Supplement Pets' Lives, Boost Retail Sales
How retailers can promote natural supplements best in order to satisfy pet owners’ needs and increase cash register activity
In an effort to increase quality of life, owners are paying more attention to the special dietary needs of their pets, and many are using supplements to complement diets or prevent or address medical conditions.
It’s no secret to retailers that there’s been a growing interest and improvement in sales within the natural supplement category in recent years.
The driving force here, as has been the case for many of the big shakeups in pet nutrition, is that pet owners are paying more attention to the special dietary needs of their dogs and cats—especially those that have allergies or other medical conditions.
“Many are using supplements to complement simple, limited-ingredient diets to prevent or maintain a series of medical conditions,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education for Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn.
“On any given day, a retailer might experience a customer who has a dog or cat with a food or ingredient sensitivity and they’re hoping for a solution to the symptoms that will yield good results," Schubert added. "The savvy retailer is the one who has a staff that can point to three or four of the products the store offers to alleviate the issue and explain how they work and what makes each brand different.”
Kenneth Oh, former general manager, pet care division for W.F. Young Inc. in East Longan meadow, Mass., noted that in addition to natural supplements, consumers are looking for easy-to-use formats.
“Natural-based supplements are clearly a fast-growing part of the supplement category, and for W.F. Young, [this] was a main driver behind our recent acquisition of the Pet Kelp brand,” he said. “The Pet Kelp product line satisfies this need with a base powder format that is sprinkled on food, a soft-chew version that is readily accepted by dogs and is especially convenient for small breeds, and, finally, a jerky-infused format that combines a high-quality U.S.-produced jerky with the benefits of kelp and supplementation.”
The company also recently acquired The Missing Link supplements, a well-established brand of flaxseed nutrients with a large and loyal consumer base, Oh said. In addition, W.F. Young has released its NuPath line of supplements, which combine the natural benefits of a pumpkin puree base with high-quality supplements, Oh noted.
Katie Southard, store manager at Pet Food Center, which has locations in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, said the natural trend in supplements has really caught on.
“People are becoming more educated on what’s going into not only their food, but their pets’ food as well,” she said. “If they are trying to live a natural life, they think, ‘Why shouldn’t my pet?’”
Pet Food Center does well with HomeoPet natural supplements but also tries new brands and offers its customers more choices, Southard said.
“Normally, our customers come in telling me what they’re looking for, and I’ll show them what we have,” Southard said. “We research and learn a great deal about new brands. For instance, we just started selling K-10+, which offers a powder. Most supplements are pills, so we were looking for something different to offer.”
Heather Sullivan, marketing manager for Mounds Pet Food Warehouse, which has locations throughout Wisconsin, said to increase sales on many of the items in the stores, they hold mass trainings.
“We have reps from the brands come in and talk to our staff about the supplements and what makes them unique,” she said. “This helps us to have an educated staff to better sell and recommend the right products to our pet parents.”
According to Oh, helping retailers educate consumers on W.F. Young’s product line is something the company constantly works at, and this is especially important when it comes to the supplement category.
“We try to reach our retail partners at every opportunity, whether it be at industry trade shows, distributor open houses, sales meetings or through our regular contact with them in their stores,” he said. “In all these cases, we are working to educate the retailer on the features and benefits of our supplement lines so that they are able to educate their customers on supplementation in general and on our product lines specifically.”
W.F. Young also has an extensive footprint in digital media and uses that to educate consumers about natural supplements, Oh said.
At Mounds Pet Food Warehouse, supplements normally are kept in their own aisle and sorted by their health benefits, Sullivan said.
“For example, all of the hip and joint supplements are together, all of the dental items are together, and all of the antistress items are together,” Sullivan said.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News' special supplement, Natural Pet News.