Korea’s premium pet food market grows

Korea s pet food treats category is booming. Photo: Debbie Miller
Korea s pet food treats category is booming. Photo: Debbie Miller

As of 2019, the Korean pet food market – which is expanding along with its growing pet population – is estimated at over US$?1 billion.

In 2019 there were approximately 8.6 million pets (6 million dogs and 2.6 million cats) in Korea, translating into sales worth just over US$ 1 billion. While low-priced pet food still dominates the market, premium pet food sales have increased significantly as more pet owners view their pets as family members. “Pet-humanisation” is a common phrase in Korea and describes how pet owners are increasingly providing their pets with human-like products and experiences. It is no surprise, then, that the pet treats category is booming, and that consumers are willing to spend more for high quality pet food and pet products.

Organic, protein-rich ingredients

Capitalising on this trend, companies are launching premium pet food and treat products made from organic and protein-rich ingredients and without artificial preservatives, pigments, or flavours. Furthermore, this trend in pet food and treats has led to diverse product portfolios, including probiotics for pets and products made from mealworms.

US brands dominate

The pet food market in Korea is dominated by well-known and mostly foreign brands. Many Koreans prefer US brands as the US has a long and solid pet food history. In terms of trade, it makes sense, then, that the US is the market leader in terms of import volume. China and Thailand are growing competitors.

Korea’s pet food market is very competitive, and many domestic and foreign brands continue to launch their products in Korea’s pet food market, believing the market has much potential. It has become clear that only those that make active investments in brand marketing and public relations activities are establishing themselves. It is also worth noting that more than half of Korean consumers primarily purchase pet food and products through online retail channels.

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Cats favoured as single-family households grow

Up until 2019, the cat and dog populations have grown annually on average 8% and 4%, respectively, in recent years. Cats are being favoured as household pets as the number of single-family households in cities grows. With cat ownership on the rise, the cat food market will continue to generate more revenue growth. According to Euromonitor, the Korean cat food market is expected to reach US$ 550.9 million in sales by 2025, growing on average 6% annually over the next 6 years.

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Natalie Kinsley Freelance journalist