South Korea Pet Market

Update April 2019

The pet population in South Korea has increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8%, from 4.9 million pets in 2014 to 7.5 million pets in 2018.

The South Korean pet food industry grew from US$515.4 million in 2014 to US$864.9 million in 2018, for a CAGR of 13.8% over the period, and is expected to grow to US$1,168.9 million by 2023.

In 2018, internet retailing (43.9%) and non-grocery specialists (24.6%), such as pet shops and pet superstores, sold most of the pet products (68.5%) in South Korea.

The top brand, Royal Canin by Mars Inc., dominated the pet food market in South Korea, with a retail sales value of US$107.3 million, followed by ANF by Texas Farm Products Co. Inc. at US$34.1 million and Catsrang by Daejoo Co. Ltd. at US$32.5 million.

In 2017, South Korean imports of pet food from the world were valued at US$209.9 million. Canada, the fifth-largest pet food supplier to South Korea, recorded the highest CAGR, 40.2%, among the top five suppliers from 2013 to 2017 and accounted for 7.1% of the world’s pet food exports to South Korea.

Between January 2014 and December 2018, 1,456 pet food products were launched in South Korea. Most of the new launches were dog snacks and treats, with 406 releases over the period.


In 2015, Korea imported a total of $148 million worth of pet food, an 11% increase from $133 million in 2014. China held the largest market share of Korean pet food imports (29% at $43.3 million), followed by the United States (27% at $39.9 million), France (13% at $19.4 million), and Thailand (11% at $15.7 million). The remaining 20% was divided among other countries. 

Dog food posted value growth of 3% and volume growth of 1% in 2015 compared to 2014. Wet dog food is regarded rather as a treat than as food. Dog treats was the highest-growing category in value terms in 2015, showing 5% growth in both value and volume sales terms. 

Cat food posted 21% value growth and 13% volume growth in 2015 compared to 2014 due to the growing cat population. Cat food is expected to rise at a value of 14% at constant 2015 prices and an 8% volume in coming years. Cat treats recorded the fastest growth, showing 31% value sales growth in 2015 mainly due to increased prices. Other pet food in 2015 recorded sharp value growth of 10% and volume growth of 8% due to increased sales of mammal/reptile food. International brands have built distribution power and have maintained high shares with a premium brand image. Dog food was nearly monopolized by imported brands but lately, consumers’ preference has shifted to domestic brands, whose quality has improved significantly.


A. Opportunities

As per capita income continues to increase, sales of pet foods are expected to grow. While the faster growing treat segment and premiumization trend are expected to continue, sales of midpriced and economy pet products are also expected to grow. E-Mart Co. Ltd., the most noticeable player in dog food private label products, is showing potential not only in mid-priced but also economy level products. 

As pets eat more healthily and have access to adequate medical care, they are living longer and the senior pet population is growing. However, the products offered for the senior pet segment (e.g. Cesar Senior and MM Dogs) are insufficient and there is high potential for senior-specific pet food, including potential for wet dog food. Concerted efforts to save abandoned animals and high demand from cat moms and cat dads will increase the number of cat- and/or dog-owning households, thereby boosting demand and potential for both dry and wet pet food. 

Demand for other pet foods has also been increasing, as small mammals/reptiles continue to gain popularity as pets in households with children.

B. Constraints

U.S. pet food exports to South Korea are currently limited to pet food without any ruminant including beef and sheep ingredient packaged for retail sale. 

The dog population showed rapid growth in the early 2000s. However, the dog population growth has stabilized at less than 1% each year for the three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015. Dog food, especially dry dog food, faces slow growth due to market saturation and stagnation in dog population growth in recent years. 

The benefits of including wet dog food in a pet’s diet are not well known and the product is perceived as a treat because of its high price. Wet dog food value growth is expected to be at a slower rate than dry dog food in the coming years. 

Other pet food’s average unit price also showed a slight increase in 2015, mostly due to the increase in small mammal/reptile food’s unit price. Other pet food is expected to rise at a value of 6% at constant 2015 prices in near future.