Pet Products Industry

An Expert's View about Animal Food in Italy

Posted on: 30 Sep 2012


In 2011 the Italian market for pet food and care products continued to show an increase in turnover and volumes purchased, in spite of the crisis that affected the sector in the last few years. In particular, the Italian market for cat and dog food grew 2.1% to a turnover of $2,139 million, respectively $1,160 million cat food and $867 million dog food, plus $107 million dog snacks, representing a positive signal for the industry as well as for the quality of Italian pet life. Compared to other European countries (France, Germany, UK, Spain, the Netherlands), Italy’s growth rate of 1.6% is higher than the European average. (Source SymphonyIRI, December 2011). Sales grew by 1% and equaled $792.5 million in pet shops, whereas the Modern Grocery Distribution (MGD) channel, with a turnover of $1,346 million, had a 2.7% increase and accounted for more than 62% of the total market size.

Pet products (care, toys, etc.) performed positively in the Modern Grocery Distribution (MGD) channel, registering a growth of 1.5% for total sales of $80 million. Cat litter is confirmed as the strongest non-food sector in the MGD, with a $82 million value, though it had a 1.9% downtrend. Overall market conditions indicate that Italian consumers are becoming better informed, demanding higher quality products, and are showing increasingly varied and complex needs, spurring ever greater opportunity and competition.

Trade Promotion Opportunities:

The U.S. Commercial Service in Milan is organizing a U.S. Pavilion at Zoomark International, which will take place May 9-12, 2013 in Bologna, Italy. The trade fair is the #1 pet products trade fair in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region and has been acknowledged with Trade Fair Certification by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2012. At the last edition in 2011, Zoomark attracted exhibitors from over 35 countries as well as 20,000 qualified visitors, including agents, distributors and buyers from 65 countries. In 2011 nearly all exhibitors in the U.S. Pavilion saw immediate sales and/or agreements. The U.S. Commercial Service has supported U.S. exhibitors at this distinguished show for many years and can provide both exhibitors and other U.S. visitors a range of export-promotion services aimed at assisting your entry or to increase your presence in the Italian and international markets. For more information, please contact our pet products Commercial Specialist, Simonetta Busnelli in Milan (see Resources and Contacts Section below).

Market Demand

The market for pet products in Italy is robust and thus far has not been terribly affected by the international economic crisis and financial decline. In particular, sub-sectors like pet care, premium and super premium pet food continue to show strong market performance. The general trend continues to indicate that pet owners are more likely to treat their pets with greater care, for example choosing special foods tailored to the pet’s specific nutritional requirements, i.e. pre-packaged food that ensures a healthy and correctly balanced nutrition specifically studied to meet nutritional needs.

Average pet life expectancy has increased in the last few decades. This increase is mainly a result of higher quality food products and improved medications and methods of disease prevention. In the past few years, this sector has seen a rise in the practice of owners treating pets as true members of the family. This trend also contributes to the increased use of veterinarians. In fact, vets in Italy not only grant medical treatment services, but they also often provide advice on the healthiest and most appropriate lifestyle for a pet.

With respect to other Western European markets, where industrial pet food accounts for the supply of nutritional requirements for approximately 80% of the pet population, Italy is still an attractive market for pet food manufacturers, standing at 57% of the nutritional requirements for dogs and 64% for cats. The widespread use of industrial pet food comes from the following factors:

- Increased awareness of the importance for a balanced and proper nutrition for pet health and welfare.

- Increased confidence in industrial preparations, which guarantee complete and proper balance of nutrients, as opposed to home prepared food, which does not ensure the proper intake of all nutrients required, or, even worse, to kitchen leftovers, which, in the long run, can be harmful for pet health.

- Less time available to prepare meals both for family and pets, and preference for ready-made meals.

Based on the above, the role of veterinarians in the perception of pet owners has also considerably changed in the last few years, especially in the North of Italy: no longer seen only as a doctor to turn to in case of emergency, but more and more consulted with on a regular basis to ensure pet health throughout their life. The main topic for which Italians claim to consult with a veterinarian is represented by routine checkups and periodic injections (92%), whereas only 27% of cases are considered emergency. Nutritional consulting is the most sought after advice (66%), followed by disease prevention (55%). The three major diseases reported are food allergies and intolerances, kidney disease, and ageing problems. Consequently, 88% vets suggest industrial food for their clients’ pets, since this is the safest and most complete food from a nutritional viewpoint to safeguard pet health and wellbeing. 40% recommend specific pre-packaged food, 25% generic pet food, and 23% premium or super premium food.

Market Data

According to Euromonitor, in Italy there are almost 7 million dogs, almost 7.5 million cats, almost 30 million fish, 13 million birds and almost 4 million other types of pets, including rabbits and rodents (1.8 million), reptiles (1.4 million) such as sea turtles, iguanas, and snakes.

Over three out of ten Italian families own a pet (about 10 million households), while 48.4% and 33.4% of them own respectively a dog and a cat. According to Eurispes, Italians owning a pet constitute 41.7% of the population, and they mainly live in the North-West (44.5%) and Center (44.4%) of the country. In many cases a family hosts one pet (29.8%), but in other cases more than one animal of the same or different species live together (about 11.9%). Among those families who own more than one pet, the highest percentage claim to host two (30.9%) to three (13%). Almost half of pet owners host a dog (48.4%), while one third have a cat (33.4%). Fish or turtles account for 4.9% and 4.7%, while birds (4.1%), rabbits (2.1%), hamsters (1.6%) and reptiles (0.8%) are not so common in Italian families.

In 2012, the Italian Association of Pet Food and Pet Products Manufacturers (Assalco), in cooperation with Adem Lab – University of Parma, Symphony IRI, a leading survey company, the Federation of Italian Professional Veterinary Associations (ANMVI), and Zoomark International conducted a joint in-depth survey of their members and a sample number of specialized shops, vets, and pet products companies. This survey is the only official document available in the Italian market that provides indications of overall performance and sector trends in the pet products industry.

The survey mainly focused on pet shops and the grocery channel, which, as a whole, grew by 2.1% in value and encompassed 95% of cat and dog food market value. In the modern grocery distribution channel, pet products (care, toys and other products) increased by 1.5% in value in 2011; cat litter, despite almost $83 million in sales in 2011, registered a slight decrease in value of 1.9%.

According to Assalco members’ data, the dog and cat food market in Italy was valued at $2,139 million, a year on year increase of 2.1 percent. The data for other animals’ food and pet care sectors (taken from a survey on hyper and super mini stores only) are valued at $27.7 million showing a slight decrease of 0.7%. The grocery channel counted for 62.9% of the total market with sales valuing $1,346 million and an increase of 6.5% over 2011, while the pet shops’ share decreased by 1.8% and was worth $1056.6 million.

Dry food (as opposed to canned or “wet” food) is the market leader for both dogs and cats, with growth rates of 2.1% and 2.7% respectively. The market for pet snack and treat products is experiencing substantial growth, posting an increase of 11.3% in 2011.

Private labels are also contributing to the success of the sector. In fact, by offering quality products at competitive prices, the private label sector grew over 25.1%, compared to a total reported market share of 17.1%. In terms of increased sales generated, the performance of the private label in the department is positive, with an increasing value trend (+7.5% in 2011 as compared to 6.1% in 2010). While private label producers in the pet care sector historically carved out an important role in those segments where producers were unable or unwilling to innovate and where products were largely undifferentiated, they progressively expanded their offering, proposing single serve packages, and raising product quality. In particular, premium and bio food increased respectively by 7.5% and 7.8%, representing 4.1% of the total turnover in this sub-sector.

Northern Italy accounts for more than half of sales of dog and cat food (53.1% in value) and, in particular, the North-West alone covers more than one third of the overall market value (32.3%). Central Italy and Sardinia cover 27.3% market value. The highest potential for development is the South of Italy, representing 13.7% of dog and cat food sales in value, and 15.6% volume.

At the end of 2011, the overall market for “other pet foods” (not cat/dog) performed very well with a turnover of $27.7 million, but showed a slight decrease as compared to the previous year (-0.7%). Food for other pets, although still high, has a more limited penetration into the channel. Hypermarkets and supermarkets share the market rather evenly: about 49% of sales value passes through supermarkets, and hypermarkets account for 44%. Minimarkets have a modest market share (6.8%), and their sales are decreasing. A different degree of development between northern and southern regions also persists in this segment, with 62% of value sales produced in the North. Nevertheless, the South has a higher share in this segment, compared to the dog and cat food segment, and value share is higher than volume share (14% versus 13%). Moreover, the South is the only geographical area where sales grew during the year (+5.4% in value).

In the segment of food for other pets, the largest share in value is represented by birdseed (35.6%, in spite of a -3.4% turnover decrease with respect to the previous year). Food for rodents also shows a downturn (-1.5%), thus ranking second in terms of value share (28.9%). Sea turtles food grew remarkably, by recording a +7.8% in value and reaching 16.2% of the total market. Fish food, on the contrary, making up the remaining 19.3% of the total turnover, recorded a downturn (-1%). In recent years, however, the greatest market growth has occurred in the pet care market. This segment includes all types of accessories for pets as well as hygiene and beauty products, and has also not been strongly affected by the international economic downturn. Pet care products in the MGD (Hyper + Super + Minimarkets) performed very well in 2011, with a +12.7% increase in value and a +25.6% increase in volume, meaning that consumers do not want to put saving before their pets’ wellbeing and care.

Hypermarkets and Supermarkets have a substantially aligned volume share, while the volumes traded by smaller stores are residual. As expected, value is higher for Hypermarkets, which, thanks to the availability of larger display areas can enrich the basic product range with different items and increase profitability. However, in 2011, supermarkets show the best performance (+9.2% in value). The North West develops 45% of total sales value, while the South and the Center + Sardinia highlight the strongest growth (+5.5% and +5.3% in value, respectively).

The pet care segment is worth $80.1 million and increased by 1.5% in value. The modern grocery distribution (MGD) covers 98% of the sales, especially hypermarkets and supermarkets, although minimarkets showed an increase of over 40%. Shampoos, deodorants, brush products, pesticides, and chewing and teeth products, are just some of the most successful products in this segment.

However, it’s the pet hygiene segment, and cat litters in particular, accounting one third of the pet products sector, which is worth more, reaching $82.2 million in 2011 in the MDG (Hyper + Super + Mini). Despite the large importance that this sub-sector is covering, it is showing a slight decrease in sales of 1.9%. Classic packages between 5 and 8 Kg dominate the segment with a value share of 84%. However, the best performance is achieved by space saving compact packages below 5kg, typical of premium products, showing an increase of almost 39% in value, counting for 12.6% of the total cat litter sales with a $10.4 million turnover. On the contrary, the most convenient size (over 8 kg) showed a definite downturn of 27.9% in value.

Best Prospects

Italy is a big importer of pet food (in 2011 imports totaled 223,322 tons versus exports of 129,485 tons). Local production totals 444,432 tons, 97.5% of which account for dog and cat food, whereas the remaining 2.5% pertain other pet food. 40% of local production is being exported. 70% of volumes manufactured apply for dog food, and the reason for this is mainly due to a higher average per capita consumption. Imported pet food accounts for almost 211 thousand tons and exported pet food exceeds 132 thousand tons. Dog food products represent the largest import (100,086 tons), counting almost 50% of the total pet food imports.

The Italian pet food sector, besides the premium and super-premium type of foods, sells different products according to breed, size and age. On the one hand consumers search for quality and added value, on the other hand they focus on affordability, convenience and saving. This results in a higher demand for premium and super premium products, which increase the value of innovation and nutritional research, and at the same time economic products, in particular Private Label. We also see other food segmentations according to food allergies and intolerances. Most recent trends involve natural and holistic pet food products that guarantee their product contains either natural or biological ingredients and no artificial food coloring or preservatives. Among the most sought after ingredients are vegetables, healing herbs, fruit and cereals, along with wild caught meat and fish. Many consumers are showing a preference for snacks and treats that are preservative-free, and contain healthy ingredients such as fruit and cereals. Products such as these are now purchased for their functional role for pets, for example dental hygiene.

Read the full market research report

Posted: 30 September 2012

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