A healthy business

The pet health care category has already for a long time been recognised as interesting and financially rewarding for those active in this field. Probably the following proverb applies to the category:

“He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything” (Arab proverb).

Although true in general, we must not forget that the characteristics of the category are changing; partly through external influences that are outside of the control of the industry.

We can observe an increased interest in functionality, more stringent regulations, a more informed and critical consumer and not to forget the impact of social networks.

Functionality and pet health care are maybe not synonymous, but they certainly overlap each other to a great extent. After all, both deal with providing or administering a substance that aims to do something beneficial to the body (and the mind?) of pets. And as such, functionality looks to mimic what is happening in the human food categories. Because the functionality provides the reassurance that pet owners are looking for. They want to do the “right thing”.

Of course regulations play an important role as well; where pet health care products are concerned. These regulations can be more limiting or more liberal; depending on the region of the world where you look at them. But there is one common factor that can be observed already irrespective of the region: in a gradual process these regulations become more strict and less open to interpretation.

It becomes a matter of providing unbiased, scientific evidence for what is being claimed. So standards are being defined and made available to the public in general. For the sake of the transparency that consumer-organisations and consumers are craving for.

What in no way must be underestimated is that we now deal with well-informed and thus more critical consumers. And, pet-owners are consumers! Everybody who has excess to the Internet has an overwhelming abundance of specific data at hand. Some true, some false but always enough to form an opinion. And that their opinions can less and less be steered by manufacturers and their brands. Because everybody nowadays has the opportunity and the liberty to voice her/his opinion on the Internet. Which is increasingly available to the global citizen.

So manufacturers and brands better make sure that what they say and claim passes muster with these critical consumers; and not only with the regulatory authorities. Because if not, the punishment (whether justified or not) will be painful.

A clear reason for the success of pet health care is also the extended availability; i.e. the number of outlets where phc products are for sale is mushrooming. It’s no longer the domain of the specialist who can explain what the product is about and what it is supposed to do. People can now go to the online shops, read all they need to know on the shops’ websites – which is probably more than what the traditional retailer can tell them anyway – and make the purchase at any convenient time of the day or the night. And particularly phc products are popular in online business; because they represent a decent sales value and shipping cost are acceptable. But online is not the only differentiation in the distribution. Also modern mass-distribution is active in gaining market-share in the category; because they have a vast experience in dealing with over-the-counter human health products. This wider availability further promotes the purchase an use of the products in question.

The main question is of course: how bright is the future of the category? If we bear in mind that in most regions of the world we look at markets in an earlier stage of development. This applies to pet foods and even more so to phc.

But even in so-called saturated markets there still is plenty of room for growth as far as phc is concerned. By offering a wider variety of usage per animal and by tapping into the vast reservoir of, non-usage. More conscious pet owners with a growing affluence expressed in money that can be spent freely will boost the sales of the category in less developed markets.

And, the chaff will be separated from the wheat; the not-serious suppliers to the category whose only purpose is to line their own pockets like any other quack will be exposed and as a result the category will become even more mainstream than it is today. Because the intermediate trade has a growing trust in the category. Even more so if the manufacturers pump up the investments in making the category more popular and accepted by their trade-partners and pet owners alike.

If pet owners would treat their pets along the lines of “Health is not valued till sickness comes”(Thomas Fuller), the category would be in a deplorable state. But pet owners know better and that’s why pet health care remains what it already is today: a very attractive category to be active in. 

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