ITALY- The Italian National Association for Pet Food and Pet Care Companies (ASSALCO) and Zoomark recently released the 16th edition of their joint report on the Italian pet industry, revealing a rising pet population and pet food sales of almost US$3 billion. 

According to the report, pet ownership in Italy continues to increase steadily, with 42% of Italian families owning at least one pet. 

The report shows that there were 64.95 million pets in Italian households in 2022, with an estimated 37.7% of Italians ages 18 and older claiming to have a pet in the family, up from 33.6% in 2019. 

According to the report, from 2015 to 2022, the number of Italians who adopted more than one pet nearly doubled from 9.9% to 17.2%.

Naturally, with a continuously increasing pet population, there have also been rises in consumer demand for pet food.

The importance of our relationship with our pets is undeniable. Pets are bona fide family members, and we are now devoting more time to them and paying more attention to their diet and well-being. This increased attention is reflected in a market that, even in a difficult year like 2022, continued to perform well,” said Giorgio Massoni, president of ASSALCO. 

According to ASSALCO and Zoomark, in 2022, sales of dog and cat foods increased 11.4% to US$2.96 billion, an increase of 0.8% from 2021.

Cat food accounted for 53.8% of these sales, with sales topping US$1.60 billion, while dog food accounted for 46.2% of the market, achieving US$1.38 billion in sales. 

Wet pet food continued to lead the market, boasting about 48.4% of the total dog and cat food segment, while dry foods hold 41.1% of the share.

Additionally, pet snacks, especially functional ones that have health benefits, witnessed a 13.3% increase in value and a 3.2% increase in volume for 2022.

Health concerns and localization drive industry growth 

ASSALCO and Zoomark attributed these increases in pet food sales to evolving consumer demands for products with particular attributes, including health concerns and localization. 

During the report’s development, these two associations analyzed more than 4,700 pet food products and found that Italians are extending their personal health beliefs to their pets, purchasing pet nutrition products similar to the ones they purchase for themselves.

This trend towards premiumization has also seen consumer demand increasing for pet foods boasting “rich in” attributes, like “rich in fiber, vitamins, Omega fatty acids, prebiotics, etc.” 

According to the report, consumers also seek products with “free from” claims, like “free from dyes.” 

Moreover, Italian pet parents are also focused on purchasing Italian-made pet food products, boasting claims like “Made in Italy,” “produced in Italy,” “only Italian ingredients,” and “100% Italian.”

Pet food purchases grow despite rising inflation 

Another trend that became evident from the report is that Italian pet owners are reluctant to change their pet product purchasing habits despite rising prices. 

According to ASSALCO and Zoomark, 85% of surveyed Italians claimed they had witnessed increasing prices, with 23% of cat owners and 26% of dog owners claiming they will likely spend more on their pets in the coming months due to inflation.

Additionally, in the face of constant inflation, Italian pet owners are also facing a high value-added tax (VAT )rate on pet foods and veterinary care. 

Italy’s current VAT rate is 22%, much higher than within other European countries, and ASSALCO and Zoomark are petitioning to reduce the country’s VAT rate to 10%.

It doesn’t seem right that the 22% rate should be applied to pet food as if it was a luxury good,” Massoni said. “In Germany, in view of the fact that these products are used every day, and considering the role of pets in society, the VAT rate on food for dogs and cats is set at 7%.

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