The Czech market for pet products showed rapid growth until the start of the economic crisis. Since 2008, market growth for pet products was slower, but still evident. While the pet food subsector was not hit by the crisis at all, luxury products – mainly cloths and services – experienced more difficult times. The pet products sector is expected to grow faster in the future with the introduction of a larger assortment of products and the end of economic crisis. More than half of Czech families are pet owners and the status of pets – mainly cats and dogs – in the family is increasing. The “humanization” of pets in the household leads to higher spending for premium food, health supplements and also for entertainment and wellness. The reputation of the U.S. for quality and innovative products provides substantial opportunities for U.S. pet food and accessories firms that are known for setting trends in the industry.
The Czech Republic, located in the heart of Europe, has 10 million inhabitants. Despite the economic crisis, which also resulted in weaker purchasing power of Czech consumers, the Czech Republic remains a substantial market for its size when it comes to keeping pets. Statistically, nearly every family owns a pet - which is a guarantee for driving sales in the pet care market in the future. The main trends influencing the pet products market include humanization and health & wellness. Pets are seen more and more as family members, especially in urban areas. This goes hand in hand with changes in demographics – there are more single-person households, couples are delaying starting a family, etc. While pet humanization is evident with dogs and cats, it is not yet the case with other types of pets (although it is expected to penetrate there in the future). The pet products market in general has been experiencing growth, even during the economic crisis. The pet food sector remains a dominant segment, generating the majority of pet care market sales.
The pet food market in the Czech Republic has experienced relatively stable growth. The main reason is a change in pet owners’ behavior. Pet food was introduced in the Czech Republic on a large scale in the 1990s. Since then, there has been a growth in the number of pet owners that are buying pet food rather than feeding their pets leftovers. Marketing campaigns have had a strong influence on changing people’s habits regarding pets and their nutrition. A few years ago only about 30% of pet owners purchased pet food, today the figure is closer to 35%. This represents a great potential for growth in the future. It is estimated that there are about 80,000 tons of dog food sold in the country each year. The total market for pet food is estimated to be $280 million – nearly $170 million is spent on dogs, $110 million on cats. Pet food grew 10% in 2009, and an estimated 5% in 2010.
Dog and cat treats are the fastest growing categories. Pet owners also tend to buy more moist food. More focus is also put on vitamins and healthy diet. Consumers have started to care more about the health and nutritional qualities of the food they give to their dogs and cats. Buyers tend to look more for pet food suitable specifically for their pet’s age, size, lifestyle, and breed. Pet food with natural ingredients and nutrients that helps to prolong the lives of the animals is gaining popularity. Along with awareness of animal dental hygiene, food products preventing dental plaque are becoming increasingly demanded. As a result of the humanization trend, you can find new types of products in the market – for example dog advent calendars or special Valentine heart treats. Pet owners can also visit special bakeries for pets, treat them with special pet ice cream or champagne.
The recent economic situation has helped to fuel sales of economy for pet food, including private label. On the other hand, there is also a small and gradually growing group of consumers who purchase premium and super-premium products (mostly dog and cat breeders and more wealthy consumers). The impact of premium and economy pet food growth is resulting in a squeeze on mid-priced pet food.
Pet Non-Food Products
The trend for the non-food market was substantially in line with that of the food market, with strong foreign competition. Before the crisis, there was a boost in the non-food sector, thanks mainly to a strong increase in the assortment of available products and to sales in non-specialized channels (supermarkets and hypermarkets).
A few years ago, sales of pet cloths focused mainly on vests, jackets, jumpers or raincoats. In recent years, the assortment has become much wider – stores offer skirts, turtleneck pullovers, or tailored made shorts. Dogs and cat owners can treat their pet also with jewelry, especially special collars. Despite the enlarged assortment, the pet textiles and apparel segment was the one hit the most by the economic crisis. Mainly luxury cloths sales fell in numbers. On the other hand, outdoor wear for dogs is gaining popularity. Dog owners may buy products that will allow them and their four legged friends to engage in do canicross (running with dogs), bikejoring (cycling with dogs), skijoring (skiing with dogs). Dog life vests for swimming are also available in the market. Products for travel with pets are also on increased demand.
The most popular indoor accessories for pets include rugs, cushions, sleeping mats and baskets. It is becoming more common to take pets for periodic haircuts and dental cleanings – although once again the economic crisis has slowed this trend. Oral hygiene products that reduce bacteria and tartar have also had success and there is potential for growth given the fact that 64% of dogs have teeth problems. 80% of dogs experience gum problems but only about 5% of owners are aware of this issue. The pet cosmetic products segment offers mainly pet shampoos and conditioners, and products in the canine category have the highest sales numbers. Similar as with human cosmetics, pet products with “natural” and “bio” labels are becoming popular. Pet shops provide a large assortment of shampoos, including those with aloe vera, tea tree oil, almond oil, proteins and anti-odor substances. Even dogs kept inside usually spend time outdoors daily and are exposed to viruses, fleas, bacteria, ticks and worms. Thus, sales of repellents and anti-bacterial sprays increase in the spring/summer season. The pet toy segment sees the highest sales during the pre-Christmas season.