South Korea Pet Market

Update 2016

Income growth and popularity in pet ownership, especially dogs, have increased demand for pet food in South Korea. Korea imported a total of $148 million worth of pet food in 2015, an 11% increase from $133 million in 2014. Respectively, Korea imported $40 million worth from the United States, up 17% from $34 million. This trend is expected to continue as per capita income continues to grow. Per capita income reached $27,340 in 2015 compared to $24,696 in 2012. 


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.