MEA – The COVID-19 pandemic, social media, increasing consumer education and awareness and growth of ecommerce are some of the factors driving the sales of pet food in the Middle East and Africa.

 A new Euromonitor International report, Emerging Market for Dog Food in Middle East and Africa, notes that despite the region being the smallest market, it has posted strong growth in sale of pet foods over recent years.

The market is largely untapped due to the historic restrictions and perceptions. For instance, countries in the region are dominated by the Islamic religion, which strongly prohibits dog ownership under Islamic law.

Dog ownership in the Middle East was historically very low, not only because of cultural restrictions, but also due to the hot climate and small living spaces making it challenging to own a dog.

However, the narrative has changed as the dog population in region recorded 5% year-on-year growth in 2020 and 2021.

Down in South Africa, dogs had primarily been kept for safety reasons, but, in recent years, the perception of dogs has been changing from guard dog to “heart dog”.

This, according to the report has been propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic which boosted dog adoption as consumers looked for companionship when movement and social gatherings were prohibited.

Social media has also been playing a pivotal role in the rising adoption rates in the Middle East as influencers posted about themselves adopting a dog during the pandemic and their followers then followed suit.

The increase in the dog population is therefore expected to drive up volume and value sales of dog food in the region.

Ecommerce fosters convenient access of dog food

The distribution of dog food in the region is dominated by supermarkets and, to a lesser extent, pet shops.

However, e-commerce grew in importance as a distribution channel, leveraging the growing demand for convenience during 2020, and this trend is expected to continue accelerating during 2021 and beyond.

Consumers are becoming more comfortable shopping online, and investment in this channel by the likes of internet retailer Jumia and grocery retailer Carrefour is deepening.

Brands are also investing in e-commerce by creating their own online platforms, like Bob Martin in South Africa and Royal Canin in the United Arab Emirates.

Specialised online platforms are becoming increasingly popular and attracting dog owners with continuous offers on dry dog food brands.

E-commerce platforms could offer automation of dog food orders and secure monthly revenue by availing a subscription model that feature offer discounts, which is a win-win for all.

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save programme has been a pioneer in this area in Western markets like the US, which offer consumers a 15% discount for automated deliveries.

Humanization and premiumization of dog food gains momentum

Meanwhile, increasing consumer education and awareness has brought to the fore prominent global trends like humanisation and premiumisation.

Despite difficult financial conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, dog owners continue to humanise their dogs.

While South African pet owners were trading down to economy brands due to financial constraints, they were supplementing the dry food with wet dog food, mixing the two together to make it “tastier” for their dog, which is typical humanisation behaviour. This new trend boosted growth for economy dry and wet dog food in South Africa.

Also, dog treats are growing in popularity across the region as owners want to spoil their animals and offer them more than just dog food.

Long working hours mean that when owners arrive home, they want to compensate for their long absence by giving their dogs extra special treatment. Increasing humanisation means that owners want to reward their dogs by giving them treats like they would to children.

Premiumisation of dog food is also gaining momentum across the region in a bid to ensure the health and wellness of their dog.

Furthermore, consumers believe that by feeding their dogs more premium food they will live longer, therefore dog diets have been geared towards longevity and health to ensure their pet is around for a long time.

Pet shops in the United Arab Emirates have capitalised on the popularity of ethical and health and wellness dog food products.

Pet’s Delight, for example, has opened a new store with an in-house pet nutritionist.

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