Pet humanisation in German- speaking markets: challenges & opportunities

In a region where dogs seem to be shrinking, there is growth at both ends of the market. Premium food and non-food segments are appealing to the small-dog owner, while retailers introduce more and more private labels.

Dogs for new lifestyles

Dogs in Germany, Austria and Switzerland are getting smaller. In fact, the small-dog population across these markets (< 9 kg) has grown 56% faster than that of larger dogs since 2014. Breeds like the dachshund continue to grow in popularity, as ageing ‘empty nest’ couples prioritise pets that are easier to handle. At the same time, urbanisation trends are creating more single-person households with smaller living spaces. These consumers want dogs for companionship but only have the space for smaller breeds.

Less can be more

As smaller dogs eat less, this trend has proven to be a drag on volume sales of dog food. After growing 3.2% and 2.9% in 2014 and 2015 respectively, volume growth has slowed to a CAGR of less than 1% since 2016. 

At the same time, small dogs have been the biggest beneficiaries of pet humanisation trends. Dog owners are treating their companions more like family members, driving interest in premium food and new types of non-food products. 

This has helped value sales of dog food outpace volumes and has driven healthy overall growth for the pet care industry. In fact, between 2014 and 2019, total value sales across pet care grew by more than 9% in these markets. 


Ancestral diet foods have become an increasingly important part of pet humanisation trends in German-speaking markets. As pet owners become better educated about canine health and nutrition, they are showing interest in foods based on the natural diet of the ancestors of domestic dogs and cats. Such products are typically positioned as all-natural, high-protein and often have single-source protein formulas. 

In Germany, Finnern’s launch of Rinti Huhn Total and Miamor Feine Beute provide great examples of this trend in dog and cat food, respectively. Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) diets are an important part of this trend as well, and manufacturers like Qualipet in Switzerland continue to expand their BARF offerings.

Connected pet products

Technology represents another important frontier for pet humanisation. As consumers become more reliant on technology, demand is growing for connected pet products that allow owners to better monitor and care for their companions. 

The Catspad, for instance, has gained traction in Switzerland. This automated food and water dispenser integrates with smartphones and other connected devices. The app can identify different animals via microchips or Catspad collar tags, helping users dispense the correct amount of food according to each animal’s specific needs. Another Swiss example is RelaxoPet – a wireless speaker that emits subliminal sound waves to help reduce stress and anxiety in pets. 

Private label threatens value growth

While humanisation trends offer potential for continued value growth in pet care, the rise of the private label presents a significant threat. As retailer brands become more innovative, they are offering many of the premium features that consumers want at significantly lower price points. 

In natural food, for instance, premium private label lines like Wolf of Wilderness by Zooplus and Real Nature Wilderness by Fressnapf have gained traction. Fressnapf is also a major private label player in pet products. In 2018, it expanded its online store to Austria to further expand the availability of its private labels. Online giant Amazon also launched its own Lifelong Complete private label pet food in 2019, furthering its bold expansion plans in Germany.

The penetration of private labels in the German-speaking world is already high by global standards. Across pet care, private labels held 2018 value shares of 46%, 32% and 27% in Austria, Germany and Switzerland respectively. The popularity of hard discounters like Rewe (with pet brands Billa and Clever) and Lidl (with pet brands Orlando and Coshida) in these markets highlights consumer willingness to save money by buying private label products. As these private labels incorporate more premium features that tap into current consumer trends, unit price and value sales growth in pet care may slow.


Jared Koerten

Head of Pet Care Research at Euromonitor International