Singaporean Pets Pant for U.S. Pet Food

In light of the still-ongoing aftermath of the pet food fiasco, this little article on the Foreign Agricultural Service site of the US Department of Agriculture sheds some light on the probable collective impact of bad pet food on the animal population in Singapore. (The article is dated 2004, but it’s good for extrapolation.)

The article opens (emphasis mine)

Pet food producers who sell to Singapore animal lovers will have no problem sniffing out profits in this fast growing market. Almost all the pet food is imported, and Singaporean pets are chowing down. For the past five years, retail sales of pet food have doubled, increasing 10 to 20 percent a year.

U.S. exporters supplied over 2,300 tons of dinners in 1996, approaching a C.I.F. (cost, insurance, freight) value of $3 million (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s trade data).

While this market may be small by some standards, Singapore serves as a retail product showcase for Southeast Asia. Due to its affluent, ethnically diverse population, it’s viewed as a product test center, offering entry into the regional market.

Singapore trade data indicates that 5,300 metric tons of pet food, worth $16-20 million, was imported in 1996. Primary beneficiaries of this largesse–the pampered pooches of Singapore. Though this pet population is not increasing, doting owners provide amply for them.

While it seems heartening that “doting owners provide amply”, the key contradiction is manifested later in the article:

Supermarkets sell most of the pet food in Singapore. The breakdown: Supermarkets (60 percent), pet food shops (30 percent), kennels and pet hotels (8 percent) and veterinarians (2 percent).

Now we all should know about supermarket brands, don’t we! But wait, pet store brands aren’t necessarily heaven’s purely nutritional manna either. Take this brand called SmartHeart which claims to provide the best nutrition for your cat. This is the ingredients list for its chicken formula; ingredients order as per packaging info:

Ground corn, chicken by-product meal, fish meal, squid by-product meal, shrimp meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, chicken meal.

It retails at $12.90 for a 3.5kg pack. Compare it the equivalent Whiskas formula, which would retails at about $6.50 for a 1.5kg pack and pass your own judgment.

The frightening thing? Smart Heart is distributed AND sold by one of the larger petshop chains in Singapore. It doesn’t bode well for the indulged pets, does it, that their doting owners don’t know or care what’s in the food they’re being fed.

The article also brings into focus a bit of a fallacy – that fish is a natural part of a cat’s diet and is all they need.

Singapore’s kitty population has traditionally purred for fishy flavors. Most recent trends, however, include chopped liver. And then there are the ever-popular prawns.

It goes on to say:

One humane note here: Tender-hearted Singaporeans feed so many neighborhood strays, that a new market for less expensive dry cat food has sprung up in recent years.

See, there is a market segment called “neighbourhood strays”! TNRM caregivers, like us, are a market force to be considered, however niche we are. But please note, less expensive doesn’t mean junk – no supermarket brands no matter!

The top selling brands listed in this next bit is not surprising. What is worth poo-pooing is the label “high-quality”. In view of the impact of the pet food recall on these brands, it is time “doting owners” in Singapore sit up and take note of WHAT IS IN THAT FOOD YOU FEED!

While there are no tariffs on imported pet foods, import markups range from 25 to 50 percent, and retail markups add about 30 percent. Those yummy pet treats suffer even higher markups, sometimes as much as 100 percent.

Through their high-quality products and continuing promotions and advertising, U.S. brands such as Eukanuba, IAMS, Science Diet, ProPlan and Eagle continue to enjoy strong market shares.

The strongest competition these companies face is from Australia, which sells the No.1 dog food in Singapore–Pedigree (it’s canned)–while Friskies leads the cat food contingent.

Australia has used effective promotions and advertising, particularly through television, to develop its market share. Moreover, Australia’s abundant raw supplies and proximity make for competitive advantages over the United States.

Japan provides stiff competition in the pet snack and treat products. These doggie and kitty treats are known for their eye-catching and elaborate packaging. Contributing to their popularity–the large number of Japanese expatriates living in Singapore and the enticements of higher margins offered to shop owners by Japanese manufacturers.

Given the presence of American food brands in Singapore, it is important to be informed about what’s been affected. For a very good index and rule of thumb, refer to the pet food list, which tracks American brands that are NOT affected by the recall.

For those who know or have read tec for a while now, you know we use Natural Balance. It is affected by the recall. This is an unescapable fact – check the pet food list. However, NB is still on the right side of the problem for us, as they’ve been clear about their problems (communications/decisions in the supply chain) and the products we use are not affected. We are watching developments though, and just to be sure that we have a backup plan should we need to switch in a hurry, I’m looking out for viable alternatives in Singapore now. If you’ve using a non-recall-affected food that is filler-free (preferably also cruelty-free), and you like the results, let us know!


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