Yannick Verry, international sales and marketing manager for Pet Fair Asia, discusses the evolution of the Chinese pet care market and the many opportunities offered at Pet Fair Asia.
Pet Business: Tell us about Pet Fair Asia, which will be held Aug. 21-24 in Shanghai.
Yannick Verry: When we started Pet Fair Asia in 1997, the show was organized in Hong Kong and everybody was thinking of mainland China just as a big factory. We moved to Shanghai for the second edition, convinced that the future would be taking place there. For 17 years, Pet Fair Asia has supported the evolution of China’s pet industry and now constitutes a comprehensive platform for global trade of pet supplies. The show helps domestic suppliers explore overseas distribution channels, while international brands find strong support to enter Chinese and other Asian markets.
PB: Why should American wholesalers/distributors attend this event?
Verry: When we decided to bet on China as a market, our purpose was also to help rising the quality of Chinese production so it can comply with a growing demand of better products for the local market. The outcome of our past efforts is a predominance of high-quality suppliers exhibiting at Pet Fair Asia, boosted by the competition with a fast-growing proportion of international brands and manufacturers coming from Europe, Japan, India, Latin America, etc. For years, too many tradeshows in China have relied on cheap collar manufacturers, low-value aquarium jukebox-style LEDs and alleys of stainless bowls. This is not what we do. Instead, we guarantee American buyers a source of great products that can be successful back in the USA.
PB: Tell us more about China’s pet market.
Verry: The pet population in China is estimated to 52 million cats and dogs (tied with Brazil as the second-largest pet market in the world, after the U.S.). The total number of pets in the country jumps to 290 million when including small pets and fish, and is increasing quickly.
In 2012, less than 10 percent of Chinese households were feeding commercial pet food to their pets: a huge untapped potential. Fully aware of health stakes, Chinese consumers are rapidly changing their customs in terms of pet feeding—premium products are now growing the fastest. From $1 billion (U.S.) spent in China for pet supplies in 2012, total sales should reach $2.1 billion (U.S.) by 2017—a 110 percent increase in five years. These figures do not include online sales data, which now represents a significant share of global sales but is still difficult to monitor in China.
PB: Should American suppliers be at Pet Fair Asia?
Verry: Chinese consumers have a very positive opinion about products made in the USA and are willing to pay more for certified imported products. The most important worldwide suppliers from the U.S. and Europe have joined Pet Fair Asia for many years already, because our show offers a comprehensive platform where these brands can both meet professional partners, wholesalers and retailers, as well as develop brand awareness among consumers. It’s very important in China, where the distribution network is not as concentrated as it is in the U.S., while e-commerce business is proportionally much stronger than anywhere else in the world ( up 400 percent in less than three years).
I would advise medium-sized companies to think very seriously about a presence at Pet Fair Asia. On the other hand, smaller and very innovative young companies should also keep in mind how important it is to think globally in 2014, and maybe first come as visitors to understand the market and better plan their international growth. They can later join the American pavilion or come by themselves.
PB: We realize the Chinese market is evolving. How does this benefit the American pet industry in terms of obtaining products?
Verry: China remains a powerful magnet for companies from all over the world to source ingredients, accessories and finished products. Pet Fair Asia is already attracting distributor, wholesaler and retailer visitors from major overseas markets such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Korea, etc. At the same time, more and more actors from other emerging markets are also making the trip to Shanghai to benefit from international exposure. For instance, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America will be massively present at Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center in August to demonstrate their know-how and new range of products. I’m convinced it’s a great occasion for American distributors and large retail networks to find unique and exclusive products. The most important buyers even can benefit from our hosted buyer program.