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Natural Pet Shampoos Lead the Pack

Posted: Aug. 3, 2012, 4:45 p.m. EDT

Consumers are taking a closer look at what they put on their pets, making chemical-free shampoos and conditioners top sellers.
By Michael Ventre

When it comes to keeping canines clean, fresh and happy, pet specialty retailers reported that the category of shampoos and conditioners has continued to expand to provide plenty of options for inquisitive and savvy pet owners.

Naturally, one of the priorities these days is natural.

“Across the board, especially as people continue to humanize their pets to a greater and greater degree, we see a lot of people who want to put stuff on their animals that is organic and healthy, and that doesn’t contain chemicals,” noted Dwight Holcomb, president and CEO of PetLife Organic in Pasadena, Calif.

Natural dog shampoo
Natural scents are on consumers’ wish list for shampoos and conditioners. Sherri L. Collins/Bowtie Inc. at PetStop Warehouse
His company offers several such products, including organic shampoos such as EcoWash Bio-Based Mango Shampoo for Dogs & Cats.

“The economy we have faced recently is one of the reasons we believe revenue is up in this category,” he continued. “People don’t have the discretionary income they once did to make big-ticket purchases like cars or refrigerators. And in tough times, their pets are always there for them. So they figure, ‘I’m going to spend a little extra on my pet.’”

Holcomb said when they do so, they’re choosing more natural products, especially those without the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, which has been cited as a skin irritant.
“That’s what creates the lather,” he said. “I heard about it when I came across a few human products that didn’t have it. It got me to thinking that there must be a way to provide [products without it] for pets.”

A special additive or ingredient can sometimes create intense brand recognition and make a product stand out from the pack. That’s the approach Jasmine Serdengecti, co-founder of Posh & Co. in Coral Gables, Fla., has taken with olive oil.

The company offers its high-end Nikki Green Olive Oil Shampoo, as well as its supermarket brand Olive Bath. The raw material for the olive oil ingredients comes from Turkey, Serdengecti said, and it took awhile before the company developed the proper formulation. The olive oil products emerged from consumer demand, she noted.

“A lot of people were coming to us with problems having to do with their dogs’ skin,” she reported. “They were using regular shampoo that dried the skin, and then you wind up with dry, flaky skin. This really is very good for moisturizing and conditioning the skin.”

Coat Control
The old advertising line “Kills germs that can cause bad breath” could easily be dusted off and used to describe one relatively new approach to eliminating dog coat odors.

Eric Hodel talked recently about Unleashed Life’s Apawthikare Premium Pet Wellness Set, which was launched in February at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla. As with the mouthwash in question, the approach to dog coat odor was the same.

“It is a very medically researched product,” said Hodel, sales manager and brand manager for the Springfield, Mo., company. “The active ingredient is able to kill the germs in the coat, which is then able to reduce odor. It’s not about deodorizing or masking, but killing what’s causing the smell.”

Lambert Kay from PBI/Gordon Corp. offers straight-up colognes in its Fresh ‘n Clean line, such as Baby Powder Scent and Floral Scent, to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to dog odor.

“It’s not huge, but it’s one of our best-sellers,” noted April Allenbrand, manager of marketing communications for the Kansas City, Mo., company. “Our odor refreshers are great because they’re used as in-between-bath refreshers.”

A lot of groomers use heavy perfumes, said Jasmine Serdengecti, co-founder of Posh & Co. in Coral Gables, Fla.

“But that’s synthetic and not good for dogs,” she said.

Her company plans to unveil a line of spritz to freshen a dog’s fragrance, but done in a natural way, she reported.
Just about every line of shampoo and conditioner these days also offers some kind of spray as an accompaniment, said Amber Frost, customer relations manager for Benson’s Pet Centers, which has four locations in upstate New York.

“Mutt Nose Best is a popular one we carry,” she said.

Mutt Nose Best offers a spray that sums it up nicely: U. Smelly Dog.—MV

These natural ingredients continue a trend in the market spawned by customers’ concerns over what they’re putting on their pets when it comes to shampoos and conditioners.

“Just like food, people want all pet products to be made with all-natural stuff,” noted Amber Foster, customer relations manager for all four locations of Benson’s Pet Center in upstate New York. “People don’t like to see gross colors in it. They’d like the products to have natural colors. A lot of people also don’t like fake smells. They like natural smells. They’re leaning away from really strong scents.”

Natural grooming products can produce better results, too, said Eric Beauregard, general manager of Unleashed, a retailer in Essex Junction and Richmond, Vt.

“When we first started, there wasn’t a great understanding in general of processed items versus natural ingredient items,” Beauregard said. “But now people see the difference in shinier coats and healthier skin. Their animals’ skin isn’t as dry and flaky after using natural products.”

In just the past year, there has been a noticeable uptick in the demand by consumers for natural dog shampoos and conditioners, said Nicole Clark, purchaser for Mr. Pet’s, which has five locations in British Columbia, Canada.

“People are just more earth-conscious these days,” she said. “Even the brand packaging is earth-friendly.”

April Allenbrand echoed the notion that human products are leading toward innovations in pet lines.

“One of the things this brand has always done is put high-quality ingredients into the line,” said Allenbrand, manager of marketing communications for Kansas City, Mo.-based PBI/Gordon Corp., which owns Lambert Kay. “It’s been kind of following a trend we saw in human shampoos. If you watch the human health industry, usually there’s three to five years after where the pet industry follows.”

Lambert Kay’s line of pet products includes Fresh ‘n Clean dog shampoos and conditioners both for groomers and retail sale, many in concentrated form.

Chances are humans will continue to use water when bathing. That’s not necessarily the case with pets, as Stephanie Volo, co-owner and “top dog” of Portland, Maine-based Planet Dog, pointed out.

Her company has a new two-in-one all-natural waterless shampoo formulated with coconut, oatmeal and almond. While the product won’t do the intense cleaning job that a traditional wash will accomplish, she admitted, “It really cleans well. It’s a very good product.”

She tested it on her Great Pyrenees and reported that it worked great on him.

“It’s incredibly conditioning, not greasy or wet,” she said.

Planet Dog’s waterless shampoo came about through “very vocal” customers who consulted with the groomers at the company’s dog spa and expressed the need for something that was all-natural and convenient, Volo added. Some consumers articulated the need for a waterless shampoo, she said, because their dogs don’t like water and baths.

“It’s really convenient; you can travel with it,” she said. “You can use it every week. All of our products are puppy-safe. And it has a conditioning formula.”

Dog grooming supplies
Filling an endcap with grooming supplies can make a big impression on customers.Katie Ingmire/Bowtie Inc. at Passionate Pet Superstore
As long as fleas pounce on dogs, there will be flea shampoos to fight that battle. Again, the word seems to be natural when it comes to trends in that category of shampoos and conditioners as well.

“If they come in looking for flea shampoos, the natural ones outsell the others by far,” said Tom Russell, owner of Andersen’s Pet Shop in Montrose, Calif. “They’re more cautious about putting any kind of insecticides on their dogs. They’d rather go the natural route. They don’t want a heavy flea dip anymore. I can’t think of the last time I sold a flea dip.”

On the topic of chemicals, PetLife Organic’s Holcomb said manufacturers and consumers are looking more closely than ever at ingredients in shampoos and conditioners to make sure nothing is harmful.

“It used to be predominantly with people with children,” he said. “My kids put their face in our dog’s fur all the time and hug him. That’s been kind of a concern. That’s a trend as well.”

As usual, shows like SuperZoo and others can help to dictate the direction of product lines, as manufacturers often get an earful from attendees about what they’d like to see.

“Each time we go, they ask, ‘What’s next? Do you have an addition to your line?’” Serdengecti, of Posh & Co., said. “Groomers, consumers, distributors, they’re always saying how great it would be to do an additional line of products.”


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