18 June 2021 - Last week, animal lovers across Mexico had their eyes on the state of Puebla, where the cause of two canines was capturing national attention. The two dogs, Spay and Spike, fell into a sinkhole while playing on June 7, tumbling more than 20 meters and ending up trapped.
Puebla Governor Miguel Barbosa initially refused to allow an attempt to rescue the pups, saying that it wasn’t worth risking the safety of a human rescuer. But he relented after a campaign by animal rights groups with support from famous actors, and allowed a team of firefighters to repel down into the sinkhole to rescue the dogs, who at that point had been trapped for 48 hours.
The saga of Spay and Spike is just one example, but it’s part of a wider trend of Mexicans’ increased appreciation for dogs and cats, a dynamic that is creating growth opportunities for the pet food industry, according to Nicolás Torino, president of AMASCOTA, a trade association that represents pet food manufacturers in Mexico.
In an interview with Feedinfo, Torino said that the growing appreciation of cats and dogs allowed Mexico’s pet food industry to grow 7% in volume and 9% in value in 2020, even as the country’s real GDP contracted by over 8%.
The dynamic is closely related to the social distancing measures adopted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, but Torino thinks there are other factors.
“There was already a trend towards the tightening of the bond between humans and animals, and this unfortunate emergency tightened that bond even more,” he said.
The opportunity for the pet food industry is twofold: one the one hand, Mexicans have been adopting and buying more dogs and cats. But there’s another dynamic that Torino thinks is more significant: people who already owned pets are investing more in their animals’ health and wellbeing. Remote work means that people have been spending more time at home with their pets, and have been paying more attention to the animals’ needs.
Currently, only 40% of pet dogs in Mexico eat balanced pet food, while the figure for cats is even lower, at 20%. Torino thinks those statistics represent a significant opportunity for growth that will persist beyond the pandemic.
“Even when people have to go back to the office, these close bonds they’ve developed with their pets aren’t going to break,” he said.
And because Mexican producers supply about 90% of the national market for pet food (and export enough to maintain close to an even balance of payments), the domestic industry will be the one to benefit from the growing market.