Premium ice cream made of soy milk and honey, duck and rabbit meats imported from Europe, and vitamin-rich supplements are items seemingly fit for a health-conscious gourmet.

But all are new foods for pets in Japan and aimed at cashing in on a growing trend among pet owners of paying greater attention to the well-being and “personal taste” of their furry friends.

Inaba-Petfood Co., based in Yui, Shizuoka Prefecture, is selling the Regalo brand of soy milk-based ice creams for dogs in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

The products, sold in 200-milliliter cups, contain dietary fibers, vitamins and calcium for maintaining canine health as well as ingredients taken from green tea, which the company claims reduces the odor of a pet’s droppings.

“Dogs like to eat something cold and sweet,” a company official said in explaining why it decided to develop the product.

The ice cream is currently available in two flavors — plain and cheese.

Inaba-Petfood is planning to expand its dessert lineup with items that include puddings and bavarois, or Bavarian cream.

In Nagoya, supplements imported from the United States are selling well at NatureVet Club, a store that sells sundry goods for pets.

The store offers some 20 types of canine and feline supplements, including vitamins and special ingredients designed to strengthen the joints of older dogs.

Sales of these products have jumped 20-fold since their launch two years ago, the store said.

Beef used to be synonymous with high-quality pet food, but now companies are also using other types of imported meats as premium foods.

NatureVet, for example, is selling products that were initially produced for hunting dogs owned by Britain’s royal family.

Made from duck and rabbit meats, the products cost roughly 20 times more than the cheapest domestic pet foods.

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the size of the nation’s pet-food market was estimated at 233.79 billion yen in fiscal 2001, up from 160.75 billion yen in 1992.

Surveys on household spending conducted by the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry show that public expenditure on pet food has been rising in recent years.

This trend flies in the face of the economic slump biting the human population.

But industry officials think the market for high-quality and health-conscious pet food already may have already become saturated.

Toshihiro Uchida, an economist at UFJ Institute, said that competition has been intensifying due to an increase in less expensive products imported from other parts of Asia.

“A number of pet-food makers and companies doing pet-related businesses are likely to collapse,” Uchida explained.

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