Japan's declining pet ownership, soaring pet food prices

A trend that started years ago even though pet ownership went up during the pandemic.

Some Cat From Japan
(CCF.S | Bigstock.com)

Japan's pet industry has its work cut out for it this year in anticipation of a further decline in pet ownership and higher pet food prices. 

In his New Year's message to members of the Japan Pet Food Association, chairman Hiromitsu Kodama said that while Japan's economy is expected to recover this year after the pandemic, the results of the association's annual 2022 National Dog and Cat Breeding Survey, released in late December, point to another challenging 12 months for the pet industry.

Perhaps the biggest problem is how interest in pets is waning among the general Japanese population, a trend that started years ago even though pet ownership went up during the pandemic. 

“One of the reasons why the number of pet owners is not increasing is the decline in the desire to keep pets. Willingness to keep dogs in the future among households that do not currently keep dogs is at 7% (9.9% in 2019) and 5.5% (7.5% in 2019) for cats, respectively,” said Kodama, citing survey results.

Last year, the number of Japanese households that welcomed new dogs and cats increased by more than 10% compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the survey, there were 426,000 new pet dogs in 2022 (350,000 in 2019) and 432,000 new pet cats (394,000 in 2019). The year closed with 7,053,000 dogs and 8,837,000 cats or 15.89 million pet dogs and cats all over Japan. 

Kodama said last year's soaring costs had a major impact on the pet industry as pet food companies raised their prices from 3% to 10%, some by even more. The rate of increase, Kodama added, affected consumers' product selection which, for the association, provided an opening to promote its member companies' high-value added products for pets that can use healthier and gourmet-type diets. 

Last October, another survey conducted by the association revealed that the average Japanese dog owner spent 5,257 yen (almost $40) on monthly food and treats (an increase of 2.9% from 2021) while a cat owner typically paid 4,233 yen (about $32) for the same (a decrease of 2.1% from 2021). 

Kodama said the association will strive this year to raise pet food demand at a level before the pandemic by encouraging its members to offer new value proposals and promote the benefits of regularly feeding pets with safe and quality pet food. The association, for its part, will try to counter the decline in pet breeding and pet ownership and stimulate demand by continuously promoting the physical value, psychological value, and social value of life with pets, Kodama added.

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