Inside the $4 billion-a-year pet vitamin boom

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Every day, Gaynor Andrew’s dogs take a vitamin supplement to help their digestion. And the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder encourages her new puppy-owning customers to consider supplements for their own four-legged friends.

“There’s a big change in the way people value their dogs,” says Andrew. “To the people I deal with, a dog is a member of the family. And the dogs are so much more stressed than before.

Australia has just seen a COVID-fueled pet boom and a slew of lucrative new business lines – from pet insurance to professional dog walking to child-friendly yoga classes. pets – emerged alongside the phenomenon. Another is the $4 billion a year animal welfare industry. Analysts describe an ongoing “humanization of pets” – a shift in the way families value their pets that has prompted them to find pet equivalents of human wellness products, like vitamins.

Gaynor Andrew has been raising Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and advising puppy owners on holistic health for over 10 years.Credit:Eddie Jim

“There’s definitely a trend,” says Andrew.

Blackmores, the billion-dollar, ASX-listed health supplement provider, seized the opportunity and told investors that its Pure Animal Wellbeing (PAW) line of pet products will be at the heart of its strategy in the future.

The company now makes chewable multivitamins for pets, a fish oil supplement for dogs, and products to soothe stress and anxiety.

Blackmores chief executive Alastair Symington says consumers have become more in tune with their pets after two years of working from home.

“We spend as much on our pets as on anyone else,” he says. “For us, it’s about providing these natural healthcare solutions that you can incorporate into your daily routine.”

Blackmores boss Alastair Symington says pet supplements are a long-term opportunity.

Blackmores boss Alastair Symington says pet supplements are a long-term opportunity. Credit:Louie Douvis

Symington expects stress reduction supplements to be a “really big deal for us” as Australians return to the office, leaving their four-legged friends at home after two years of living in close quarters.

Last year, Blackmores explained to investors that its pet products would be one of its three main brands, alongside “Blackmores” and “Bioceuticals” products.

Competitor Swisse also has a presence in the space, with parent company H&H Group buying pet supplement maker Zesty Paws last August.

Australia’s multi-billion dollar pet supplies business was growing around 4% a year before the pandemic, but revenue growth has more than doubled between 2020 and 2021, according to industry research firm IBISWorld.

IBISWorld senior analyst Tim Calabria says drugs, wellness products and “fancy” pet foods have boomed throughout this period, with dogs and cats not being the only growth markets.

“Although cats and dogs make up the vast majority of pets in Australia, exotic pets like ferrets, lizards and cockatoos also grace more homes than ever before,” he says.

Almost 70% of Australian households now have a pet – and they’re willing to spend big. A survey of over 1,000 pet owners by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) in 2021 suggests that dog owners spend $3,200 a year on pet care, while cat owners spend $2,100 per year.

There are approximately 6.3 million dogs and 4.9 million cats in Australia and the AMA estimates that Australians spend almost $31 billion on them alone ($20.5 billion a year on dogs and $10.3 billion for cats).

Blackmores also tracks growth in overseas pet ownership rates, including in its main export market, China. More than 10,000 animal feed supplements are already listed on the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba.

“We’ve seen pet ownership skyrocket in places like China, and we’re focusing more on small felines and canines because we know that’s what consumers have,” says Symington. .

“I take vitamins every day and so does my family, why not give some to a pet?”

Natalie Headland, Sydney Cavoodle Owner

Blackmores Spheria Capital investor portfolio manager Matt Booker says sales of pet products at the vitamin maker are not yet strong, but that should change quickly.

“Over the next 5-10 years, this could be significant as the potential pet healthcare market grows – and Blackmores brand and reputation lends itself to this.”

Frida Wang, head of China research at stockbroker Select Equities, said Gen Z consumers are encouraging pet ownership in China and Blackmores has a “strong opportunity” to capitalize. “Partnering with a Chinese distributor that can navigate the regulated and competitive category might be a good idea,” she says.

Meanwhile, in the online animal pharmacy Pet Chemist founded in Australia, there are also supplements for lizards and a probiotic for birds. Earlier this year, Mad Paws, an ASX-listed dog-sitting business, bought Pet Chemist in a $25 million deal.

Pet Chemist boss Howard Humphreys says eHealth trends seen throughout the pandemic are also translating into the pet world.

“One of the biggest products we sell is a joint supplement, another is an anxiety supplement,” says Humphreys.

Justus Hammer is the managing director of pet sitting and wellness brand Mad Paws.

Justus Hammer is the managing director of pet sitting and wellness brand Mad Paws. Credit:Nick Moire

Mad Paws managing director Justus Hammer said Pet Chemist was a natural fit for the company, as improving pet health is now a top priority for owners.

“It’s a big market, and it’s growing fast. Online penetration is still low, but it is also growing rapidly. »

Sydney Cavoodle owner Natalie Headland researched supplements for her two-and-a-half-year-old dog Bear, hoping to find ways to help calm him down when she returned to the office after a long period when she was working from home and on maternity leave. .

Sydney cavoodle owner Natalie Headland tried vitamin supplements designed to ease the anxiety of her two-and-a-half-year-old dog, Bear.

Sydney cavoodle owner Natalie Headland tried vitamin supplements designed to ease the anxiety of her two-and-a-half-year-old dog, Bear. Credit:oscar colman

“He cried and he barked when we weren’t home…you want to do whatever you can to calm them down,” she said.

She was willing to try new approaches to make her dog’s life easier when she left home and used a stress relief product made by Blackmores.

Bear has only been taking the product for a month, but Headland says he seems calmer and giving her the soothing treat before she leaves the house is a positive.

“Just knowing that I can go out and give it to him as a treat is good.”

Headland says she will look at more supplement options in the future as Bear ages, including treatments to help with mobility.

“I take vitamins every day and so does my family, why not give some to a pet?”

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The head of veterinary and public affairs for the Australian Veterinary Association, Dr Cristy Secombe, said there was “a lot of noise” about animal health products. She advises pet owners to ask their veterinarian if their pet needs any supplements before making a purchase.

“As the vet has done all the readings, he can convert them into information with which the pet owner can make a decision. They [your animal] might not even need supplements – veterinarians are in the best position to advise on when supplements are needed or not.

Dr Secombe says that despite the explosion of animal welfare products, animal health often comes down to “some age-old things first”, like the quality of pet food and the amount of food. exercise an animal receives.

“From a health and wellness perspective, it might not require you to spend money on additional things.”

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