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It’s treat time for pet food companies as Indians indulge furry folks

Growth of packaged food for pets has been one of the strongest in recent years, even as people cut down on other categories.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Sep 23, 2019, 11.06 AM IST
dog food
BENGALURU: Companies and retailers are seeing snacks for dogs and cats selling at a significantly faster rate than other mainstream food segments, helped by increasing pet ownership, consumer shift from home-cooked food and online channel.

Mars, that controls half of India’s pet food market, and Flipkart, Snapdeal and Big Basket said growth of packaged food to the furry members have been one of the strongest in recent years even as people cut down on other discretionary categories within the overall FMCG segment.

“Our portfolio of brands is growing at 20% this year as against 18.5% in 2018. Increase in pet adoption, rising awareness for better nutritional profile, and lifestyle changes such as more food order-ins has made it easier for Indian pet parents to feed manufactured food,” said Ganesh Ramani, general manager - Mars Pet Nutrition India, that owns dog and cat food brands such as Pedigree, Whiskas and Royal Canin.

The US-based company recently launched Pedigree biscuits at Rs 15, helping dog lovers to make a shift from feeding them generic low-priced biscuits brands meant for human consumption.


High growth comes from a small base, according to Euromonitor International: the pet food market rose to Rs 2,110 crore in 2019 compared with Rs 1,346 three years ago. In comparison, salty snacks and biscuits segment for human, which has seen growth tapering off, is 40 times bigger in size.

Experts feel there has been a gradual mindset shift — from dogs being kept at homes for security to now treated as family members. And estimates indicate that there are about 23 million dogs and 4 million cats as pets and cared-for pets in India, including in rural areas. "Pets have short lifespans and Indians will not compromise on fulfilling their nutritional needs,” said Bhupendra Khanal, CEO of Dogsee Chew, that sells premium dog treats made with yak and cow milk.

A bulk of the sales growth is also driven by e-commerce: while Flipkart said tier-3 cities contribute to more than half its total sales, Big-Basket have seen the category grow by over 150% this year.

“Pet foods is not a highly penetrated category and hence there is a large potential for growth online,” said Seshu Kumar, national head — buying and merchandising at BigBasket.

Online marketplaces such as Flipkart and Snapdeal report 2x growth in sales in the pet care category across tiers despite the downturn. Walmart-owned Flipkart introduced the category in 2014 with ten verticals such as pet food, treats, accessories but the count has now increased to 30.

Convenience is being seen as the main factor driving consumers to shop for pet food online as pet products are not easily available at neighbourhood stores. Wider assortment online as compared to limited assortment at top-up stores is another driver.

This is reflecting in the segment's sales at modern trade or brick-and mortar stores. “The economic slowdown has definitely impacted the industry. Consumers who would buy every month now buy every six weeks. It’s early to tell but they may be shifting to home food for their pets,” said Rashi Narang, founder, Heads Up For Tails.

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