Pets Are Part of the Family: Going Global?

by Mary Haight on May 20, 2010

RAMLE, ISRAEL - JULY 10:  An Israeli family co...
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In the US we like to think that a majority of people treat their pets like family.  We know that 50% of people surveyed in a 2009 AP/Petside.com poll feel their pets are part of the family. Could this become a global trend? What does the European (EU) market have to say about this? One way to judge is by looking at the numbers.

Reports out of Europe say Britain is the EU country that looks most like America in the way they humanize their pets, with similar sensibilities about pets being family.  By the look of what’s happening at InterZoo 2010, the major EU pet supplies expo (to the Trade), this point of view may be spreading.

New Markets See Pets Gaining  Status

Klaus Oechsner, President of the German Pet Trade & Industry Association (ZZF), and honorary exhibition sponsor of InterZoo, says the EU pet supplies market is stable as exhibitor numbers indicate:

“Living together with pets is still a source of great pleasure to people all over the world and in many countries pets are just being discovered as members of the family. The pet supplies market therefore has good growth prospects and InterZoo offers the ideal setting for launching new ideas.”

The manufacturers face this existing and constantly growing sense of responsibility with continuous improvement and expansion of their product ranges.”

He said trends are pointing to health products, specialized foods and supplements, especially those formulated to mimic dog’s natural nutrition. He’s not surprised, given what he sees as added stress in dog’s lives, mentioning “exaggerated” grooming regimens, according to pet products business reporter Martha Spizziri .

EU Spending on Pets Hits Historic High

As in the US, the recession hasn’t really hit the pet products market in Europe in any significant way. Worldwide sales reached $81 Billion.  For the first time, EU spending exceeded that of North America, $31.1 Billion to $30.5 Billion respectively, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.

What is selling and why mirrors US buying patterns:  Convenience is becoming key and products or stores that offer it are in demand.  Premium products and non-essentials like treats, clothing, and high-tech gadgets continue to prove popular, although the EU buying public favors spending more on premium foods and less on pet yoga and outfits.  The “lifestyle” trend is also evident according to Oechsner, with coordinated pet items in stylish design.

In the US there are many “big box” stores, and that’s not always the case in Europe.  France for instance is a tough market for the likes of PetCo given the restrictions on real estate use. Zoning laws are very tough, so smaller shops won’t be quite as devastated as  in other parts of Europe where one stop-shopping is becoming a sought after convenience.  Italy, Spain, and Portugal prefer the small family owned pet store, so expansion in those countries will take place over  time. 

 The convenience factor makes life with pets easier.  That in turn may increase the numbers of pets throughout the population, which has it’s own effect on cultures. Fairly recent changes in traveling with pets throughout the EU have made going on holiday easier. Given a middle class, ideas about pets as family have spread far afield, consolidating in Europe and spreading to Turkey and beyond.  While pets as part of the family is a predominantly Western idea for now, the mindset has the potential to go global.

What’s been your experience? I haven’t tried to fly with Tashi between EU countries, and am not sure how easy that actually is.  What’s your take?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Deborah Flick, L.Fisher CPDT-KA. L.Fisher CPDT-KA said: RT @boulderdog1: "Pets Are Part of the Family: Going Global?" frm the always wonderful @DancingDogBlog http://bit.ly/aUlXpO […]

  2. […] posted news of InterZoo 2010, and came across some interesting stats: The EU is now spending more on pet supplies than North America. I know Company of Animals attended the Expo so what were some of your impressions from the show, […]

  3. […]      On Dancing Dog Blog, Mary Haight writes smartly about current issues in the dog and cat world. If it’s news, Mary’s on it. Recently she wrote a terrific post entitled “Giving Pet Shops and Puppy Mills the Boot.” One of my favorite categories on her blog is Foreign Report. Click here to read about pet news  from around the world. I especially enjoyed “Pets Are Part of the Family: Going Global.”  […]

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