The Bottom Line of Litter
Staying on top of the latest trends in cat litter and litter accessories—and effectively sharing this knowledge with shoppers—is key to selling the category.
While it might not be the most buzzed about category in a store, cat litter and litter accessories are products that all cat owners need to buy, and many in the industry believe the future of the category will come down to formulas that solve specific problems that pet owners face, such as odor, clumping, cleanliness and aesthetic features.
Lisa Mak, vice president of marketing for Oil-Dri Corp. in Chicago, manufacturer of Cat’s Pride, noted lightweight litters have been a popular innovation and now represent approximately 15 percent of litter retail dollar sales, as they offer a combination of convenience and odor control.
“Lightweight products are convenient for everyone, but especially the aging baby boomer population and urban dwellers,” she said. “In addition, they provide an environmental benefit, as they lower the carbon paw print by allowing more units to be loaded on a truck than heavier litters, thus reducing the number of trucks on the road.”
Other premium cat litter trends include advanced odor control and environmentally friendly, natural and easy-cleanup litters, as well as other formulas with unique solutions such as flushable litters and low-dust varieties that provide respiratory relief and are hypoallergenic.
Kelley Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said she’s seeing customers look for natural litters more and more.
“The ideal is litter that is odor absorbent, less tracking and more natural, if possible,” she said. “For accessories, the one new thing that’s really popular is an expandable litter pan that telescopes out. And the bigger the little pan, the better, and if it has a lid, that’s really popular to keep the odor in.”
Sally Adams Trufant, general manager of B&B Pet Stop, located in Mobile, Ala., said customer demand is high for litters that are lightweight and reduce odors, which can be challenging needs to meet.
“In an ideal world, the litters we sell would be lightweight; however, the lightweight ones that are advertised on TV are available at local discount stores cheaper than we can buy them from our suppliers,” she said. “It’s frustrating, but that is the reality of retail these days. The smell is something we can address with Cats Incredible [from Lucy Pet Products], a new litter with ‘smell squasher’ technology that doesn’t allow ammonia to form.”
The market for cat accessories is also evolving.
“Cat parents and millennials are in search of extra features and functions,” said Bruce J. Flantzer, North American director of sales and marketing for Moderna Products in Gaffney, S.C., noting that there is a growing demand for premium-quality, functional products that are stylish for the home.
“Items need to fit into the décor of the household, and the products have to have value and match personal taste in design—needless to say, color is also key,” he added.
Need To Know
When Anna Sprague, manager at Northwest Pets in Eagle, Idaho, helps a customer with litter, she is often asked questions about what the litter is made from and how it clumps.
“People want to know if it is made from corn or pine, and if it goes down to the bottom of the pan or clumps right away,” she said. “The store makes sure that all our employees know the differences in each product so we can provide what they want.”
Moderna Products is dedicated to educating retailers and pet owners about its products and does so through a strong social media presence and print media.
“Our salespeople are also dedicated to educating the pet retailers on the quality, versatility, value and great designs of our products so they can educate the pet parent on all of the advantages and cost savings of our products and how it makes their pets happy,” said Bruce J. Flantzer, North American director of sales and marketing for the Gaffney, S.C.-based company. “We clearly label our products for ease of use.”
Muscatine, Iowa-based Kent Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter, reported its sales team holds training sessions, starting at the distributor rep level down to the retail associate level.
“We arm them with literature, brochures, fun training handouts and quizzes to help answer any questions they may be asked,” said Jean Broders, senior brand manager. We also produced a fun, educational video that highlights the features and benefits of the new line,
focusing on how it solves consumer problems. And for all of the retailers’ hard work in learning about the product, we’ve rewarded them with one-of-a-kind Advanced Zero Mess T-shirts.”
A Rainbow of Options
To take advantage of two of the biggest trends—hues to match the home and bright colors—Moderna Products has released a new set of litter accessories.
“We’ve recently launched four new colors after studying the latest home décor fashion trends in the market, since pets do have a sense of color and interior design trends,” said Bruce J. Flantzer, North American director of sales and marketing for Moderna Products in Gaffney, S.C. “This led us to choose warm gray, hot pink, lemon yellow and blueberry, and we are constantly and consistently updating.”
Moderna’s new litter accessories include the TopCat, a top-entry cat box, new ergonomic litter scoops and a FlipCat selection, a litterbox that opens for easy cleaning.
“Our new ergonomic scoop sifts, and it is easy to get to every part of the box with its unique shape,” Flantzer said.
Recently, Cat’s Pride, made by Oil-Dri Corp. in Chicago, updated its Cat’s Pride Fresh & Light Ultimate Care lightweight litter, promising at least 10 days of odor control, strong clumping, and low dust and tracking.
Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., displays its litter directly across from its cat food so that cat owners can have an easier time finding what they need, said manager Kelley Parsons.
Because litter is bulky, B&B Pet Stop, located in Mobile, Ala., displays it on its pallet racks along with the cat food.
“Litter pans and scoops are on 8 feet at the end of a pallet rack, and overflow litter pans are displayed within easy reach on risers above general cat supplies,” said general manager Sally Adams Trufant.
Leslie Ellis, consumer communication manager for Healthy Pet in Ferndale, Wash., said featuring litter on an endcap with shelf talkers or mini litter trays can help encourage trial, especially for new or alternative litters such as the company’s Ökocat brand.
“Healthy Pet is currently offering an eye-catching quarter-pallet display, which features an electric bike giveaway,” she said. “The display draws consumer attention while allowing a secondary stocking location to drive interest and sales.”
Lisa Mak, vice president of marketing for Oil-Dri Corp. in Chicago, manufacturer of Cat’s Pride, said retailers are having luck with customer engagement programs such as social media contests, signing up frequent shoppers to loyalty programs and couponing.
“We’re having success with displays in retailers, on-pack coupons, hot price points and integrated shopper marketing programs,” she said.