China's Pet Market: Pet Owners Spend 6600 Yuan on Their Pets
May 7, 2023 | Sectors & Industries
A few decades ago, Chinese people weren't fond of pets and were afraid of dogs, not even imagining owning one. However, times are changing and now millennials and Gen Z are influenced by the West (where pets have been treated as companions for many years) and want to spoil their pets with the best food and accessories.
Now young people around the globe decide to have pets instead of having children (or at least before that). The market grew especially during the covid-19 pandemic, and China’s pet industry is no different, as many people were looking for a companion during heavy lockdowns. China’s pet market is expected to grow up to 66.1 billion dollars by 2023. In this blog post, we will take a look at the market trends and see how foreign brands can tackle China’s pet industry.
China’s Pet Industry Overview
According to the 2021 White Paper on China’s Pet Consumption Trends, China’s pet industry will reach 445.6 billion RMB (66.1 billion dollars) by 2023, which is ten times more than in 2013. Chinese pet owners’ behaviour changed. Before they were keeping dogs only as guards and they were keeping animals mostly for their practical function. In the past five years, the number of pets in Chinese cities grew by nearly 50%.
But pet ownership in China is still relatively low in comparison to other countries. On average, only around 6% of Chinese people own at least one pet, so the market presents great opportunities, as it’s going to grow even faster. In comparison, 67% of US netizens own a pet. According to Statista, there are more than 200 million pets in China (as of 2021).
Dog owners vs. Cat owners
Dog lovers might get surprised here, but there are more cat owners than dog owners in China. At the end of 2021, there were around 58 million cats and 54 million dogs in China. According to China Briefing, the popularity of cats is growing faster than that of dogs, growing almost 20% year-on-year, while it grew only 4% when it comes to dogs.
When it comes to the distribution of pet owners, cat lovers account for 59.5%, while dog lovers take 51.7%. Apart from enthusiasts of furry friends, Chinese people are also fond of aquatic animals (8.3%). One of the reasons for the preference for cats might be also the cost, as pet dogs cost more (average annual spend per dog was 390.62 dollars) than pet cats (average annual spend per cat was 270.79 dollars).
Who are Chinese pet owners?
Research shows that Chinese pet owners are from younger generations, with around 50% being people born after 1980, and 20% being people born after 1990. This means, that the biggest consumer groups for pet supplies, such as pet food, pet services, and various pet products are Chinese Millennials and Gen Z.
This group of consumers presents the greatest potential, as many urban citizens in their 20s and 30s’ have a high income, are well-educated, and are not into having kids. It’s said that ‘pets are new kids and it’s true for many young adults, that are choosing pet ownership instead of having a child. More and more people consider a pet as a family member, especially young adults that are single. In fact, 41% of Chinese pet owners are single.
Most pet owners come from big cities and are well-educated, with more than 80% having a university degree. 88.45 of pet owners are women, that live in big cities and are often single, with much disposable income to spend. They are looking for a life companion and are often finding it in a pet.
Why the Pet market is growing?
The pet sector is expanding all around the world, including China. The trend is being driven primarily by Millennials and Generation Z, who are benefiting from greater income and a lower birth rate. Many of them work long hours, do not yet have a partner, and are frequently yearning for companionship, which may be readily found in a pet. They are not yet ready to have children, and many of them are still unmarried, so they frequently choose to have a cat or a dog instead.
Because the majority of those people grew up without siblings, they see dogs as a way to meet their emotional needs. The trend is accelerating, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people decided to buy or adopt a pet to keep them company while they were imprisoned at home, many of them alone.
As China becomes increasingly cosmopolitan, with many young people influenced by outside ideas, their attitudes towards dogs have shifted in recent years. Chinese consumers are getting into the pet frenzy, buying or adopting not only traditional pets like cats and dogs but also exotic critters, which is boosting the pet market.
China’s pet market is still under-regulated
The Chinese pet market began to expand mostly as a result of social media platforms, as people and pet influencers began uploading images and hilarious videos of their adorable students, making the pets increasingly popular among younger generations. Such rapid market expansion comes with a cost, especially given China's lack of animal welfare laws and regulations.
According to Statistics and data found on Statista, 19% of cats and 13% of dogs were purchased online in 2021. This situation leads to a growing number of unauthorized merchants that want to earn money, by selling pets, without proper care. In May 2021, more than 160 puppies and kittens were found in couriers’ vehicles, dying or distressed. There were sold as ‘blind boxes‘, a type of package authorized by e-commerce platforms in China.
Furthermore, a lack of legal protection for ordinary animals, as well as the expansion of the pet business, contribute to an increase in the number of stray animals. And, whereas the tendency in the West is to adopt rather than buy animals, Chinese people prefer to pay for pedigree dogs and cats, believing that they are more trendy and cool.
How to promote and sell pet products in China?
Because the majority of your clients in China will be Millennials and Gen Z, you must be conscious that your pet items and pet brand must be available online, as this is where young people receive information and shop. Pet owners regard online platforms as the key source for purchasing pet food, particularly in China's urban pet market. According to research, 74.5% of pet owners purchase pet food and 80% purchase other pet products online.
Therefore, there are some steps you need to take to sell pet-related products in China.
Branding is the Key in China
To flourish in the market, all companies in China from all sectors must take care of their branding. If you wish to sell pet food in China, you should be aware that no one will buy your items if they have never heard of you. Building an online presence can give you credibility and allow internet users to discuss your business on social media, visit your website, and eventually suggest you further.
Moreover, e-commerce platforms in China don’t usually accept brands without a presence in China, as they know it won’t be profitable.
Build your presence in the Baidu search engine
Baidu is China's most popular search engine, and it is where Chinese people go to find information, just like Google. If you want to participate in China's pet economy, you must be able to be found on Baidu. As a result, it is recommended that you host your own Chinese website in Mainland China so that Baidu will rank it in search engine results.
Baidu is a whole ecosystem, which means you can use many different platforms for branding and gaining good e-reputation, additionally increasing your score in search results. You can be active on forums like Baidu Tieba and Baidu Zhidao, create communities around your brand, collect consumer feedback and market insights, and so on.
Position yourself as a luxury brand
Chinese people often consider foreign brands more luxurious than domestic ones and are willing to pay more, believing that the cost is also associated with high-quality products. Young pet owners from big cities are willing to pay more for food products if they are assured about their quality and health benefits.
As many pet owners treat their pupils as family members, they are ok with extra spending in pet stores on toys and food. They will also take its pupil to pet hospitals with the best care if needed, no matter the cost.
Build your e-reputation on Chinese social media platforms
Although a Chinese website will help you gain credibility, all marketing strategies and methods of communicating with potential and current customers should be centred on Chinese social media platforms, as these are where Chinese people get recommendations and inspiration.