Insight – Rising demand for premium pet food in China

14 June 2022

Rising pet ownership in China is leading to greated demand for high-quality imported pet food.

Affluent Chinese pet owners are increasingly seeking imported pet food with nutritious, protein-rich ingredients. This trend is expected to continue over at least the medium term.

China’s pet food market

The volume of Chinese pet food imports grew from 9,813MT in 2016 to 97,560MT in 2021 (GACC 2022). By 2025, the value of China’s pet food market is expected to exceed US$16 billion (USDA 2022).

Several factors are driving the increase in pet food imports, including:

  • Sales growth (expecially during COVID-19). Online platforms are the preferred channels for imported pet-food purchases
  • Increased pet ownership and humanisation of pets (see below)
  • Affluent consumers seeking high-quality imported food for their pets. Pre-prepared and freeze-dried pet foods increasing in popularity to suit urban lifestyles.

In 2021, Canada (47%), the United States (20%), and New Zealand (13%) accounted for 80% of China’s pet food imports. Australia had a 2% market share (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Chinese pet food imports from 2018 to 2021 by country (in RMB Yuan millions)

Figure 1 - China pet food imports

Drivers of pet ownership in China

Demographic and cultural factors are driving the increase in pet ownership in China. These trends are part of broader changes in China and are expected to continue. This will support further increases in pet ownership. They include:

  • Increased disposable income allowing more room in household budgets to buy pets and pet food
  • An ageing population seeking animal companionship. In many cases, the older generation of Chinese have only one child, leading to an increased emphasis on treating pets as surrogate children
  • Millennial Chinese marrying later and placing greater importance on pets as family members.

Despite recent increases, only 20% of Chinese households currently own a pet. This compares with 38% in Japan, 62% in Australia and 70% in the US (USDA 2022; Hannick 2020).

Historically, dogs have accounted for the majority of domesticated animals in China. In 2021, however, Chinese pet owners were more likely to own a cat (60%) than a dog (54%) for the first time. There are an estimated 58 million pet cats and 54 million pet dogs in China (See Figure 2).

Figure 2: Domestic dog and cat numbers (millions) in China from 2018 to 2021

Figure 2 - Number of pet cats and dogs

Resources

Austrade has more information about the Chinese market.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently published an report on the Chinese pet food market.

The Australian Government’s network of Agriculture Counsellors provided information for this article. More information about the Agriculture Counsellor network, including contact details, is available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website.

For more information on what pet food products are eligible for export, visit the Pet Food Industry Association Australia’s website.

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