The newest cat litter options address customers’ increasing attention on great products that produce a low environmental impact.
It’s estimated that as much as 2 million tons of cat litter ends up in landfills each year, which is why natural litters and those made with earth-friendly, biodegradable materials such as corn, wheat, soy bean, walnut or wood are heavily in demand.
Vanessa Hellerman, marketing coordinator for Detroit Lakes, Minn.-based Pet Care Systems, maker of Swheat Scoop, said consumers are looking for all-natural product options: litter made with no chemicals or clay that’s safe for cats and the whole family.
“We are launching a new brand look and feel as well as new plastic bags this summer, as shown at Global Pet Expo,” she said. “This refreshed look will stand out on the shelf and focuses on the importance of our all-natural wheat product.
“Our new plastic bags are re-sealable and have a window so you can see the all-natural goodness of our actual product and a handle for easy carrying and pouring,” she added.
With recent litter offerings, manufacturers are paying attention to cat owners’ concerns.
“More consumers are expressing dissatisfaction with one or more aspects of their current cat litter: too smelly, dusty, hard to maintain or it tracks too much, etc.,” said Eric Grushkin of G That’s Awesome Brands in Henderson, Nev.
The company launched Almost Invisible Cat Litter last year to solve these problems with a long-lasting, cost-effective solution, Grushkin said.
G That’s Awesome Brands recently refreshed the packaging for its litter to make it more convenient and stand out on store shelves.
“We have changed our packaging and switched to a 9-pound, half-transparent, self-standing bag with a built-in handle that will not break when the bag is picked up,” Grushkin said.
Jennifer Borland, marketing manager for Arm & Hammer cat litter, made by Ewing, N.J.-based Church & Dwight Co., said in February the company introduced its Clump & Seal Lightweight Cat Litter, a seven-day odor-control, lightweight litter that’s easy to carry, pour and store.
“Each box contains the same number of uses as our regular clumping litter at half the weight, thanks to lower-density wood fibers,” she said. “It’s 100 percent dust free, so no more dust clouds when pouring or scooping.”
Lightweight litter continues to grow as a subcategory, said Paul Cooke, vice president/director of industry development for Purina Pro Plan, a brand of Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. in St. Louis. His company recently launched Tidy Cats 4-in-1 Strength litter.
“Tidy Cats 4-in-1 Strength was developed to directly combat the four main offenders standing between cat owners and a fresh, clean home: lingering ammonia odor, fecal odor, urine odor and weak clumps,” Cooke said.
Voice of the Retailers
Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has locations in Southern California, agreed that pet owners have been paying more attention to natural litters lately.
“There seems to be more growth among the natural/sustainable varieties like SmartCat by Pioneer Pet and those incorporating materials that function at a higher level for long-lasting odor control like the new Freshenz by ZeoPetz,” she said.
Zack Grey, owner of The Urban Pet, which has locations in the Los Angeles area, said that while clay litter was once the trend, that’s no longer the case.
“With the options of corn, wheat and pine litters, the majority of Urban Pet customers are purchasing litter products that are more environmentally friendly,” he said. “Finding a cat litter that works can be a challenge, but I always remind my customers that cats, by their inherent nature, will bury their waste, so experiment.”
Laura Clark, owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C., also noted that her customer base is particularly interested in planet-friendly, natural litter options.
“Our most popular litters are made from corn or walnuts,” she said. “Customers like that they have a low impact on the environment and that they are flushable and accumulate less dust than traditional clay litters.”
Think Outside the Box
At Pussy & Pooch, Zakrajsek said the store is trying a couple of outside-of-the-box ideas to enhance litter sales.
“The first is a gift with purchase concept, pairing a small bag of natural (nonclay) litter with any litterbox purchase over a certain value,” she said. “Our goal is to increase awareness and trial of a natural litter. The second idea is to have an interactive display in-store that shows what each litter looks, feels and smells like.”
Wylie Wagg keeps litter front and center with other cat products rather than in a separate section devoted to waste management.
“Because of this, a customer who comes in just to buy a toy might run across a new litter option in the process,” Clark said. “We also run periodic displays with an earth-friendly theme. When we do, we always include our low-environmental-impact litter options.”
The value equation has never been more important for litter sales, said Nestlé Purina PetCare’s Cooke.
“Having the right products available is always the main goal, and [having] all products in-stock when the consumer chooses to shop also is important,” he said. “Scanning data is a powerful tool that retailers can leverage to better understand the purchasing patterns of their customers and plan accordingly for how much shelf space is needed.”
Pet Care Systems’ Hellerman said it’s important for retailers to stress the safety and goodness of natural litters just as retailers do their food products.
“Guides that show consumers the difference between natural litters and clay litters would be a great addition to the litter aisle so consumers understand the difference between the categories,” she said. “We introduced new in-store ideas at Global Pet Expo, including danglers, overhead mobiles, aisle violators and even in-store adoption kits.”
Furthermore, the company talks to its consumers through its Swheat Perks program, which offers product news and expert advice from Swheat Scoop’s veterinarians.
This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Pet Product News