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Dog Marketplace: Pet Cleanup Know-How Sells

Posted: Aug. 22, 2012, 4:55 p.m. EDT

The dog cleanup and odor-control product category remains strong, especially for retailers ready to provide consumer education.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

People love their pets, but few—if any—dog owners love cleaning up after their four-legged friends’ messes and managing their malodorous scents.

In 2010, 15 percent of dog owners noted “general cleaning up” and 10 percent noted “odor” as drawbacks to dog ownership in the American Pet Product Association’s (APPA) 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. And the survey stated that those percentages increase when kids are tossed into the mix, jumping to 26 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

Pet cleanup and odor control products
More and more customers are looking for eco-friendly, natural cleaning products. Courtesy of KAS Direct LLC
The cleanup category is where savvy pet retailers can really excel, said Brian Collier, creative marketing and public relations coordinator for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo.

“The stain removal and odor control segment can be an extremely strong one for pet retailers,” he said.

It can be a strong segment, indeed. Dog-owning customers look to storefront professionals for advice on how to undo urine stains, sop up vomit and blot out blood. They ask retailers how to deodorize dog bedding and freshen indoor air.

“Even though the web is a powerful source of information, customers like to talk to us about what to do and how the cleaning products work,” said Sandie Wheeler, who co-owns retail store Pets Gone Healthy with her husband, Ken Wheeler, in Marlborough, Mass. “I’ll show them what I have, describe the benefits of the products, educate them about each one, and hand out manufacturer brochures. People like to have information, to feel like they got something.”

Trend: Nontoxic
To manage the cleanup and odor-control chores, 29 percent of the APPA survey’s respondents, dog owners, reported purchasing a carpet pet-stain remover in the past 12 months, while 33 percent bought an odor neutralizer in the past 6 months.

The kinds dog owners prefer: safe, nontoxic and all-natural formulas, said pet industry professionals. 

“Everything you spray and everything you clean with in your home ends up on the floor,” said Bill McConnell, vice president of sales for Aussan Natural in Delray Beach, Fla. “The two things that spend the most time on the floor are babies and pets. Babies grow up, but pets spend their whole life on the floor absorbing whatever was down there.”

Packaging Protocol
When it comes to packaging today’s newest pet cleanup products, recyclability and sustainability matter, reported manufacturers. In their effort to benefit the planet, companies are using materials that are recycled or recyclable, and consumers have taken notice.

“We strive to find the most eco-friendly packaging available for our desired look and product,” said Brian Collier, creative marketing and public relations coordinator for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo. “With these efforts we are able to provide a package that is 100 percent recyclable, encouraging our consumers to improve the health of our environment.”

Bottles, often made with recycled plastics, are getting smaller, which means less impact on landfills, said Matt Conran, associate brand manager at Bissell Homecare Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“The smaller bottles make a big difference—it cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent,” he said of the company’s bottled superconcentrated cleaners. “And the bottle itself is made from approximately 60 percent recycled and reground pellets, and 40 percent new material.”

Companies are also purposefully cutting back on shipping distance, which means less petrochemicals are used to transport their products.

“The bottles we use for our cleaning products are blow-molded, labeled, filled and shipped from a facility on the East Coast of the United States,” said Lindsay Joyce, director of marketing for KAS Direct LLC in Hicksville, N.Y. “This type of streamlined production decreases the amount of shipping and thus reduces the overall footprint for these products.”

Pet owners seek products that are healthier for themselves and their families—including their animals—said Lindsay Joyce, director of marketing for KAS Direct LLC in Hicksville, N.Y.

“As consumers become more attracted to a healthy lifestyle for themselves, they realize that all of the products they use in their home will affect their animals,” she said. “Whether it’s the floor cleaner, table top cleaner or soap used to clean their food and water dishes—there are better, safer alternatives that don’t have to break the bank.”

Pet owners continue to be savvier about their purchasing decisions, Tropiclean’s Collier added, and so they’re calling for cleaning products that do less harm to their children, pets and the environment.

“Natural is not just a trend for cleaning products in the pet industry,” Collier said. “This is a worldwide focus. As science continues to push us further into understanding, we are recognizing the benefits that our environment can provide us with. That calls for natural solutions that are safer and often renewable, as well as environmentally conscious decisions when creating, using and disposing of these products.”

At Elephant Nose Pet Center, natural ingredients are top of mind for consumers, confirmed Julie Pilas, owner of the Morristown, N.J., store.

“I find the most important factor for cleaning products is that they use natural ingredients,” she said. “They don’t want them to be harmful to their pets.”

Pilas noted Nature’s Miracle as one of her best-sellers in this category and added that she tests the products she sells so she can let customers know firsthand how they work and if they work well.

Enzyme, Oxy, Plant Power
The newest cleaning and odor-control products for pets center on being easy to use while minimally impacting the environment. Here’s what retailers need to know about them.

Popular pet cleanup products use bacteria-fed enzymes, oxygen power and natural plant-based acids to tackle tough stains, said Dan Headrix, owner of Wag: A Unique Pet Boutique in Hendersonville, N.C. He reported that many of his customers come in searching for products that pick up urine and remove the ammonia smell.

“There are a lot of really good products that do a great job at masking odor and getting up stains,” he said. “But we generally recommend an enzyme-based product that actually dissolves the uric salts on a molecular level.”

These enzyme-based clean-up products contain bacteria that produce enzymes, or protein molecules. The enzymes then break down biodegradable matter—like urine, vomit and other dog accidents—into a food source for the bacteria, said Mike Robert, West Coast regional manager for Natural Chemistry Inc., which has its U.S. headquarters in Norwalk, Conn.

“Enzymes are complex protein molecules that promote the rapid progress of nearly every chemical reaction essential to life,” he noted. “In nature, enzymes decompose organic material by breaking it down to its original components, such as carbon dioxide and water.”

When used as directed, Tropiclean’s Collier said, these enzyme-based cleaners destroy odors that lure dogs back to the scene of the crime.

“A trait that makes our product different from others is our HabitBreaker technology,” he said. “Its dual-phase bio-enzymatic process destroys the odor and effectively breaks the habit. During the process, the product works on a molecular level to lift the stain while attacking the odor.”

Oxygen-based cleaners do a good job at removing stains and odors, too, said Matt Conran, associate brand manager at Bissell Homecare Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Pet clenaing products chart
“Pet owners want a quick and easy way to remove stains and odors that pets make on their carpets,” he said. “Our oxygen-based product works quickly to remove a variety of stain types, including stains that have a lot of color. It also works to discourage pets from re-soiling the same area.”

Cleaners that combine surfactants with plant-based acids work by scrubbing away stains and naturally destroying odor-causing bacteria and fungus, Aussan Natural’s McConnell said.

“The bioflavonoids we use come from the pulp of the bitter orange,” he reported. “In nature, they kill bacteria and fungus and don’t allow it to grow. So they do the same thing with our products: They kill bacteria and fungus.”
Other cleaners simply destroy the bacteria via a chemical reaction that occurs at a molecular level, said Dennis Sheirs, vice president of chemical division at Fizzion in Lake Wales, Fla.

“And then a small amount of surfactant allows you to remove the stain,” he continued. “It works extremely well on blood and vomit.”

Eliminating Odor
Sometimes, dog owners just want to freshen up the air, and that’s where odor-control products come into play. In general, the two types of odor correctors include those that mask with fragrances, and those that eliminate smells and leave nothing behind, said Marcie Pryor, pet representative for Nilodor Inc. in Bolivar, Ohio.

A new product in the category is Nilodor’s Sniff-eez Pet Bed Deodorizer, which is a 100 percent recyclable plastic disk that’s infused with fragrance, Pryor said.

Renting Clean
In addition to creating endcaps, cleanup sections and point-of-sale displays on the store floor to boost sales of cleanup and odor-control products, retailers may also consider getting into the rental business, suggested Marcie Pryor, pet representative for Nilodor Inc. in Bolivar, Ohio.

“With cleaning products, you need to jump on the spring- and fall-cleaning bandwagon during March and April, and in September during back-to-school time,” she said. “Go down to a local vacuum store and purchase an extraction cleaner. Then, you can rent it to customers and have a point-of-purchase display nearby with all your gallon carpet cleaners, stain and odor removers, and things like that.”

Not only will it move merchandise, she said, “but you’re also making money on the rental of the cleaners and shampooers. I’ve heard good things from stores that have done that.” —WBW

“It has nubs on the top of the disk,” she continued. “They act as a wicking agent to slowly release the fragrance, so you’re able to have an odor-free environment for 30 days.”

The company released it at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March, and response was positive, she said.

“People loved it because it was so innovative,” Pryor reported. “It’s something new that hasn’t been out there on the market. And it’s environmentally friendly, so people like that.”

For dog owners who prefer no scent, odor-eliminating products do the trick, McConnell said.

“Today’s odor eliminating products don’t mask odor,” he said. “They are great because you spray them, you smell something that’s very pleasant, and then it just goes away. It dissipates and leaves no fragrance behind.”

Whether recommending an enzyme-, oxy- or plant-based cleaner or describing the various odor-control options, retailers will do well if they’re prepared to educate their customers, McConnell said.

“There needs to be awareness, and that awareness needs to begin at the shelf,” he said. “And there needs to be more education. Those are two things where pet specialty retailers can really shine. They should educate people so they understand the differentiation between the products.”


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