The Indian pet food market is projected to register a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.5% during the forecast period (2021-2026). Like other industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has majorly impacted the pet food market in India. Due to rampant misinformation on pets' immunity and covid 19 infection, some people started abandoning their pets. This led the pet food industry to launch awareness campaigns and dispel rumors regarding pets and Covid-19. There was a huge supply and demand gap also due to panic buying of pet food among pet parents. The pet food industry has been unable to cater to the demand due to disruptions in the supply chain and poor logistic services. 

The concept of owning pets and taking care of them is a very urban phenomenon in India. Therefore the growth of the market is mainly dependent on the pace of urbanization. Infrastructural changes of the past two decades signal a very positive and rapid movement here. The Indian consumers' tendency to overspend on pets is slowly giving way to the feeling of "pet humanisation" and sensitisation; trends well demonstrated by the rapid rise in adoption rates. Therefore, increasing concern for pet health and nutrition is a significant driver behind the market's growth. 

Increasing pet humanisation 

Over the years, different types of pets have been considered  "family", but the notion of treating pets like humans, which is termed "humanization" of pets, is presently driving the pet food industry in India. With growing income, urbanization, and increasing health awareness, pet owners are shifting to premium and natural foods that are free of genetically modified organisms, artificial colors, and flavors and aid in promoting the good health of pets. In order to utilize this situation, many companies are releasing food with high-quality proteins and vitamins, which help in maintaining healthy skin, digestive health, etc. 

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The Making of Fresh For Paws

This journey began in 2018 purely out of my love for my own pet dog -Vanilla. The search for nutritious, natural and tasty food for her led me to first experiment with recipes at home and eventually conceptualise a pet food brand due to lack of any satisfying equivalent in the market. The Pet Food space has always been dominated by the big market players and entering the same place as a small start-up was in itself a big challenge. 

It took a lot of research and development to come up with the recipes and final products acceptable to the market. Creating awareness was the first step in creating space in this sector as Fresh For Paws was amongst the first to introduce new technology and food in the market. Sustaining a business in a new space is not easy but the key to doing so is to keep innovating and creating awareness in the market about your brand. Continuous education of the customer is also important. The pet care and nutrition aspects have become more visible and talking points; pet parents are becoming more aware about what is right for their dogs and what is not. 

Following are some tips from a founder like me: 

  • Connect to the needs of the pet. 
  • Build trust amongst your clients and create awareness 
  • Keep Innovating & Researching 
  • Sustainability is a core principle 
  • Do thorough research and testing before launching new products. 
  • Competitors are collaborators. Grow the market by joining hands. 
  • Boost your customer service 
  • Stay true to your passion and purpose; you will be able to communicate your genuine and organic message to your customers. 

Industry drivers and growth 

As per industry experts, millennials make up 31% of pet owners in India, baby boomers 29%, Gen Xers make for 26% share of pet owners, and Genz and Builder generations make up the rest of the pet owner market in India. Millennial pet owners also use technology to purchase products and services for their pets. 

The pet industry market research also revealed that it has helped make a robust market with prominent new pet-related businesses. Keeping all these factors in mind, the pet market should keep growing in the coming years. 

The pet food space is one of the most prominent parts of the pet industry. According to the pet food industry analysis, pet owners in India spend about 300 USD ( Rs. 23000 approx ) per annum on pet food and treats. Online pet food sales statistics reveal that 73% of pet owners purchase food online, and about 27% purchase from pet specialty stores.  As per the latest pet food industry statistics, Amazon is the leader in e-commerce sales with a 45% sales surge compared to the previous year. The growth in the market can be attributed to the numerous choices available. There are tons of choices for dogs alone, including dry food, wet food, organic, and natural dog food. Such a variety and wide choices are fuelling the dog food market growth. 

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 However, there is still room for businesses to grow in this sector, especially when as per estimates, India needs 3k tonnes of pet foods, and the current supply is not sufficient to meet the quality and demand. There is about 35 % to 40% shortage of animal food in the country. Imported pet foods are costly, and many pet owners can't afford them. Local players can take advantage here. 

A balanced nutritious diet is a key to pets' health, but high-quality, premium pet food is not accessible to every Indian pet owner due to lack of information and cost. Small businesses can take the lead here and address the demand-supply gap. The local players in the pet food industry can avail themselves of the opportunities like government schemes to make pet food in India and meet the demand. There is a huge scope for India-specified pet foods too. 

The Indian pet food industry is worth about  Rs.2,500 crore.  And as per industry data, out of 29 million total pet population, 24 million are dogs, and the rest are cats and others. As the humanization of pets is becoming more pronounced in the food segment, the era of dry kibble is getting over. Now, it is time for human-tested pet meals. Businesses like Fresh For Paws can enter this space and compete with personalized, fresh food options. Raw dog food is also among high-growth niches - mirroring human food trends will be another profitable approach but it needs more research and trials. 

by Srishti Bhatia

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