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Stock Up on Solutions

For many owners, supplements and essential oils have become a preferred method of meeting pets’ health and calming needs.


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When it comes to supplements and essential oils, dog owners view products in both categories as potential problem solvers. They’re looking for solutions that will help with a variety of health concerns and will hopefully extend—and improve—their dogs’ lives.

Harald Fisker, president of Grizzly Pet Products in Woodinville, Wash., said his company has seen the most solid growth for supplements such as omega-3 oils and joint support products, where pet owners see almost immediate results.

“The word-of-mouth exchange between pet parents is a strong denominator in keeping this growth going,” Fisker said. “That is followed by experience-based retailer recommendations.”

The interest in supplements and essential oils definitely seems to be solution-driven, said Dan Owens, co-owner of Four Dogs Pet Supplies in Charlotte, N.C. Products that can help with issues such as itching, anxiety, breath improvement, bug bites and allergies appear to receive the most attention, he added.

“There will always be interest in products that can help pet owners solve a problem,” Owens said. “For us, there’s more interest in supplements than in essential oils. Around here, essential oils seem to be a growing segment at the local farmer’s market.

“As people become more educated about the products, I will be interested to see how much it grows. I think it’s still new to many.”

The interest in essential oils and supplements is part of an overall trend toward more pet owners using natural remedies, said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif. Consumers don’t necessarily want to go straight to using medication when their pets encounter a problem.

“In the last eight months, we have seen a marked increase in interest and received a lot more queries about using essential oils with pets,” Grow said. “I definitely think that as more people turn toward natural remedies, using essential oils is part of that trend.”

Of course, more people are using natural remedies on themselves, and that is helping push the trend toward pets.

“As with all pet products, the driving trend is related to humanization,” said Alison Schwartz, general manager of All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C. “As we use these products for ourselves and become more aware of the many benefits, we tend to be interested in how to implement them in the lives of our pets.”

Displays Draw Attention

Retailers can make consumers more aware of nutritional supplements via effective product placement or by providing detailed product information, said Harald Fisker, president of Grizzly Pet Products in Woodinville, Wash. These items can be a win for both consumers and retailers, he added.

“Supplements are very good margin products for retailers and often a lot cheaper for pet parents than going to the vet,” he said.

Patra De Silva, president of NHV Natural Pet Products in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, said that products such as supplements and essential oils create a great opportunity for retailers to get creative. Eye-catching displays help capture consumers’ attention, De Silva added.

“Try setting up beautiful tables with potted plants and herbs in creative, colorful containers,” De Silva said. “Display the products in natural woven baskets in between these potted herbs. Make sure you have lots of eye-catching signs that show what you carry. With essential oils, try using a beautiful diffuser and burning the oil next to the products.”

Tabletop displays garner more attention than leaving such products on the shelf, noted Lucy Postins, founder and chief integrity officer for The Honest Kitchen in San Diego.

Displays should provide information that is easy to understand, said Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist and owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill. She said point-of-sales materials should be easy to read with pictures or simple text showing how to use the product.

“Set up an area in the store that is dedicated to natural products,” Thorne said. “Use pictures of plants with simple text explaining how they enhance the remedy.”

Retailers that run special checkout promotions once or twice per year have great success and have sustained above-average growth, Fisker said. Oftentimes, pet owners just need to be introduced to supplements to start using them. Displays at the register can start that conversation, Fisker added.

It is also important for retailers to keep in mind some precautions when merchandising essential oils. While Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., aims to have one tester bottle for each essential oil she carries, she said it’s also really important that these products are kept out of the hands of children, who might break the bottles or even consume the product.

Solutions for Pets

NHV Natural Pet Products in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, recently launched a supplement called NHV Natures Immuno, a blend of five highly researched medicinal mushrooms that is intended to help pets suffering from a variety of conditions including cancer, chronic infections, viral infections, endocrine disorders and more, according to the company. The manufacturer also recently released NHV Turmeric, intended to support pets’ overall health.

This spring, Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., introduced Canine Calm aromatherapy wipes, which owner Vicki Rae Thorne, a certified aromatherapist and herbalist, called a “new vehicle for botanical therapy to help calm dogs during storms, fireworks, or other stressful or unsettling times.”

And this summer, the company launched Buzz Guard aromatherapy wipes to discourage bites and stings. The wipe format makes the product great for travel, Thorne said.

In September, San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen launched Pep Up, which is pure hemp powder; Golden Milk, a nourishing blend of coconut milk, honey and spices; Chicken and Cardamom Spice Bone Broth; and Turkey and Ginger Spice Broth, said Lucy Postins, founder and chief integrity officer.

Warren London of New City, N.Y., recently introduced Essential Oil Dog Calming Spray, which contains the essential oils lavender, sweet orange, vetiver and clary sage. The all-natural product is made in the USA, the company reported.

Proper Use Is Crucial

Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist and owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., is very passionate about educating people on essential oils. Safety is critical, she said, because essential oils and other botanicals can be harmful if not used correctly. Thorne also warned that there is quite a bit of misinformation circulating in the public about these products. This is where retailers can really make a difference.

“Education remains crucial in helping customers recognize and understand what makes a product an authentic aromatherapy product that is safe, effective and affordable for not just the dogs, but for the entire family,” Thorne said. “Along with increased interest in the healing power of essential oils, a lot of misleading information has been written and taught about using essential oils.”

In order to be able to educate the customer, Patra De Silva, president of NHV Natural Pet Products in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, said it’s important that staff members are well-educated and properly trained.

“We have pet experts that our retailers can contact when they may need further advice on the use of supplements,” De Silva said. “Retailers may not have answers for every supplement question, so it’s good to have the option of calling the manufacturer directly and getting answers quickly for customers.”

Lucy Postins, founder and chief integrity officer for The Honest Kitchen in San Diego, recommends educational seminars.

“Partnering with vendors to hold educational seminars in conjunction with local holistic veterinarians can be very useful,” she said.

Essential Oils: Asked and Answered

Whether you already carry essential oils or you’re thinking about it, chances are you recognize it’s a category that can come with a lot of questions. This is true of anything that is relatively new to people—and to many, oils still are new.

Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist and owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., shared some of the most common questions she thinks retailers get about oils—and what the answers are to those questions. Here’s what she had to say:

Why are essential oil products so expensive?

Vicki Rae Thorne: Because essential oils are produced from actual plant material, availability and prices can fluctuate due to factors such as weather as well as transportation and labor costs.

Are essential oil products safe for puppies?

Thorne: In proper dilution, many but not all essential oil products can be used with puppies from 10 weeks of age.

Are essential oil products safe for humans?

Thorne: Yes, in the proper dilution, essential oil products are safe for humans, dogs and horses. The essential oils used in aromatherapy are highly concentrated and must be diluted before using. From both conservation and safety perspectives, diluting pure essential oils is responsible to your wallet and the planet, and prevents overwhelming your sense of smell, irritating the skin and mucous membranes, or causing sensitization.

Can I use essential oils undiluted on my dog?

Thorne: The essential oils used in aromatherapy are highly concentrated and must be diluted before using. This prevents overwhelming your dog’s sense of smell, irritating the skin and mucous membranes, or causing sensitization.

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