Tik Tok are also spruiking pet products and services through interesting narratives.

Food is the No.1 product in the pet industry, and it’s the category that gains most attention at the fair every year.

Major food brands often purchase a large exhibition space in the center of the pavilion and host many events to promote their brands.

Imported pet foods are also enjoying popularity in the Chinese market.

Owners are willing to spend money on improving their pets’ health and wellbeing with better food.

Top foreign brands like Ziwi Peak are often sold out within hours of the opening day.

Chinese pet food brands are also adding fancier ingredients like freeze-dried bites in dry kibble products.

More suppliers of freeze-dried products are exhibiting at this year’s pet fair.

The world of pet snacks is also getting more interesting. Treating your pet is a great way to bond and make them happy, and now pet owners can choose from a lot more brands and products.

These include Zeal’s lactose-free pet milk, air-dried snacks like hoki skin and veal liver, Omega Plus Petfood’s freeze-dried salmon, Fresh Is Best’s freeze-dried chicken necks and offal.

These snacks are very expensive, yet highly sought-after by pet owners.

Pet furniture is another category that’s increasingly popular.

Pet owners, especially those with cats, decorating new homes will spend thousands on special furniture, such as resting spaces on the wall and scratch poles that can prevent their pet from destroying the sofa.

Last year, expensive tech products were a highlight at the pet fair, but some turned out to be disastrous.

Petkit’s smart pet house named Cozy is equipped with temperature and humidity sensors and an air-conditioning system that can adjust the temperature automatically.

The 899-yuan home sounds very thoughtful and high-end, and many pet owners spent money to improve their pet’s lifestyle.

But the design of the product was flawed. Since its release, multiple cats have been killed when the pet house accidently flipped over, suffocating the poor animals.

Petkit also did not address the issue, either with a recall or changed design. After an online backlash the product is no longer in Petkit’s official Tmall store. But other vendors such as Epet still carry it.


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