Pet products to Japan

Trends and opportunities

The market

The pet industry in Japan is mature and relatively stable. The Japanese lavish attention on their pets, paying particular attention to pet nutrition, health and comfort and generally buying high quality products. Over 50 per cent of pet owners pay attention to nutrition and food safety, and check ingredients and country of origin on the package when choosing pet food.

In 2016, the Japanese pet products industry (i.e. food, health care products and accessories) is estimated to be valued at A$5.3 billion, representing growth of 2.6 per cent over 2015.

In 2015, the industry was valued A$5.2 billion, representing growth of 1.7 per cent over 2014. The Japanese pet product industry sales were made up of:

  • A$3.8 billion of pet food - a slight increase of 1.8 per cent over 2014 and in line with an increase in the number of cats and small animals
  • A$909 million of pet care products - an increase of 2.1 per cent over 2014 and in line with an increase in demand of excretion care products
  • A$490 million of pet accessory products - almost no change to the previous year.

There was a slight decrease in the volume of dog food sales in 2015. Strong demand in wet pouch cat food has remained at a high level compared to 2014 and demand in premium food for smaller animals has increased. Although the market for premium pet food has been growing, fresh food is still very much a niche category in Japan.



In contrast to the expanded demand for budget products that we are seeing in other sectors of the Japanese market, there has been an increase in sales in the high value-add pet food category such as:

  • premium food and treats
  • age-specific products

As cats have become more popular sales of the cat food in 2015 reached A$1.48 billion of cat food, an increase of 4.7 per cent over 2014. A$1.5 billion has been estimated for 2017.

Opportunities for Australian companies exist in:

  • cat food
  • premium pet food
  • snacks
  • specialised food/supplements (special therapy food).

Pet care products

Due to the rise in the number of indoor pets, excretion care products including cat litter, pet toilet products and diapers account for 80 per cent of pet care products sector. The value of the deodorants and deodorizers sector was A$21.3 million, representing growth of 5.9 per cent over 2014. A$22.5 million of sales is estimated in 2017.

Opportunities for Australian companies exist in:

  • cat litter
  • toilet sheets
  • diapers
  • fresheners/deodorants
  • dental care products.

Pet accessory products

The size of the market for pet clothes, collars, leads, accommodation, and carriers has shrunk over the last several years. In 2015, the market value was A$490 million, shrinking from the previous year. The pet accessory market is estimated be around A$490 million in 2017 as new demands in food and water bowls, including the automatic water/food feeder and refill products, and other unique and innovative products, remains high.

Opportunities for Australian companies exist in:

  • innovative products of food/water supply.

Competitive environment

In 2015, Japan imported A$996 million of pet food (HS code is 2309.10), with a slight increase of 1.0 per cent from 2014. Pet food product is defined as ‘preparations of a kind used in animal feeding’ and ‘dog or cat food, put up for retail sale’.

Australia was the fourth largest supplier of pet products after Thailand, China and the US in 2015. Relief from the strong Australia dollar against Japanese yen helped generate a slight increase of export in 2015. Australia’s share of the market was 5.68 per cent (A$57 million) in terms of export value. Although cheaper products are still selling well in Japan, the market tends to emphasise quality over price. Common wording on products, such as ‘healthy’, ‘natural’, ‘premium’, ‘safe’ and/or ‘balanced’ have become very popular, as consumers demonstrate a preference for quality products.

(Source: Fuji Keizai, 2016 Pet Kanren Shijo Marketing Overview).

(Source: Japanese Customs).

Tariffs, regulations and customs

Supplements and medical products are distinguished by their ingredients and effectiveness, and customs will determine how they will be classified. The individual tariff rates can be found on the Japanese Ministry of Finance website. You must comply with the Ministry of the Environment’s ‘Ensuring of Safety of Pet Animals Feed Act’ – the details of which should be discussed with your importer.

Marketing your products and services

Before entering the Japanese pet industry, companies must gain a thorough understanding of issues such as pricing, packaging, and distribution options.

Local partnering is the key to market entry. Australian companies should find and appoint local agents, importers, or partners. Due to high start-up and maintenance costs, establishing your own channels (stores and sales personnel) is not recommended. Instead, test your market success first with local representation.

There is an emerging trend towards joint ventures with a Japanese manufacturer to develop and manufacture products in Australia. Representatives can be engaged to target two options for market entry:

  1. conclude sales contracts with import agencies and wholesalers, and market products through their sales routes
  2. conclude sales and partnership contracts with Japanese manufacturers, and market products through their sales channels.

Japan's pet industry is characterised by strong competition between domestic and foreign brands. To be able to compete, a brand and its product must be unique - with clear distinguishing features. These factors could be functional or marketing characteristics, such as a package design and/or brand logo.

To market your product effectively you should consider:

  • Pet food – prepare a list of ingredients and a process flow chart as they are considered necessary information for Japanese importers to evaluate whether they are allowed to import the products or not. The majority of pets in Japan are small so the package size/product size also be small. Be prepared to be flexible in adjusting your product based on the request of the customer.

  • Pet supplements/medicine/pet care products – prepare the documentation requested by the government and the customer. Japan’s customs offices or the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) will advise the importer only of the detailed guidelines. These regulations will differ from one product to another. Therefore, you will need to find an importer with whom you feel comfortable working with. Without this documentation, the customer cannot decide whether they are able to accept the products or not. Your importer will be able to provide detailed advice on Japanese customs MAFF. Please note that no product registration can be done from Australia, and the application must be carried out by the importer in Japan.

  • If you need assistance to find an importer, it is recommended that you work with and be guided by your local Austrade representative to ensure a customised market entry strategy is implemented, and that products meet the specific needs of the Japanese consumer.

  • Monitoring the Japanese pet industry in order to detect changes and growing trends that may affect your marketing strategies.

  • Developing relationships with local partners and/or distributors to facilitate ease of entry into Japan.

Links and industry contacts

Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Centre
Japan Pet Food Association
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.

Contact details

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