Chinese Dog Owners vs Dog Eaters
- June 3rd, 2015
- in Marketing
Chinese tourist alert: do not travel to Los Angeles! Much too dangerous.
Just search “Los Angeles” on Baidu – you’ll see.
In fact, Chinese tourists are best advised to avoid major U.S. cities altogether. Homicides have spiked 20% this year in New York City.* Baltimore is subject to riots. One out of eighty five people in Miami Beach are victims of violent crime.**
Urban crime is a very unfortunate aspect of American culture. It doesn’t seem to bother the Chinese overmuch, though. Los Angeles is currently the number one U.S. tourist destination. Seven hundred thousand of them visited last year, spending over a billion dollars.
Dog eating is a very unfortunate, dwindling aspect of China culture. It bothers many Chinese, who via social media and protests are turning up the pressure on Guangxi’s dog eating festival.
“Foreigners are outraged” too, of course. But outrage overshadows the reality of dog ownership in China, just as outrage over urban crime rates would overshadow the reality of vacationing in the U.S.
The boom in Chinese dog owners is one of many fantastic case studies proving the rapid evolution of the Chinese consumer.
A little over a century ago, dogs were either hidden up the sleeves of Mandarins for defense (how cute is your Pekinese now?), kept on farms for defense, or eaten for winter blood thickening.
It’s barely been a decade since owning dogs has even been legal again – bourgeois affectation that it is.
Maybe that explains dog ownership as the up-market lifestyle super trend that it is, with over a million registered Chinese dog owners in Beijing alone by 2012. China is the world’s largest dog-owning country, one in 7% of all households, often taking the place of that first or second child.***
As for the resultant Chinese market in canine care – we’re way past Purina puppy chow.
- High end trainers command upwards of 500RMB ($83) per hour to civilize dogs from their barbarian ways.
- Grooming salons outnumber gyms in high-end communities, whose costly patches of grass are now fraught with organic land mines.
- State insurer PICC’s dog insurance policies run $550 a year.
In all, it’s the healthiest segment of a pet care industry growing 43% a year that will be worth $2.2b by 2019.
Purina’s doing just fine, by the way, with a robust Chinese site and healthy sales on 3rd party platforms such as JD. As regular readers should surmise, western brands dominate the market, Chinese competitors handicapped by endemic mistrust (“If they’ll put melamine in baby formula, what will they put in dog food?”)
An op-ed in communist party mouthpiece People’s Daily last summer denounced dog ownership as anti-socialist. The piece had little to no impact, none compared to the domestic outcry over this year’s dog festival. The pic to the left is from China social media site Weibo, showing that 166m people have read protesting posts.
The takeaway, for those of you making plans for the China market? Traditional culture does not explain it. Neither do news items. Only data does.