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Make A Splash

Win over savvy consumers with natural pet grooming products that do what they claim to and feature luxurious ingredients that pamper pets.


The days for dirty dogs and stinky, itchy cats are numbered. A clean campaign is being waged by many successful natural grooming product manufacturers. 

However, in the quest to keep dogs and cats smelling fresh and sporting mat-free coats, it takes more than brandishing a pretty shampoo bottle with an all-natural label to win over pet owners. 

Savvy retailers seek manufacturers that take the time to educate store staff about a product’s ingredients, why it works and why it is worth its price tag. And manufacturers that recognize pet trends, such as the demand for timesaving grooming products, are a boon to retailers, too. 

Finally, it pays to pay heed to consumers. Today’s pet owners have more disposable income than a decade ago and are willing to spend more for genuinely high-quality grooming items for their much-beloved pets. 

“Consumers want a quality product for a good value, and the merits of the ingredients or caring for different coat-care issues should be highlighted,” said Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, a trend-setting retailer with locations in the Los Angeles area. “The products themselves need to be legit as natural products, better than average and not gimmicky.” 

Based on feedback from discerning customers, Zakrajsek stocks her shelves with natural products that are sulfate and paraben free and that incorporate key ingredients such as coconut and hemp seed oil.

Retailers also should emphasize soap-free and and detergent-free formulas, said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr Pet Products in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

Continued success is linked to paying attention to consumers, said Bobbi Panter, founder of Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago.

“Consumers are getting smarter in selecting products,” Panter said. “More consumers are scrutinizing ingredients. They want more quality for their money. That’s why I created products that do not contain sodium chloride (a thickening agent that dries skin) and why I rely on specific oils, not extracts. I work with my chemist to keep the formulas right.”

Timesaving Solutions
Pet owners also want effective products that won’t take away their already limited free time. That understanding led Susan Weiss, founder and CEO of Ark Naturals in Naples, Fla., to recently launch Gray Muzzle brand rinse-free, waterless foam No Shampoo! Shampoo!, a natural botanical formula for senior dogs and cats. 

“As our lives become busier, everyone is looking for reasonable shortcuts,” Weiss said. “I think that grooming products have to certainly be effective, but they have to let us get to the finish line more quickly.” 

To make bathing easier and reduce the amount of time pet owners have to spend on problem coats, Glo-Marr Pet Products is introducing an antished shampoo and a finishing spray, Nicolosi said.

Best Shot Pet Products debuted its quick-rinsing Ultra “Dirty” Wash at SuperZoo last year, said Dave Campanella, sales and marketing director for the Lexington, Ky., company. Best Shot seeks input from professional pet groomers and show dog handlers when developing new products or improving on popular sellers, Campanella said. 

For more than a quarter of a century, Espree Animal Products has focused on satisfying professional pet groomers, and that has led to increased retail sales, said Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for the Grapevine, Texas, company. 

“We participate in training and educational seminars for groomers and pet owners,” Jordan said. 

Know the Products
One-third of Jameson Loves Danger, a 1,700-square-foot retailer in Chicago, is dedicated to pet grooming, and co-owner Gracie Whalen said she needs to make sure every product earns space on the store’s limited amount of shelving and displays. 

“When I ask a company what this is on their label and how it works, I need them to provide clear answers and not hesitate or give vague answers,” Whalen said. “From the very beginning, I’ve carried the Bobbi Panter line because our groomers love her products and the dogs in our salons really smell good for a long time. 

“The knowledge level of our staff also is important. We try products at home and don’t put anything on our shelves that we wouldn’t use on our own animals.”

Recognizing that retail owners and staff need access to answers about grooming products, Ark Naturals recently created an online manual for retailers and distributors, Weiss said.

Nadine Joli-Coeur, founder and owner of Natural Pawz, which has several locations in the Houston area, said one key to success is building customer loyalty by offering quality natural products at reasonable prices. 

“There has been a growth in the quality of rinse-less solutions like a foam or a powder-type solution in natural grooming products,” she said. 

With the stronger push to cater to senior pets, Joli-Coeur seeks out reputable natural grooming products that meet their age-related needs.

“At 16, my dog, Callie, does not like to get wet to be cleaned,” Joli-Coeur said. “I use a new solution from Ark Naturals specially formulated with older pets in mind, No Shampoo! Shampoo!. It is a waterless foam that easily goes on and within the hour, not only is her coat clean, but she smells good and her coat shines. She loves it.”

Industry Voices

Product Choices: How Many Is Too Many?

"As similarly found in the human/beauty industry, consumers want options. Pets have different needs that can change seasonally, so a wide variety is important.”
—Lori Haraske, director of product development at PetEdge in Beverly, Mass.

"There is such a thing as ‘too many choices.’ We make selecting products easy by guaranteeing that everything on our shelves is safe and high quality. Then, clients can determine their dog’s needs based on coat type, skin condition, smell preference, etc. Once you know that, selecting the right product(s) is a snap. We try not to carry too many products that do the same thing; we prefer rather to research them both and choose which is better.”
—Cameron Adkins, grooming instructor at Healthy Spot, which has several locations in Southern California

"It’s an overwhelming, overstimulating world out there. Everyone is constantly bombarded with information. We are seeing some trending in packaging and labeling simplification, [such as] labels with one main functional call-out or ingredient that grabs the consumers’ attention and quickly identifies the product.”
—Michelle Austin, director of marketing and purchasing at Ryan’s Pet Supplies in Phoenix 

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