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Escalating Pet Ownership Proves Boost to Second Singapore Pet Show

In just its second year, the Singapore Pet Expo has seen a rapid growth in its number of overseas exhibitors, a testimony to both increased animal ownership across the territory and the willingness of affluent owners to spend on their pets.

Photo: Taking the lead: Singapore sets the style for pets.
Taking the lead: Singapore sets the style for pets.
Photo: Taking the lead: Singapore sets the style for pets.
Taking the lead: Singapore sets the style for pets.

An increasing number of pets has seen owners willing to spend ever more on caring for their four-legged family additions. As a result, the Singapore pet market is growing fast, with the rise in the number of international exhibitors at the 2015 Singapore Pet Expo an apt testament to that fact. This year it was notable that high quality pet foods and supplements were well-represented at the three-day event, with many exhibitors seeing increasingly sophisticated Singapore consumers as among the key trendsetters for the Asian region.

Taking an overview of the changes in the market, Jason Ng, Executive Director of MP Singapore Pte Ltd, the show's organisers, said: "According to Euromonitor, the pet population in Singapore is projected to grow to 824,300 in 2016. Inevitably, this means there is a far greater need for pet-related products.

"Pet food sales in Singapore were worth US$72 million in 2012 and are expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 3.9% over the next five years. This should see the value of the domestic pet food market reach US$85.6 million next year."

This year's event saw 67 exhibitors showcasing a variety of pet products and services. Among these, for the first time, were a number of companies from Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.

One such first-time exhibitor was Hong Kong's MaxiPro. Terence Chung, Marketing & Sales Manager for the premium pet food and supplements supplier, said: "We are here at Pet Expo to develop the Singapore market for Kakato, our in-house New Zealand brand of dog food. Our pet food is actually made from human-grade materials. It is free from additives and preservatives, so it's sometimes healthier than the food we eat ourselves.

"Having been established in Hong Kong for a number of years, our strategy is to first develop the neighbouring markets, such as Singapore and China, then the more developed markets, particularly the US and Europe. We are planning on moving into Malaysia and Taiwan later this year.

"Hong Kong is a mature market and slightly larger than Singapore. While this is Pet Expo's second year, in Hong Kong a similar event is already in its tenth year. Hong Kong pet owners are more mature, more knowledgeable as to how raise their pets, as well as having better understanding of the comparative strengths of different brands.

"To some extent, while Singapore is in some ways similar to Hong Kong, it's still a case of trial and error for us. Other markets in Southeast Asia are not as advanced, with pets not considered part of the family. We believe this will change as income levels rise."

Henry Montesano, International Sales Manager for Canada's FirstMate Pet Foods has similarly high hopes of Singapore. He said: "FirstMate is a family-run pet food company and we were the first to offer a grain-free product. We've been in operation for 25 years in North America and two years in Singapore, our third market in Asia after Hong Kong and Taiwan. We are now just starting up in China.

"Singapore, like Hong Kong, is not a huge market, but it's an important, and sophisticated market. It is one that other Asian countries look towards and emulate. By comparison, Hong Kong is an extremely competitive market. It is more mature, and has many expatriates. Singapore is a little behind but catching up fast. This Expo is a great event. It allows companies to showcase their products, educate pet owners, and addresses the needs of strays."

Photo: Dogs’ dinners, gourmet-style.
Dogs' dinners, gourmet-style.
Photo: Dogs’ dinners, gourmet-style.
Dogs' dinners, gourmet-style.
Photo: Thailand’s Smartheart on show.
Thailand's Smartheart on show.
Photo: Thailand’s Smartheart on show.
Thailand's Smartheart on show.

A recent entrant to the Singapore market is Thailand's Smartheart. Belinda Tan, Principal Consultant for Pelor Marketing Pte, is the brand's appointed agent for this new territory. Assessing its prospects, she said: "The brand has been in Thailand for over 20 years and has also been available in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam. The pet food has been available in Singapore since February this year, but we are officially launching the brand at Pet Expo.

"The company took time to study the highly-competitive Singapore market before committing to it. It is very different market to the larger Asian countries it has previously operated in. Typically, Singapore consumers are very discerning, with high disposable income and small families and are willing to give the best to their pets. We are here to tell consumers that we offer quality food at value prices, all made at our own facilities in Thailand."

A more local exhibitor at the event was Smart Pet Care, a recent Singapore-based tech start-up. Explaining the company's USP, Director, Eski Quek said: "Our focus is on smart home solutions. We are beginning with pet care apps and products designed to allow owners to take care of their pets when they are spending long hours away from home. Our smartphone-enabled products enable owners to switch on the lights, air conditioning, and even the TV. Some pets actually watch TV. Our most popular product is our pet feeder."

Also in attendance, this year was Silversky Pte, a local brand that has been in the business for 13 years. According to Esmond Low, the company's Managing Director, the company provides premium pet food and products only and currently has operations in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

He said: "Singaporeans love their pets, sometimes seemingly more than their own family. They are like their children and they no longer have just one, but sometimes two or three.

"Given the compact nature of most Singapore homes, most are small and medium breeds. The owners are, therefore, willing to pamper them. Of course, our best seller is food, followed by treats. Our lead items at the Expo, however, are a range of dental products, including a liquid that removes tartar, plaque and bad breath with just a few drops."

Another company new to the local pet sector was Aon Singapore. It has been in the business of  offering pet insurance since December 2014. Sookee Lim, Associate Director of the company's Affinity Department, said: "Pet insurance will cover any big bills in the event of an injury or illness, especially those requiring surgery. This relieves the burden on pet owners.

"The premium is determined by a number of factors, including breed, age and any pre-existing conditions. We encourage those interested to go to our website to get a quote tailored to their exact needs.

"We have been operating in the US for a number of years now. Singapore is our first market in Asia, with its passion for pets and high disposable income making it ideal for us. We plan to explore other markets in the region, notably Hong Kong, in the near future."

A clear trend at this year's Pet Expo was the move towards raw food for dogs. Big Dog Australia Pty has been supplying such foods since 2000. Chris Essex, the Queensland-based company's Managing Director, said: "There are no studies yet proving the efficacy of raw food for dogs. There are, however, many reports of dogs leading extraordinarily long lives after being fed a diet of raw food. Some have lived to be as old as 29, which would be double what is considered a normal life span for a dog. Nature gets it right, while we humans tend to muck things up.

"In Australia, we provide a raw food diet to the Guide Dogs of Queensland. Each dog is very precious and is worth around A$30,000, so obviously we want them to live long, healthy lives. Among the benefits has been a significant reduction in veterinary bills.

"Dogs have a complex dietary requirement, just like humans, comprising vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins. Our foods are designed with this very much in mind. In addition, our foods have a number of additives beneficial to dogs, such as turmeric, which has been shown to reduce inflammation among other benefits. They also contain fulvic acid, which makes vitamins and minerals more accessible by the body, as well as fish or krill oil, for those all-important healthy Omega 3 fats."

Photo: Very much a pampered part of the family: Singaporean pets.
Very much a pampered part of the family: Singaporean pets.
Photo: Very much a pampered part of the family: Singaporean pets.
Very much a pampered part of the family: Singaporean pets.

Pet Expo 2015 was held at the Singapore Expo Hall 8 from the 20-22 March. Over 60 domestic and international companies exhibited, attracting an estimated 20,000 visitors.

Ronald Hee, Special Correspondent, Singapore

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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