Vegan pet food: Emerging market in Eastern Europe?

The popularity of vegan pet food remains uneven across Europe, declining gradually when moving from the western part of the continent eastward.

Plant-based pet food is a rising trend, with health and sustainability among the top driving forces. | (Courtesy Petaluma)
Plant-based pet food is a rising trend, with health and sustainability among the top driving forces. | (Courtesy Petaluma)

In Russia, vegan pet food’s market share barely registers as a statistical error, but in the next several years, it could rise to nearly 10%, following trends in the human food market, said Tatyana Kolchanova, chairman of the Russian zoobusiness association. The situation is believed to be similar in all markets of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). 

Globally, vegan pet food sales are expected to grow from US$9.3 billion in 2021 to US$15.6 billion by 2028, according to a forecast from the consulting agency Insight Partners. “In 2020, Europe accounted for the largest share in the market. The veganism trend is becoming more popular across Europe,” the researchers said. “The vegan population in the region is increasing at a faster rate. Additionally, the easy availability of vegan pet food products with the same nutrient content of traditional meat-based pet foods enables pet owners to choose a vegan diet over a conventional one. All these factors fuel the demand for vegan pet food products in Europe.”

However, the popularity of vegan pet food, just like veganism in general, remains uneven across Europe, declining gradually when moving from the western part of the continent eastward. 

Vegan pet food remains stigmatized in post-Soviet space  

As many as 35% of Russians still consider veganism a “malignant Western trend,” believing that abandoning meat consumption is harmful to humans. When it comes to vegan pet food, attitudes are even more negative. Most Russian veterinarians, dog trainers and breeders consider vegan pet food as “nothing less but torture for pets,” reported the Russian magazine Takidela. 

Currently, the most popular brands of vegan pet food in Russia are Ami Dog and FT. However, due to a lack of supply, most pet owners in Russia as well as Belarus, which share common custom space, have to make individual online purchases of vegan pet food from European stores. High logistics costs make these purchases unaffordable for a significant share of pet owners in the CIS region, pushing some of them eventually to give up on feeding vegan diet. 

Will changes in attitudes toward vegan pet food come soon?

However, the Russian pet food market is basically following global pet food trends by a gap of several years, so the rise in demand for vegan pet food in the country is highly anticipated. 

“If there is a demand, there will be product range. We see that the share of our citizens recognizing themselves as vegetarians is close to 10%. We can expect the share of vegan pet food to stand close to this figure in just a few years,” Kolchanova said, adding that some companies in the region are already engaged in developing vegan pet food. 

Another source in a Russian pet food company provided confirmation. “This market is still in embryo, and I would not expect to grow it outside the biggest cities—Moscow and St. Petersburg—at least not soon. However, we already see a rising demand for vegan pet food, and customers in this segment are willing to pay a good price, so it is worth some R&D investment,” the source said. 

The person added that so far, such development is focused on dog food. “We do not work on vegan cat food, and I don't think anyone else in Russia does. Cats are predators, it would be extremely hard to develop vegan pet food for them,” the source added. 

Following another human food trend

Rostislav Vovk, co-owner of Ukraine's largest pet food producer, Kormotech, said earlier that the rise in demand for vegetarian pet food was one of the main trends in the Ukraine pet food market. “For instance, pet owners [who are] vegetarians want to feed their pets with a meat- and fish-free food,” he commented. Kormotech is exploring developing vegetarian pet food over the next several years.

Indeed, the demand for human food designed exclusively for vegans in the post-Soviet space is growing. For instance, in Russia, it tripled between 2015 and 2020, reaching 45,000 tons. In Ukraine, 11% of citizens have already completely abandoned meat consumption, with 2% identifying themselves as vegans, according to research conducted by the Ukraine institute UA Plant Based.  

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