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The Nitty Gritty

Educating customers about proper avian nutrition continues to be a top priority in stores.



What do bird owners want when it comes to nutrition for their pets?

“Consumers want high-quality ingredients in a diet they can trust, and of course value for their pet bird food budget,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. of Mansfield, Mass.

Manufacturers and retailers agreed, noting that bird owners usually know that they should provide more than seed for their birds, but they are not always sure what else to feed.

“Our customers come to us to learn about options other than seed,” said Laura Warfield, store associate at Pet Stop in Murrieta, Calif.

She and other employees point out the extruded diet options stocked on the shelves and offer tips on feeding healthful fruits and vegetables, she said.

As consumers look for options that are more healthful for their pets, they also seek food, treats and supplements made with high-quality ingredients.

“Bird owners are accustomed to premium products they can select for their dogs and cats,” said Gail Shepard, director of marketing for ZuPreem, a brand of Premium Nutritional Products, in Shawnee, Kan. “These premium benefits include variety of products, high-quality ingredients and their ability to realize the benefits the product promises.”

Customers at Magnolia Bird Farm in Riverside, Calif., typically understand the importance of selecting premium products that offer health benefits but might not know where to start. That’s where education about a bird’s nutritional needs comes into play, said co-owner Lori Miser.

“One-on-one education with new bird owners is key to getting them off to the right start,” she said. “We take them through the store and show them all the options. We explain how to feed a balanced diet and point out which foods are better as treats.”

Recognizing the importance of proper education when it comes to avian nutrition, ZuPreem introduced Feed Smart, a new feeding and nutrition program, at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March. The program addresses typical situations in which a bird owner feeds their pet each day.

“This program helps pet parents take the guesswork out of daily feeding and provides an easy way to ensure each bird gets balanced nutrition throughout the week,” Shepard said. “The intent is to help support a bird’s good health by limiting the overconsumption of seed so that the pet parent can include the nutrition each bird needs along with variety, convenience and special rewards.”


New to the Bird Food Category

To meet the nutritional needs of pet birds and the expectations of their owners, ZuPreem, a brand of Premium Nutritional Products, launched three new product lines at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March.

“These products have been developed with extensive input from bird owners and are designed to meet the nutritional and packaging needs they require,” said Gail Shepard, director of marketing for the Shawnee, Kan., company.

ZuPreem’s Pure Fun line, available in formulas for small to large birds, combines nuts, fruits, vegetables and ZuPreem Smart Pellets to “excite and enrich pet birds,” Shepard said. The new Sensible Seed products, also available for small to large birds, feature seeds and pellets.

For owners who want to provide occasional treats, ZuPreem also introduced Real Rewards, which Shepard described as a mix of fruit, vegetables and nuts.

“Real Rewards treats include only four popular ingredients in each treat variety,” she said, adding that the line includes Orchard Mix, Trail Mix, Tropical Mix and Veggie Mix in sizes for medium and large birds.

Another new entry in the avian nutrition category is Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp.’s line of Tropimix Enrichment Blends. Available in Large Parrot, Small Parrot and Cockatiel & Lovebird blends, the foods are meant to complement the company’s Tropican diets, said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist for the Mansfield, Mass., company.

“Our Tropimix Enrichment Blends feature a 100 percent edible fruit and nut blend fortified with our Tropican,” Allen said. “Tropimix … makes a great enrichment food for all species of companion parrots.”


Educating the Consumer About Avian Nutrition

Educating bird owners about proper avian nutrition remains a top priority with retailers and manufacturers.

“The most important things for consumers to know are the nutritional needs of their bird and how to best satisfy [those needs] when they’re shopping for nutrition products,” said Michael Acerra, marketing representative for Penn-Plax Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y. “It’s important for consumers to know what to look for and what to avoid.”

At Magnolia Bird Farm in Riverside, Calif., employees are trained to understand the nutritional requirements of all types of pet birds, from parakeets to macaws.

“We also train our employees to spend as much time as needed explaining nutrition to customers,” said Lori Miser, co-owner.

The employees also offer tips on getting picky eaters to try new foods, Miser said, a topic that comes up frequently at all types of bird stores and establishments.

Nathalie Buetow, an employee at Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary in Del Mar, Calif., recommends that bird owners entice picky birds by modeling the behavior they want them to emulate, and offering a variety of healthful foods.

“Birds thrive on both security and excitement,” she said. “So when an owner feeds a pet bird, they should give them something familiar and something new. This way, the bird feels like he has a choice.”

The bird’s diet also should be geared to its size and species—and properly trained employees can help customers find a food that fits an individual bird, Buetow added.

Still, other factors will play a part in determining what a bird should eat.

“Consumers need to know what their individual bird needs in the way of a foundation diet and realize it’s not just a matter of what a certain species requires,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. “This is determined by the overall diet evaluation in accordance to their bird’s energy levels and some guidance from their avian veterinarian.”


Promoting and Displaying Bird Nutrition Products

Pet Stop in Murrieta, Calif., sells parakeets, canaries and finches—and feeds these colorful, chirping birds the same ZuPreem premium daily food that sits on the shelves next to the cages. The store’s resident bird, an African grey, eats the same food in a formula appropriate for his size and species, said Laura Warfield, store associate.

Manufacturers recommend this activity as a top technique for marketing avian nutrition products.

“The best way to merchandise any bird food product, whether it’s a daily diet or a treat, is to feed it to in-store birds,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. “Consumers will look in the dishes, and they will compare how the bird looks in making decisions for their own bird’s diet choices.”

The birds on display at Magnolia Bird Farm in Riverside, Calif., eat a variety of avian nutritional products that are for sale in the store.

“The mixes are geared toward the type of bird, and we include fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Lori Miser, co-owner. “Basically we encourage feeding any healthful table food a human would eat, with the exception of avocado.”

Beyond showing bird food in use in the store, Michael Acerra, marketing representative for Penn-Plax Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y., recommends displaying avian nutrition products in ways that make the shopping experience as pleasant as possible for customers.

“Make sure your products are easy to find, and make sure your customers have no problem obtaining the information they need when they’re looking to buy those products,” he said. “At the end of the day, your ability to make your customer happy is what your success as a retailer is going to hinge on.”


This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News.

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