Ralf Majer-Abele


Not afraid of stormy times ahead

The International Pet Conference in Bologna was all about the “new normal” and the myriad challenges it poses. This provided plenty of food for thought over the two days of the conference, but also offered interesting perspectives and a lot of inspiration. Virtually all the issues currently facing our pet sector were addressed: disrupted supply chains, raw material shortages, record inflation, the purchasing reticence of consumers, climate change and in particular the topic of sustainability.

What did we learn from all this? Market analyst Tommaso Cappato of Euromonitor International summarised the situation succinctly when he said that although the pet sector was “recession-resilient”, it was not “recession-resistant”. His conclusion was that there probably won’t be any marked downward spiral in the pet supplies business. The rollercoaster ride that we have been on since the beginning of the year will continue, however. Stormy times are ahead, but sooner or later the sun will also shine again on the pet sector.

The premiumisation of the market that was so evident during the pandemic, the growing investment by pet owners in high-quality accessories, along with the switch to more organic and sustainable products – all of this may come to a halt in the next few months, or be reduced in scale. When it comes to pet food, Cappato expects a renaissance of the medium-price segment, a host of price promotions and new trends in pricing policy. For insecure shoppers, price may become more important than ever as a factor when purchasing.

If we trust in our own strengths and  have the courage to believe in what we are doing, the pet sector will come through the current crisis also relatively unscathed.

When even eternal optimists such as Europe’s leading pet store chain Fressnapf describe the present times as “overcast turning to stormy”, as was the case in Bologna, the situation needs to be taken seriously. It was also evident at the International Pet Conference, however, that companies which are constantly upgrading their performance need not be too afraid of the future. Positive examples abounded in Bologna: the plans of Nestlé Purina to develop an ecosystem, the future projects of Austrian pet wearables expert Tractive or the transformation, already underway over a number of years, of Belgian accessories manufacturer Moderna Pro­ducts into a sustainable production company.

Bologna has taught us this much: if we don’t allow ourselves to be intimidated, if we trust in our own strengths and have the courage to believe in what we are doing, the pet sector will come through the current crisis also relatively unscathed.

Ralf Majer-Abele

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