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Pet Food: The Market is Growing. Focus on Made in Italy.

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Italian families live with almost 65 million pets, including nearly 9 million dogs and 10 million cats. The nutrition of these two species represents the main segment of the national pet food and pet care market. In 2022, products for feeding dogs and cats generated a turnover of 2.759 billion euros in the Italian market.

The growth of the pet food market reflects the changes in contemporary society, where pets are increasingly seen as family members rather than just companions. Indeed, we no longer speak of pet owners but of pet parents.

Institutional Evolution and Future Goals

Over the past decades, the law has begun to reflect the growing sensitivity towards animals, creating a system of legal norms. A significant historic step in this direction was taken with Law No. 281 of August 14, 1991, which recognized the right to life and protection of stray animals in Italy, prohibiting their killing. With Law No. 210 of 2010, Italy ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals of 1991, which expanded the definition of pets to include other species and sanctioned human behaviors that, beyond causing physical suffering, can create a sense of “distress” in animals. This aligns with the idea of animals as autonomous and sentient beings, capable of experiencing sensations and emotions.

In line with the increasing sensitivity embraced by institutions, during the XVIII Legislature, the Parliament approved a constitutional reform bill that included environmental protection among the fundamental principles of the Italian Republic. Thanks to Constitutional Law No. 1 of February 11, 2022, Article 9 of the Constitution was amended to add the following clause: “The Republic… protects the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations. State law regulates the ways and forms of animal protection.”

The pandemic has also significantly influenced Italians’ propensity to adopt pets. The increase in the importance of pets in Italian families is evident from the relationship between the growth in market value and volume, with the former being more pronounced. This growth is supported by the spread of premium products and a general willingness to spend more on pet welfare. Today, those who welcome an animal into their home strive to ensure healthy nutrition, sometimes prioritizing quality over price.

This is where the pet food market comes into play, demonstrating its dynamism and readiness to innovate to meet buyers’ demands. Made in Italy is a symbol of excellence and quality even in pet food.

Currently, the number of pets in our country exceeds the number of inhabitants: there are around 60 million pets, including dogs, cats, birds, fish, rodents, etc. The pet food and pet care market has been on an uninterrupted growth trend since 2015, with a total turnover exceeding 2 billion euros in Italy alone. Food for dogs and cats are the most popular products in the sector, accounting for over 90% of the total business. While the pet food market is growing at a slower pace in other European countries, it still shows excellent performance.

Products that were once primarily divided by type (wet and dry food) and price range are now increasingly specific, aimed at meeting the needs of individual animals. Therefore, it is possible to purchase food according to the animal’s age, breed, activity level, as well as specific foods for certain diseases, allergies, or intolerances. Human nutrition trends are also reflected in this sector, with products that are raw, grain-free, gluten-free, entirely plant-based, organic, or low-calorie.

Regarding producers, the pet food sector is dominated by large multinational food companies that encompass multiple brands for dog and cat food distributed internationally (among the main ones are Mars Incorporated and Nestlé). However, there are also specialized companies, including Italian ones like Almo Nature and Farmina Pet Foods. Italy ranks among the top countries in Europe in terms of market size and is also an exporter of ‘Made in Italy’ pet food: 133 million euros were earned from the export of Italian dog and cat food in 2022, a 22% increase over the previous year.

Italy, therefore, confirms its leadership in the food sector even for our four-legged friends!

 

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