Still Growing Strong
The phrase “made in the USA” has long stood for quality. Today, it also means more sales for pet supply retailers.
The trend for USA pet products grows daily, said Hollis Levy, owner of Animal Crackers in Los Angeles.
“Not just food and treats, but all across the board—all products,” she said. “It’s always a plus when you can say, ‘It’s made here in the U.S.’”
Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for St. Louis-based Whitebridge Pet Brands, maker of Cloud Star treats, sees a lot of momentum behind the made in the USA category, with new products being introduced every day.
“A new generation of pet owners is demanding more transparency and is not only considering brands for the quality of the products they offer, but for the philosophy of the companies that produce them,” she said. “They want to be assured that companies deliver on the promises made.”
Consumers desire USA-made products, agreed Lance Reyniers, president of Python Products Inc. in Milwaukee.
“Our products have always been sourced only in the USA,” he said. “This allows us to maintain our high quality and guarantee that our products are BPA, arsenic and lead free.”
The trend recently received a boost from the faltering Chinese economy, according to industry sources.
“The issues coming from the Far East have presented U.S.-based companies a very distinct advantage in the development of products not only manufactured, but also sourced in the U.S.,” said Tim Fabits, vice president of sales for Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif.
The slowing growth of the Chinese economy is creating a beneficial climate for made in the USA goods, said financial advisor Mark Phillips of Mark Phillips and Associates in Irvine, Calif.
“Because the Chinese currency is virtually ‘pegged’ to the U.S. dollar—the exchange rate is maintained at a fixed rate—the price of Chinese manufactured products has dropped very little in U.S. dollars,” he said. “This has given U.S.-based manufacturers some cushion against low-priced Chinese imports becoming so much cheaper, as the U.S. dollar becomes so much stronger versus so many other global currencies.”
With this new advantage, consumers will see less of a price difference between products made in China and those made in the U.S., he said.
These days, more and more USA-made pet products in the consumable and nonconsumable categories are appearing in the marketplace. Manufacturers report that pet owners value products that are made and sourced in the U.S.
“Evanger’s always has operated with the belief that the shorter the distance our ingredients have to travel, the more control we have over the quality, freshness and safety of our products,” said Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. in Wheeling, Ill. “We get 90 percent of our ingredients from farms within 50 miles of our facility and use them within 24 hours of collection. We send our own trucks to pick up our ingredients, giving us even more control over the handling of our ingredients well before they reach our kitchens.”
Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif., also has responded to customer demand for USA-made products by offering domestically produced pet food lines.
“Our customers have spoken, and we have listened,” said Tim Fabits, vice president of sales. “Over the past few years, Redbarn has been very progressive in launching products that are sourced and made in the USA. Most recently, we have rebranded and expanded offerings in both our canned dog and cat food product lines.”
Government controls in the U.S. help guarantee the quality and safety of products produced here, according to manufacturers.
“All International Veterinary Services products are made in the USA, where we believe the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and good manufacturing practice certifications are key and critical to quality assurance and control,” said Ara Bohchalian, CEO of International Veterinary Sciences (IVS) in Anaheim, Calif.
IVS recently launched QuickBath Cat Wipes and QuickBath Wipes for Small Dogs and Large Dogs, which are made in the USA. The company also is taking its lines of USA-made natural supplements and going through a complete rebranding effort, which will include a new logo and a new packaging and label design, Bohchalian said.
Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J., is producing a new line of USA-made treats. This includes Waggles, made from 100 percent natural USA-grown chicken skins, and Puffsters Chips, an all-natural, air-puffed, low-fat dog snack, said Eric Abbey, president and founder.
“Humanization of pets is a growing trend that bleeds into the USA-made treat category,” Abbey said. “Pet parents want to give their pets treats they might eat themselves.”
More Than Where It’s Made
Although “USA-made” has become a buzzphrase, some manufacturers are quick to point out that other criteria also are important to consider when choosing a product.
“As the made in the USA category grows, consumers need to be aware there is much more to learn about a product beyond the American flag on the package,” said Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. in Wheeling, Ill. “Was the product simply manufactured in the USA, or were the ingredients sourced from the USA as well? Are the ingredients natural and of high quality? Will it benefit the pet’s health? Retailers should highlight those manufacturers who truly live up to a made in the USA label through in-store displays or monthly e-newsletters.”
Retailers should make sure that a product is not only made in the USA, but also that its ingredients all are sourced in the USA, said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J.
“It is important that retailers understand not all USA-made products are equal,” he said. “USA-made does not automatically mean the product contains healthful ingredients. Review the ingredient panels when considering stocking products on your shelves.”
Educating Consumers on Made in the USA Products
Teaching consumers the ins and outs of made in the USA pet products is important, according to retailers and manufacturers.
“We are firm proponents that proper education into how a product is sourced and manufactured is a key component in the pet parent’s decision-making process,” said Tim Fabits, vice president of sales for Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif. “The education of a pet parent, retailer and distribution partner is critical in offering peace of mind to all parties involved.”
Manufacturers that take the time to partner with retailers and their staffs for education can help drive more brand and product awareness as well as sales, said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J.
“We recently launched an easy-to-use TreatFinder search platform on lovingpetsproducts.com, designed to help retailers and consumers alike enter criteria that is important to them,” he said, adding that it’s important to engage the customer when selling USA-made products.
“Encourage your staff to ask questions like ‘Do your pets have any food allergies, health issues, dietary restrictions, etc.?’” he said. “Help them find the right USA-made treat for their specific pet. A couple of short questions will help retailers offer solution-oriented products that are a win-win and will keep customers coming back.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News.