In 1948 in the village of Cassoplis, Michigan (USA), Edward Lowe first offered dried and calcined Fullers Earth as pet litter. In 1991 a new type of more efficient cat litter emerged from Wyoming.
This was a clumping (or scoopable) ultra (microgranules) which, because of its inherent qualities like ease of use and hygiene became very popular.
From modest sales of USD 3 million in 1991, this clumping product’s sales grew to USD 600 million in 1999 - more than half the total US pet litter sales of USD 1,044 million.
One of the companies active in the pet litter industry is Ashapura from Mumbai, India. In 1999, Ashpura introduced Pura, a clumping lightweight product that is 20% lighter due to - as the company claims - Ashapura’s unique sodium bentonite deposits used. The company has invested 12 years of research and development into the technology of producing this lightweight cat litter.
The hard, rock - like natural sodium bentonite (or mugnati) of the Kutch region in India gets 300 days of burning strong sunlight for low temperature drying and the 40 years of experience in mining, excavating and processing of minerals, combined with modern research labs and vast deposits of sodium bentonite at one of the few places worldwide where this material can be found, makes the Pura pet litter.
Ashapura sees the total European cat litter market at a volume of appox. 1.5 million tonnes and clumping pet litter made out of sodium bentonite has a market share of around 10%. The remainder is produced from calcium bentonite, sepiolite, attapulgite and wood material. I personally see the following reason for the smaller market share of clumping pet litter in Europe: clumping pet litter can only be produced from high grade sodium bentonite and there is not one single deposit in Europe. Natural sodium bentonite is far superior to the sodium bentonite produced by artificial conversion from calcium bentonite by the addition of soda ash.
The apparent price factor i.e. compared to kilogram to kilogram is considered, but not consumption per animal. This has been an impediment to the growth. Many U.S. manufacturers did not seriously promote their product in Europe possibly because they have enough home market. This is also an impediment to the development of the market in Europe. Of course a few importers created a Niche market in Europe for this product, but our Company wants to change this trend both to the advantage of Pet Owners and the Pets.
The cat litter department of Ashapura supplied work for some 70 people, 50 in production and 20 in sales, marketing and administration. At this moment the company is supplying three major markets with their products: Middle East, South East Asia and Europe. The main markets at this moment in Europe are Germany, France and Benelux. In other European countries the company is looking for exclusive distributors, while one is also considering to startup the export to the US, as soon as a reliable distributor has been found.
And this is not the end of the planned development for the export activities of Ashapura: the company is also looking for a suitable location to start up their own packaging facility where both Pura Pet litter as well as other cat litter products can be packed for the European market and shipped in bulk.
Mr. N. R. Shah
Ashapura Group of Industries