– By Pierre-Charles Parsy, Chief Brand, Consumer & Digital Officer
Let’s start with a fact: cats and dogs do not speak. So how do we understand what the pet is telling us? How can a pet owner make sure she/he makes the right decision for his/her beloved, furry animal? How is it possible to identify the nutritional and medical needs of a dog or a cat, that its health and well-being are taken care of? This is where technology comes in!
At Royal Canin, we believe that science, data and technology lead to a better understanding of pets and consequently help improve the way we care for them. We all need to take bigger steps towards startups, innovators, and pet partners to spark innovation within the industry.
We have always relied on science and observation, and now technology allows us to go one step further. Because we know how much preventive care can impact a pet’s quality of life, we focus on tools as well as technologies that help predict and identify conditions to support the invaluable work of veterinarians.
Data science helps our industry to accurately detect the risks of a pet developing chronic diseases, sometimes as early as two years before it was previously diagnosed. According to an October 2020 McKinsey survey¹, “Most [business executives] recognize technology’s strategic importance as a critical component of the business, not just a source of cost efficiencies.” And the pet industry is not immune to this trend.
Waltham Petcare Science Institute² summed up a virtual session hosted by The British Veterinary Association and Mars Petcare, as part of the 2020 Vet Show Autumn Series, where Dr. Dan O’Neill, founder of the VetCompass™ veterinary surveillance project argued that “thanks to pet care innovation, we are now entering an era of relationship-based veterinary care, where pet owners, veterinarians, and researchers collaborate on equal footing.
Pet owners embracing digital technology are becoming collaborators, providing veterinarians with the data they need to make personalized care decisions. This collaboration can help veterinarians give powerful evidence-based advice, which will, in turn, strengthen the partnership with pet owners.”
Forbes³ goes deeper in the field of monitoring by quoting Dr. Darren Logan, Head of Research, Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “Today, we collect an array of data about our pets, from their veterinary medical records to their genetic make-up, from their diets to their daily activity profiles.
Within that data, there are patterns [..] that can be connected to understand the health and behavior of pets better.” Logan adds “AI helps us review these patterns efficiently and effectively by unlocking the latent power of this pet data. In the case of dogs scratching, we use AI to find patterns of movement in dogs diagnosed with a skin condition, and now we can spot earlier when dogs begin to scratch more frequently, simply by using an activity monitor attached to their collar.”
Years of R&D carried out in collaboration with the science and mathematics departments of several universities, and the expertise of vet nutritionists, pet health experts, and technology can lead to innovative solutions for pet health. Petfoodindustry.com⁴ was the first publication to report on ROYAL CANIN® Individualis™, an innovation that leverages data through a novel algorithm and production techniques, all using AI.
After a veterinarian’s consultation, it is now possible to calculate multiple nutrient combinations in as little as ninety seconds and cover up to eleven risk factors – ensuring that the management of one of these is not favored at the expense of another. The outcome is a tailor-made, individualized nutritional solution that meets the requirements of a cat or a dog, according to its breed, age, weight, sensitivities, and daily energy need.
Startups also play an important role to bring in new expertise. Some create pet wearables while others focus on AI tools. VivaTech 2021 showed a number of groundbreaking projects that seem to defy fate. An example is Blücare Lab, a Canadian startup, which presented cat litter white granules that – once spread on top of the regular litter – detect hematuria. Sold by veterinarians to cat owners, it identifies micro-trace amounts of blood in urine by turning blue.
Such progress leads to more responsible pet ownership and better pet well-being. Aside from pet owners and veterinarians, other pet professionals such as breeders, nutritionists, behavioralists, groomers, trainers, etc. are all more receptible to technology. Grand View Research⁵ says that the global pet food market size was valued at $83.02bn in 2018 and is expected to grow by 4.5% from 2019 to 2025.
Especially now that the pandemic has brought an unprecedented rise in adoption across the globe, this trend should escalate. Also, according to Global Market Insights⁶ the pet tech market is expected to pass the $20bn mark worldwide by 2027.
Ranging from tracker apps – that understand behavior and collect data – to all sorts of smart wearables and devices embedded with IoT technologies helping pet professionals with administrative tasks so that she/he can spend more time with the cat or the dog.
This should not come as a surprise as pet ownership has evolved over the past few years. The American Pet Products Association’s latest survey⁷ says that millennials and Gen X represent 56% of American pet owners while Baby Boomers are down to 24%. Even if Gen Z was not itemized, the share of digital-savvy pet owners keeps growing. The same survey also mentions that pet owners spend more than before on their cat or their dog and that they are more likely to shop online.
The rise of technology in today’s pet industry helps everyone to be more intertwined than ever. It is about partnerships and sharing knowledge. That way, everyone improves the entire ecosystem, pushes the limit of health through nutrition, and ultimately achieves our purpose that puts cats and dogs first.
(¹) McKinsey & Company, “How Covid-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point-and transformed business forever”, 5 Oct 20. (²) Waltham Petcare Science Institute, “4 ways innovation is changing veterinary care as we know it”, November 2020. (³) Forbes, “Take a look at how artificial intelligence can improve your pet’s health”, Jennifer Kite-Powell, 22 Feb 2021. (⁴) Petfoodindustry.com, “Royal Canin to attend Vivatech – Opens up to the future of pet health”, 11 June 2021. (⁵) Grand View Research, “Pet food market size, share, Global Industry Report, 2019-2025”, September 2019. (⁶) Global Market Insights, “Pet tech market, Covid19 impact analysis, regional outlook, growth potential, price trend analysis, competitive market share & forecast, 2021-2027”, Preeti Wadhwani & Saloni Gankar, May 2021. (⁷) American Pet Products Association, “National pet owners survey”, 21 June 2021.
About the author
Pierre-Charles Parsy is Royal Canin’s Global Chief Brand, Consumer & Digital Officer. Previously, he had an experienced career in P&L management roles in the management consulting sector. His last role was to lead IBM interactive growth in France, delivering double-digit revenue & profit growth over multiple years especially in digitally-enabled business transformation areas.