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Pets are still a priority as owners continue to spend during the recession

Research shows that Britain is nation of pet lovers and cutting back on pets is the last thing on owner’s minds even in tough times.

 The pet food industry remains healthy in the recession, as the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA)[i] reveals that 2011 saw the value of pet food grow by 1%, bringing it to £2.14bn.[ii]  Research conducted by the PFMA with over 2000 members of the public found that pet owners have felt the impact of the recession and cut back in the last twelve months but not on their pets.

 Only 6% of owners have cut back on treats for their pets, 4% on their pet’s food and 3% on their pet’s health and visits to the vet.  This is in stark contrast to other savings pet owners have been making; luxuries go first with 36% of pet owners cutting back on eating out, 25% on clothes shopping, 24% on holidays and 20% on entertainment.  But the research also shows people are reducing spending on essentials with 16% cutting back on their food shopping, 15% on petrol and travel costs and 12% on heating their houses.

 Psychologist Dr. Ceri Parsons[iv] believes that social exchange theory can explain these findings.  She says, ‘In social exchanges both parties seek to maximise benefits and minimise costs.  These findings suggest that the emotional and health rewards of caring for a pet, such as companionship and stress reduction outweigh the costs associated with their care.”

 She continues, “The findings illustrate that we are spending less on drinking in pubs and new clothes so it is clear we are cutting back on expenditures that are less ‘rewarding’.”

 Nete Wood, owner of three cats, agrees; her cat is still a priority in the difficult economic climate because they are worth every penny: “I am very aware of the significant price increases on almost everything I have to buy and in my last job I received no pay increases over three years. The impact on my disposable household income was very noticeable.  I have cut back on most areas of household expenses including utilities and food. We cut back on new clothes, use selling sites and freecycle, and have reduced the thermostat temperature during the winter.”

 “I took on the responsibility of owning a pet and the fact that my circumstances have changed is not their fault.  They provide warm and loving companionship and they make me laugh. I've enjoyed seeing them grow and develop into distinct characters.  I've had cats for 26 years now and frankly can't imagine my life without them.”

Michael Bellingham, Chief Executive of PFMA is also not surprised by these results, “This is all part of a long term trend, owners see their pets as part of the family and, like children, pets rely on their owners for care.  Most owners take this responsibility seriously and would rather make savings on household items, have an evening in rather than eating out or book a cheaper holiday than sacrifice their pet’s health and nutrition.”

The dog food and cat food markets are growing at similar pace with both up 1% in value this year taking them to £1071m and £918m respectively but the small animal market showed the strongest growth increasing its value 2% to £67m.[v]  Dry complete food has maintained its dominance in the dog food market and in the cat food market we have seen the success of different packaging formats and food types offering convenience for owners with single serve foods outgrowing traditional multi serve options.  Cat treats have seen the most dramatic growth rising 24% in 2011. 

[i] The principal trade body representing the UK pet food industry.  PFMA aims to be the credible voice of a responsible pet food industry. While striving to achieve a balanced regulatory environment for the production of nutritious and safe food, PFMA also encourages responsible pet ownership working in partnership with relevant pet bodies. It aims to be the main resource for its members, public and others as well as playing a lead role in forming opinions in Europe through the European Pet Food Federation (FEDIAF).

[ii] PFMA conducts an annual market data survey. Members submit figures on the amount and types of pet food they supply to the UK pet food market. These figures are provided confidentially to an independent third party who collates the results on behalf of participant members. A group of PFMA members then review the figures, and reach a consensus on the size an d shape of the various markets for pet foods in the UK. /pfma-annual-report-2012/

[iii]   Research conducted in March by TNS with face-to-face interviews with nationally representative sample of over 2000 UK adults.

[iv] Dr. Ceri Parsons is a chartered psychologist of the British Psychological Society. She obtained a PhD in 2002 and has published her research nationally and internationally. She has recently begun to retrain to become a veterinary physiotherapist in order to focus further on animal welfare, expanding on her existing academic interest in the human-companion animal relationship. Ceri has appeared on television and in radio commenting as an expert psychologist whilst also providing quotes in print press for a range of national newspapers and women's magazines. She is the chair of the British Psychological Society Press and Media Committee. Ceri also has 4 cats who allow her and her partner to live with them in their home!

[v] PFMA conducts an annual market data survey. Members submit figures on the amount and types of pet food they supply to the UK pet food market. These figures are provided confidentially to an independent third party who collates the results on behalf of participant members. A group of PFMA members then review the figures, and reach a consensus on the size an d shape of the various markets for pet foods in the UK.  /pfma-annual-report-2012/

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