Cat litter is a well-established production the mature markets of Western Europe, North America and Japan. While a large cat population is the ultimate prerequisite for high value sales of cat litter, other factors also impact demand. In countries with high disposable incomes, and where pet food is a well-established concept, demand for cat litter is comparatively strong.
Urbanisation and the concomitant rise in the number of house-cats also drive demand for cat litter in many countries. The top five in value terms – US, Japan, Germany, UK and France – exhibit these characteristics to varying degrees.
The US has by far the largest cat population, which compensates for the fact that the country lags somewhat in terms of urbanisation. Germany on the other hand has a smaller number of cats, but is, next to the UK, a heavily urbanised country (about 89% of households in the UK and Germany live in urban areas). All five markets are characterised by high levels of personal disposable income, ranking among the top twenty countries worldwide.
Product innovation boosts growth in the US
The US which accounts for about 45% of world cat litter sales, witnessed the introduction of superior-quality products such as clumping and silica gel (crystal) litters, which ensured that cat litter continued to achieve strong growth. A offer better absorption and odour control than conventional cat litter.
Clumping litter, the most common format in the US, is easily scoopable and more convenient to use than traditional products. Furthermore it requires more frequent purchasing, contributing to overall sales growth. Clorox recently introduced Scoop Away Plus Crystals, a product which combines clumping and crystal litters into one product. Innovative product development also kept private labels at bay: The share held by private label products was 16% in 2001, considerably lower than the 28% share held by private label in Western Europe.
To US consumers, product functionality has been and continues to be more appealing than low prices. Consequently, added-value products ensured consistently strong year-on-year growth rates in the US: between 1998 and 2002, cat litter sales grew by over 24%, which translated into an actual increase of nearly US$240 million.