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of bond with chickens as I have had with cats or, even, dogs. Still, one never knows; perhaps I should take steps to establish a closer relationship with the species. The recent South of England show, the biggest annual agricultural event in the south-east of England, took poultry as its theme in response to what organizers called the ‘incredible upsurge in popularity of keeping poultry’. A number of reasons have been advanced for the ‘real rush for people to get into raising and breeding chickens’. Part of the explosion in popularity reflects the horsemeat scandal; everyone allegedly wants, as The Observer put it dryly, ‘a bit of self-sufficiency and you can’t keep a cow in your back garden.’ The Pet Food Manufacturers Association also publishes regional

data on the proportion of households having at least one cat, dog or whatever, based on research carried out in 2010 to 2012. A quarter of all households in the southwest possessed a dog, but

the region was overtaken by Wales where a third of all household included a canine. In Northern Ireland, 29 per cent of households possessed a dog; these figures compare with a UK average of 22 per cent. The proportion of UK households with a cat numbers 19 per cent

but the southwest and Wales are, again, ahead of the field with each region boasting a quarter of all households possessing a feline. I should add at this stage that London boasts the lowest proportion of cat and dog ownership with 10 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. This is intuitively understandable, although I may say that on the occasions when I visit the Metropolis, the amount of dog mess which I encounter suggests a much higher proportion of dog-owning household; the law requiring the clearing-up of the offending materials is, in common with the law regarding the use of mobile phones whilst driving, one of the least-observed in the UK. I digress. As regards indoor fish, I was surprised to learn that,

according to PFMA’s figure, no less than 10 per cent of household in the UK possess at least one fish. Wales and the northeast share pole position with 13 per cent of households keeping an indoor fish with London again with the lowest proportion of households – 6 per cent. And outdoor fish? Including your correspondent’s, just 6 per cent of

households in the UK have at least one fish, with the southwest leading the pack with 11 per cent of households and Scotland and Northern Ireland bringing up the rear with one per cent each.

The Continuing Recession Pets, some may reasonably argue, are a ‘discretionary expense’. In past editions of this column, I have drawn attention to reported

increases in the number of abandoned pets, including horses, following the recession that broke following the bankers’ crash of 2007-08. Before this statement elicits howl of rage, I should say that, in

recessionary times, spending on pets is one area in which households might be expected to make cutbacks. However, the UK Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association observed, in its Annual Report for 2012, that, despite the last couple of years having seen the UK weathering ‘a challenging economy’, pet food sales have remained resilient, typically growing by 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent ahead of GDP. This last year has been no exception and the PFMA’s latest industry data indicates that sales are holding up with a 1 per cent increase in value terms; in 2011, the pet food industry’s sales stood at £2.14 billion. In addition PFMA reported that they had not seen any decline in pet populations, in contrast with previous recessions. Talking to their


stakeholder charities, they report higher levels of pet rehoming, but equally more uptake, resulting in a more rapid movement of animals through their centres – a gratifying insight. As pet populations have remained largely stable over the last few years, PFMA sees no indicators that this is set to change in the near future. All producers of pet food are connected directly to pets and their owners and we have all long believed that pets occupy a significant role in British society. Recent market research commissioned by PFMA confirms that recession-hit families look at reducing spending on every other area first, before they consider reducing it on their pets. PFMA’s 2013 Annual Report notes that the year, in common

with the wider economy, remained ‘a challenging one’ for the pet food industry. Nevertheless, their latest industry data puts the industry’s sales ahead by one per cent in volume and two per cent by value. The value of the pet food industry’s sales in the UK now stands at £2.2 billion; this figure rises to £2.5 billion when sales are included from the newly-joined members representing the increasingly important wild bird market, who will now join the Bird Group which includes caged and aviary birds. Returning to the effects of recession, PFMA research suggests that

only 6 per cent of pet owners have cut back on treats for their pets, 4 per cent on pet food and 3 per cent on their pet’s health including visits to the vet. This contrasts starkly with other savings owners have been making, with double-digit cuts in spending on ‘luxuries such as eating out, clothes shopping, holidays and entertainment. Essentials such as food shopping, petrol and travel costs and heating are also feeling the pinch; but the fact remains that the cutbacks have impinged most heavily on luxuries and essentials rather than on pet care.

US Pet Food Manufacturing Euromonitor International’s Pet Food Manufacturing report was released last February and shows that, in the US, the industry consists of almost two hundred companies with combined annual global revenues of about $47 billion. According to the report, eight of the largest pet food companies account for about 85 per cent of sales. The largest companies have advantages of scale in manufacturing, marketing and distribution, while small companies are competing effectively by offering specialized products or serving a local market. The report claims that dry dog food accounts for about 45 per cent

of the industry’s revenue with canned cat food accountings for about 25 per cent of the market. Meanwhile, the American Pet Products Association has issued its

latest US Pet Industry Spending Figures and Future Outlook for 2012 together with an estimate of prospects in 2013. This is produced using data from various market research sources; the data is not included in The National Pet Owners Survey, also produced on a biennial basis by the APPA. The US pet industry spend amounted to $53.33 billion in 2012,

up by 4.6 per cent compared with the previous year; further growth is anticipated in 2013, estimated to be in excess of 4 per cent. In 2012, food constituted the largest proportion of the US pet industry spend, accounting for 38.7 per cent with 25.6 per cent being spent on supplies together with over-the-counter medicines. A further 23.7 per cent was spent on veterinary care. In 2013, APPA think that the shares of the total components will remain very largely unchanged. According to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey,

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