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Focus on Wellness

Retailers report that more cat owners are open to the idea of giving their pets a health boost with supplements.


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The cat supplements category has been growing in recent years as pet specialty retailers cater to increasingly educated consumers who are focused on the health of their pets. For this reason, many in the industry see a growing opportunity for behavior-related and digestion-support supplements. 

“Hip and joint is consistently the biggest part of the pet supplement category, but more and more pet owners are looking for support for other health issues,” said Derek J. Archambault, director of marketing in pet and retail for FoodScience Corp. in Williston, Vt. “We are finding that many people are dealing with a variety of anxiety-triggered behavior issues but are afraid to talk to their vet about them and are looking for natural solutions.”

Sue Tasa, director of education for Pet Food Express, a chain of stores in California, said many undesirable behaviors that cat owners commonly seek assistance with are stress related, so she recommends calming aids.

“Diffusers are among the most popular forms of calming products that pet owners report provide desired results,” she said. “Hairball prevention/treatment products also continue to be in demand, which provides us an opportunity to discuss both grooming and possible diet improvements as well as additional supplements such as cold water fish oils, when appropriate.”

More people are looking at alternatives to modern medicine these days, and many are turning to natural and herbal supplements for their pets’ daily health needs, said Amanda Zumwalt, brand manager for Nutri-Vet Wellness, a division of Boise, Idaho-based Manna Pro Products. While the highest sales seem to come from hairball supplements, there is a current trend for palatable, soft chews, she said.  

“This shift has come as the list of side effects for numerous medications continues to grow, while more and more reports indicate that the medications themselves are not working as promised or are not powerful enough to warrant the side-effect risks,” Zumwalt said. “Herbs are a much better choice because they’re easier to obtain, cause fewer side effects, have no addiction risk and can be moderated as you need them.”

Jaime Rowe, president of Ello Pet Supply, a Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based distributor of USA-made pet products, has received a lot of requests for cat joint supplements this year, including an increase in demand for powder instead of capsules.

“We have heard a lot of discussion about feline obesity issues,” she said. “We would like to see more products available that address this issue that are straightforward about their benefits and how they work.”

Angel Stanley, owner of Paws on the Mountain in Cashiers, N.C., said the trends at the store tend to mimic human trends including overall multivitamins, joint health, urinary tract and immune system-boosting supplements. 

“We prefer to lead our customers to whole-food supplementation, but cats are notoriously finicky, so that can make it difficult,” Stanley said. “At the moment, Flora4 made by Carna4 is popular for both cats and dogs. Another product we always suggest is Answers raw fermented goat’s milk along with their kefir and fish stock.”

Cat Supplement Introductions

Natura Petz Organics launched Petabis Organics earlier this year, which contains phtyo-cannabinoid-rich (PCR) hemp oils, topicals, salves and snacks. 

“Cats are highly responsive to PCR hemp oil products, and because [the line] may be used to help address a variety of conditional needs, it offers retailers and pet parents a single one-stop-shop wellness solution for cats in a variety of delivery options,” said Heidi Nevala, president of Minneapolis-based Natura Petz Organics.

In May, Nutri-Vet Wellness, a division of Boise, Idaho-based Manna Pro Products, reformulated its Hairball Soft Chews for Cats, available in Cheese & Chicken Flavor, and put them in a cup. The company also introduced L-Lysine Soft Chews for Cats in Chicken Liver & Cheese Flavor.

Selling Supplements

Pet specialty retailers that hold classes on feline wellness either online or in-store can help customers learn how to manage their cats’ health issues.

Still, finding the correct supplements on a crowded retail shelf can be challenging, which is why Amanda Zumwalt, brand manager for Nutri-Vet Wellness, a division of Boise, Idaho-based Manna Pro Products, recommends having clear signage to help point consumers to the most popular products and categories. 

“We offer retailers product training and are available to help optimize their supplement set,” she said. “We offer product information on our website, and we have Facebook and other social sites to help interact with the consumers. We also do monthly newsletters to educate the consumers on Nutri-Vet products.”

Every year, Pet Food Express, a chain of stores in California, holds a month-long focus on products designed specifically to help cats stay hydrated and healthy. 

“This year, the display actually has a real faucet as part of the display in an attempt to be extra eye catching and drive awareness,” said Sue Tasa, director of education for the company. 

In an omni-channel world, FoodScience Corp. is focused on providing content and information about its products on social media and to retailers, said Derek J.

Archambault, director of marketing, pet and retail, for the Williston, Vt.-based company.  

“It is easy for consumers to do research on products before walking into the store, or even while standing in the store, and there isn’t always staff available to help, and some people don’t want it,” he said. “We ensure that our sites are mobile friendly, and we make it easy for visitors to find the store closest to them that carries our product.”

Display Tactics

All Pet Food Express stores have a supplements section, a first aid section and special endcaps throughout the year to display items both on a permanent and a temporary basis. 

“Though counter space is limited, we sometimes display a small amount of a supplement in a basket at our cash wraps,” said Sue Tasa, director of education for the

California chain. “It’s a great opportunity to have one last conversation about the importance of supplements and the direct benefit supplements can have on a cat’s health.”

Cross-merchandising is crucial when it comes to supplements, said Derek J. Archambault, director of marketing, pet and retail, for FoodScience Corp. in Williston, Vt.  

“People self-identify their challenges through the food and accessories they purchase,” he said. “Thinking through those connections can mean making an incremental sale to a customer. Think about probiotics for someone buying sensitive diets, or hip and joint supplements for senior food, or calming supplements with ThunderShirts.”

At Paws on the Mountain in Cashiers, N.C., all cat supplements are displayed in a designated cat room.

“We try to interact with each and every customer to help guide them to the best possible supplement option for their cat’s particular issue,” said owner Angel Stanley. “We need to work on trying to make sure that all of our cat customers are aware that processed diets do require additional supplementation to make sure cats are getting all of the vital nutrients needed for optimal health.”

It can also be confusing to a consumer when there are so many different supplements available. Amanda Zumwalt, brand manager for Nutri-Vet Wellness, a division of Boise, Idaho-based Manna Pro Products, said it helps to have a supplement section organized by ailment. 

“For example, hip and joint, skin and coat, digestion,” she said. “I would highlight a different section each month with a display to help promote all the different products.”

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