Currently, as we enter the age of 10 million companion animals, companion animals are no longer just pets. They are becoming our companions. According to this phenomenon, the ‘Petcononmy’, the market industry associated with companion animals, has become more active. There is also a growing number of companion animal-themed broadcasts and companion animal-related furniture. So, let’s find out why companion animals are increasing, how our lives have changed with the increase of companion animals, and the prospects of a companion animals society.
What is Petconomy?
Petconomy is a compound word composed of Pet and Economy, which is a newly coined word that means the market and industry related to companion animals. The petconomy market is wider than we thought, in addition to feed, toy, snack, animal hospitals, and grooming, new services are appearing. These include taxis, kindergartens, hotels, theme parks, funeral services, IT combination commodities, and companion animal broadcasts. From the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, figures for 2019 showed the value of the domestic companion animal market totaled 1.8 trillion won in 2015, 3.65 trillion in 2018, a doubling of the 2015 figure. This market is expected to easily surpass 5.8 trillion won in 2020 and 6 trillion won in 2027. As the market for companion animals grows, the cost of raising companion animals is also increasing. A survey was conducted from March 22 to March 31 of 2018 of 2,584 people currently raising companion animals, by Open Market Auction, operated by EbayKorea, which asked about the average monthly expenditure for companion animals. A full 48% said that they spend between 10,000 won and 100,000 won. Another 35% spent between 100,000 and 200,000 won, and seven percent each were in the 200,000 to 300,000 won range and 300,000 to 400,000 won range. This means that on average, the monthly cost for raising companion animals is about 133,000 won, and one in two of the people surveyed said they felt raising their animals was a the financial burden.
According to a 2018 report by the KB Institute of Management, of all Korean households, 25.1% responded “I currently raise companion animals”, and 39.2% responded “Not currently but in the past I had raised companion animal.” As of July 2019, it is estimated that there are 14 million companion animals in Korea. According to an investigation by the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency in January 2019, the proportion of households that raise companion animals is estimated to 23.7%, while the number of households is around 5.11 million. Interestingly, the type of household that usually raises companion animals is a one person household, and according to the National Statistical Office, the proportion of this type of household is expected to rise from 28.6% in 2019 to 36.3% in 2045. People in one person households rely more on companion animals because by interacting emotionally with companion animals, they can feel secure by filling their empty and lonely heart. Yoo Byungjoo, the chairman of Korean Kennel Club, said “In a world that will only continue to more complicated, the objects of people’s affections have decreased” and also “It’s companion animals that fill up that vacancy.” This strong bond with companion animals has changed the term for companion animals from "pet" to “companion animal." Companion animal means a companionable being, such as a family and friend, that lives together with a human and provide a psychological boost and intimacy. It is different from pets because pets mean an animal that is bred for human pleasure. Common companion animals include dogs and cats, as well as guinea pigs, raccoons, rabbits, and a range of companion animals has expanded to even include the rare reptile.
With the growth of the number of single-person households relying on companion animals, there is active investment in companion animals and the natural growth of the Petconomy, the companion animal market. So, let’s look at what is in the companion animal market.
The development of the companion animal market
Here are a few examples of the companion animal market. The first one is ‘Electric appliances for pets.’ In the past, the market was dominated by products that decorate companion animals. But recently ‘Electric appliances for pets’ have come to the market. These are are devices that take care of the health of companion animals and of companions and provide a good environment. A Typical examples of these are an easy-to-clean wireless vacuum for fur, a pet-dry-room for bating and drying at once, and an air purifier for removing the odor of ammonia. Of the electric pet appliances, the distinction of the ‘Puricare 360 degree air purifier for pet’ that LG Electronics launched on June 30, 2019, which can remove the main components of the odor of the wastes of companion animals such as ammonia, is that it is approximately 55% more powerful than existing models because of strengthened deodorization performance. In addition, when we use the pet mode, which has a specialized feature for companion animals, we can remove up to 35% more fur and dust from companion animals because of the increased wind power of up to 70% over auto mode. When you use the pet mode, the air purifier intensively increases the air intake volume at the bottom, which causes fur and dust which are heavier than air to be removed from the air near the floor. The air purifier was made for companions who are not comfortable with the smell and shed fur that comes with raising companion animals. So although this air purifier was released only recently, it has received positive responses from companions because it was made with the odor and shedding of the fur of companion animals in mind. Reviews of this product on the shopping site SSG, include many positive responses like ‘It’s good to operate outside with cellphone’, ‘It’s the best among recent products.’
A second example is ‘Bow-wow vacation.’ According to a survey conducted in July 2019 by the global online travel agency (OTA) ‘Expedia’, 56.7% of respondents who raise companion animals said they have traveled with their companion animals. This is a change from the past when it was common to leave companion animals with acquaintances or animal hospitals when traveling. As a result, the domestic travel industry has also begun presenting companion animals-related travel items and among them, a number of luxury hotels which run ‘private rooms for companion animals’ is notable. The nation’s first hotel-flex Seoul Dragon City located in Yongsan, on July 20, 2019, unveiled its ‘Bow-wow vacation package’ where people can enjoy rest and relaxation with their companion animals in co-operation with LikaLika, a premium brand of products for dogs. In this place, the people receive a premium goods kit consisting of selected products that allow their dogs to enjoy their vacation at the hotel. The premium goods kit includes a bag for walking, a summer scarf, a pair of sunglasses for a dog, pure cotton towels, toys for nose-walking, handmade snack, and a pick-me-up. According to a review from Naver Blog, one person said ‘I’ve wanted to go abroad during the holiday season, but I couldn’t leave my companion animals behind, so I’m going to take a vacation with my companion animal at the Seoul Dragon City Hotel this time.’ She added that the accommodations were so nice and clean and also liked that the floor for dogs was separate so that she and her dog could be comfortable and not need to worry about for bothering others because of her dog’s behavior.
The last example is ‘Pettube’ (Pet+Youtube). The Pettube, a Youtube video showing companion animals, is growing fast, and the number of views on Youtube videos related to dogs has increased by 86% and the one of cats has increased by 77% in January to July 2018, compared to the same period in 2017. The reason the Pettube has become popular is that people can get vicarious satisfaction. People who love animals but can’t have animals in their house because of fur allergies, private environment, or some other reason said that indirect experience about life with companion animals through Youtube is the reason why they like Pettube. In addition, more and more people are using YouTube as a channel to share information as videos can create consensus among people who are raising companion animals at home. One channel, ‘Curly Perma’ has 37,000 subscribers as of October 2018. A poodle, Perma, is the main character and the channel operator Kim Jin said she opened the channel to communicate information about adopting abandoned dogs like Perma that came from dog shelters. She had searched for information about adoption of abandoned dogs but there were no fresh story about the process of adoption with more than what she could think of. So she started to produce content that tells about the difficulties after adoption and how to apply for adoption. She also says that her final goal is bring the message, ‘Please don’t buy, but adopt’, and she will make the image of adopting abandoned dogs positive by not forcing her message but by naturally showing the charms of Perma. On another channel, the Youtuber ‘Daheuk’ has been working as a Youtuber, selling arthropods and reptiles in a store. He creates videos with the theme of rare animals instead of dogs or cats that are familiar to people; he had 440,000 subscribers as of July 2019. Among the many reptiles, lizard-related videos are particularly well received. Daheuk showed the video of tje vivid moments in which lizards feed, grow, and even spawn. Many of the videos released by Daheuk has been praised as being highly unusual as they contain the growth processes of rare animals that are not easily seen. The cumulative views of his Youtube channel was close to 100 million view as of December 2018.
Foreign companion animal market
The first country is America. According to a report by the America Consumer Technology Association on April 2018, as of 2017, about 68% (84.6 million households) of households raised companion animals, a 56% increase from 1988 and it’s the highest since the survey was conducted. The highest percentage of companion animals are cats and dogs. About 60 million households have dogs, and about 47 million households have cats. As a result, expenditures of companion animals have been increasing. In addition, according to research by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) on January 2019, America ranked first in the global companion animal market, with its annual market size surpassing 80 trillion won. So the companion animal market also has growing in America with an increasing number of companion animals. An example of the Petconomy in America is the matching system. When people want to adopt a companion animal, first they have to check how the animal fits with them and then decide to live together. For example, ‘Paws like me’, the dog adoption website of an America animal protection group, first ask the adoptee more than 40 questions such as “Friends say I have a lot of compassion’ and ‘House is less organized but cozy’. Then the adoptee has to answer more ‘Yes/No’ questions. Through this procedure, a system provides a list of puppies that match with the person’s personality. Another dog adoption site, “MYM (Meet Your Match), first let the adoptee monitor the behavior of animals to be adopted in detail through cameras. The site analyzes animal personalities by 9 features after observing whether animals play well with toys or like to take walks. These analyzed characters of the companion animals are used to match with prospective companions. In the U.S, more than 1 out of 10 adopted companion animals had been returned to shelters every year but after using matching systems that match animals and people, the adoption rate has increased by 14% and the return rate has decreased by 35.7% at the same time, according to records in Ohio.
The second country is Japan. According to KB Financial Group’s 2018 companion animals report, as of 2017, the number of cats (9,526,000) in Japan exceeded the number of dogs (8,920,000). The size of 2017 Japan companion animal market totaled about 1.5 trillion yen which was 1% more than it was in 2016. With the spread of the Internet and smartphones, new services have also emerged such as self-feeders and devices that care for companion animals alone at home. Especially, there are many services about healthcare and ageing of companion animals in Japan. For example, Japan TechCrunch which frequently introduces new technology started to sell PettoFood from July 8, 2019, a lunch box for dogs. PettoFood is made under the supervision of a veterinarian and has four main dishes: beef, pork, chicken, and fish. In addition, they have developed various menus such as seasonal foods and dishes for prevention of allergies, and they also said that they are working on developing diet and vegan dishes by managing eating habits of dogs with data. Besides, since companion animals which have mobility difficulties or dementia due to age have become a social issue, so diapers and oral care products for older companion animals are in high demand in Japan. According to the Yano Research Market solution provider, the companion animal diaper market is growing, which is aimed at more convenient disposal of the waste of older companion animal and keeping good relations with neighbors. Particularly, after Unicharm, the market leader, released a diaper for old men who suffer from light-urinary incontinence, they also released the diaper ‘Manner Wear’ for companion animals that suffer from mild urinary incontinence. So it gotten a good response from consumers.
As the Petconomy society has developed, apart from veterinarians we already know that new types of professional occupations related to companion animal have taken center stage.
The prospect of Petconomy; the emergence of new careers
The first example of a new career in the petconomy society is the ‘Pet sitter.’ A pet sitter is the person who takes care of companion animals in place of their owners. In 2015 or 2016, an application which acts as an intermediary between companions and pet sitters was created and also the number of pet sitters has increasing rapidly. Pet sitters have knowledge about animal behaviour, health and so on. They also have the capacity of actual management. Based upon these capacities, pet sitters play the role of taking care of companion animals in the living space of either the companions or the pet sitters. When companions request care, the pet sitting service recommends pet sitters who are active in the neighborhood to companions or they provide a list of pet sitters which the companions can chose personally. To prevent accidents, most of businesses have a ‘pre-meeting’ system so pet sitters can understand the dispositions of the dogs and the dogs can get acquainted with their pet sitters. The pet sitter Choi Moon-hee emphasized the importance of pre-meeting, saying in an interview with Hankyoreh, “Although all companions say their dogs are like angels, some of them do things that are out of the ordinary during the absence of companions.” In order to be pet sitters, there are no requirements of essential qualifications or completing long education, but to sign up for pet sitters of ‘Dogmate’ where Ms. Choi works, it is necessary to participate in 9 classes of online education and offline education conducted by a dog trainer. The contents of the training range from the basics such as how to cut dogs’ toenails, how to clean dogs’ ears, and how to use companion animal supplies, to more detailed actions such as how to do CPR and how to cope with security situations. In the U.S, pet sitting has been booming since the middle of the 2000s, with more than 140,000 pet sitters currently working. Pet sitting services are expected to increase in Korea as well.
The second example of new jobs in the petconomy is the ‘Pet aromatherapist.’ This job which helps promote relief of companion animals’ fatigue, is also getting a lot of attention. In an interview with the Korea Economic magazine in July 2017, Choi Yu-shin, the CEO of Pet-therapist, who has run a complex massage shop based on aromatherapy of companion animals, explained pet aromatherapy. The pet aromatherapist's actions helps keep up the companion animals’ fitness by using their great sense of smell. In addition, they help animals which have various environmentally-caused problems such as skin disease caused by synthetic material, to stay healthy with the use of aromatic scents. In particular, aromatherapy is the good for restoring elder dogs’ energy. For instance, a dachshund which couldn’t move well because of haunch paralysis at an animal hospital was able to walk fine, its fur became glossy, and its skin disease disappeared after aromatherapy and being fed good food. Choi Yu-shin also said that pet therapy should be considered a natural routine, not an unusual love, because companion animals also need comfortable rest.
Companion animals now have a significant presence in our society. As a result, the markets which take responsibility for the adoption and lives of companion animals are competing with each other. Also, it is common to watch companion animal-themed broadcasts these days. Investment in companion animals had increased steadily in foreign countries such as America and Japan, and prospects for jobs related to companion animals are also rising in Korea. So with strong responsibility for companion animals, a happy society should be arranged for both companion animals and their people.
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