China’s US$1.5 billion pet food market now includes 27 percent sales of natural products, plus 6 percent grain-free, according to Alfred Zhou, managing director of GfK China. He was the lead speaker at Petfood Forum China 2017, held August 23 in Shanghai.

Only 2 to 4 percent of Chinese households own pets, Zhou said, compared with about 65 percent in the US. That indicates the huge potential of the Chinese market, which is also characterized by rising incomes, especially among younger people who are more and more likely to own pets and to spend well on them.

For example, the average price per kilogram of pet food sold in China had increased to 48 CNY (US$7.22) as of the first quarter of 2017, up from about 40.5 CNY ($US6.08) just three years ago, Zhou said. That includes the fast-rising categories of natural and grain-free, as well as growth in ecommerce – it now accounts for nearly 48 percent of pet food sales in China – and increasing numbers and sales for domestic Chinese brands.

Those brands were on display in large stands as part of Pet Fair Asia, which took place August 24-27, right after Petfood Forum China, at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre. With rapid growth matching that of the Chinese pet market, Pet Fair Asia comprised nine halls, with at least three devoted to pet food and a large portion of another hall showcasing pet treats and snacks.

In its sixth year, Petfood Forum China attracted nearly 90 pet food professionals from China as well as several other countries. Other topics and speakers included pet food ingredients from biomass, by Dejan Miladinovic of Norwegian University of Life Sciences; strategic, global pet food marketing plans, by Vicki Lynne Morgan of Animal Brands; the global supply of marine pet food ingredients, by Meng Wang of IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organization; a universal sensory language for pet food market differentiation, by Perrine Delime, PhD, of Diana Pet Food; innovations in pet food drying, by Will Henry of Extru-Tech; the top five cat and dog nutrition concepts from consumer insight studies, by Jeff Alix of DSM Nutritional Products; and the potential for freeze-dried pet food in China, by Calvin Smith of Pet Nutrition NZ.

Petfood Forum China and Pet Fair Asia will both take place again in August 2018 in Shanghai.