Chinese consumer nationalism spares imported pet food

Learn about Chinese pet food customer preferences, including their continued favoring of imported pet food products over domestic brands.

(allensima |
(allensima |

Consumer nationalism in China is at an all-time high, but when it comes to pet food most Chinese pet owners still prefer to buy imported brands. 

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MOARA) reported that China imported US$272 million worth of pet food during the first half of 2021, approaching the US$308 million import value recorded for the whole of 2019.

China imports pet food mostly for adult pets or pets of all ages. The bulk (76%) of the canned wet pet food imported in the first half of 2021 came from Thailand and New Zealand, while cat and dog food in other forms of packaging were mostly (85%) imported from the U.S. and Canada. 

This period of time also saw the ministry granting import registration licenses for 102 cat food products and 104 dog food products, mostly from Canada, Germany and New Zealand. In 2020, 715 imported pet food products were registered with the ministry.

The number of foreign companies applying for licenses to enter the Chinese pet food market has been steadily growing since 2015, according to ChemLinked, a major provider of comprehensive regulatory information and compliance solutions with headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Since then, they said most import approvals went to companies from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Belgium and Italy.

Double income no kids with a dog” 

In 2020, China's pet population breached the 100 million mark with 52.22 million dogs and 48.62 million cats, many of them in major cities and towns where China's modern consumer groups live. These groups, made up of the new rich, young professionals and couples called “dinkwads” (double income no kids with a dog), have the means to provide their pets with the highest quality of pet products and they tend to lean towards imported brands even as they increasingly embrace locally made goods for their own personal use. 

An April 2021 survey by the Global Times Research Center found 75% of the respondents from 107 Chinese cities believe China-made products can fully or partially replace Western products. However, based on the H1 2021 foreign trade data, the rising consumer nationalism does not yet seem to affect yet the import-dominated Chinese pet food market. To keep the “dinkwads” and other pet owners loyal to and satisfied with non-Chinese pet food brands, importers must guarantee that their supplies are consistently better than their Chinese counterparts.

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