Shanghai bank employee Frances Chen spends about a fifth of her monthly salary on her poodle Cookie, one of the millions of pet owners turning China’s pet care industry into one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
Chen takes Cookie to a groomer for a weekly shower and feeds it imported food, costing her some 2,000 yuan ($320) a month. "I want to give him the best," said the single, 26-year-old who lives with her parents. "He’s our kid. The only difference is that he can’t speak human languages."
Having a pet has now become a symbol of financial success in China, where consultants Euromonitor forecast the pet care sector to grow by more than half to 15.8 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) by 2019, outpacing the world’s biggest market the United States, which is expected to grow just over 4 percent this year to $60.6 billion.
Dogs are by far the most popular pets and dog food sales alone are expected to almost treble to over $760 million by 2019, Euromonitor data shows, as higher disposable incomes make keeping a pet an affordable luxury for more Chinese, particularly in more developed cities.
The loneliness and stress endemic to city life are also driving the pet ownership boom: last year, some 30 million households, or nearly 7 percent of the nationwide total, owned a dog, Euromonitor said.
Matthias Berninger, Mars global head of public affairs, said there was plenty of room for growth in China’s pet food market, which was already expanding beyond most industry expectations.
The U.S. firm renowned for its confectionery owns pet food brands including Pedigree and Whiskas.
Mars was the market leader in China two years ago with a two-thirds share, according to the latest Euromonitor data. Nestle-owned brands were second with just over 16 percent followed by local firm Nory Pet Co Ltd with an almost 7 percent share.
"There is huge demand for pet food as owners give up feeding their dog rice and meat and switch to proper pet food," said by Chen Xiuqiang, sales manager at pet food importer and distributor Guangzhou Mudi Trading Co Ltd.