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Sizzling Stock: Dental Products

Posted: June 25, 2012, 8:45 p.m. EDT


Put Money Where Their Mouths Are
A wealth of new products combined with consumer awareness give retailers a category they can sink their teeth into.
By Keith Loria

Most pet owners dread brushing their cat’s or dog’s teeth, but it’s not the pet’s fault that they have tooth problems, and most of the time the customers are not aware or just don’t know what to do.

Less than 10 percent of pet owners actively use any type of pet oral health routine, according to the American Veterinarian Medical Association. As a result, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of periodontal disease by age three.

“Poor oral hygiene has been identified as a risk factor for heart and kidney disease in both humans and animals. As a result, there has been a tremendous boom in veterinary dental services being offered by veterinarians,” noted Dr. David Dugan, founder and owner of Oneonta, N.Y.-based Zututh LLC, which produces dog toothbrushes. “Due to costly dental bills, owners are now feeling more motivated to provide home care for their dogs and cats with regular brushing.”

Dog dental care
Seventeen percent of owners who brush their dog’s teeth at least monthly, according to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.
During the past few years, increased customer awareness about the importance of dental care has helped motivate manufacturers to innovate with their products.

“Not all dental health products are made alike, and it’s important for the retailers to be well-versed in dental products and be able to inform the customers how to use these products properly,” stated Barb Emmett, president/owner of Godfrey’s—Welcome to Dogdom, in Mohnton, Penn. “Customers want products that are user-friendly for both them and their pets, with an ease of use with little or no brushing required.”

When PetzLife/VetzLife Products Inc. introduced its line of oral care sprays and gels in 2002, it did so because the demand for something other then anesthesia scaling was huge. Back then, conservatively more than 50,000 dogs and cats were dying every year and another 1.2 million were injured due to anesthesia, according to the company.

“The only acceptable way of cleaning pets teeth was under anesthesia at the vet and the cost in some areas was well over $500, especially in New York and California,” said Bud Groth, owner of PetzLife/VetzLife Products Inc. in Spring Park, Minn.

PetzLife has sold more than 3 million sprays, according to Groth, who added that the company is introducing new packaging of its gels and sprays this summer, plus the first-time release of a new feline oral care product, understanding that cat owners often do not want to feed or use anything that is designed equally for dogs.

“Our spray will be available in a larger size 4 oz. instead of 2.2 oz., which will match our 4-oz. gel size and will be a much better value for the spray buyer,” he said. “Our gel will come with a pump applicator and also we will be introducing our new blister packaging.”

Lately, the marketplace has seen an increase in a variety of products, including sprays, gels and chews, which are formulated to help reduce plaque and bad breath in pets. 

“Customers want something easy that will take care of the problem,” noted Alan Ronay, owner of Best Buddies Dog Boutique and Bakery in St. Pete Beach, Fla. “They don’t want to fight with their dogs to brush their teeth, especially if they haven’t been trained since they were puppies. I get requests for snacks that help dogs chew their way out of tooth problems.”

To meet consumer dental care needs, Nylabone offers a system of oral care products across three product categories: toys, treats and advanced dental solutions, the company reported.

“The newly released Nylabone Advanced Oral Care line includes dental kits for puppy, adult and senior dogs as well as cats,” said Mike Connelly, vice president of marketing for Nylabone Products, a division of Central Garden & Pet in Neptune City, N.J.

The company’s new Romp ‘n Chomp Treat Toys and Refills are a series of textured toys that marries a dog’s two favorite pastimes: eating and playing, Connelly reported, adding that the new treat/toy combos massage gums, clean teeth and help to remove plaque and tartar.

At Theresa’s Country Feed & Pet in Simi Valley, Calif., Tropiclean products are very popular, said Steve Shalhoob, the store’s general manager.

“They offer something for every owner and their pets,” he said. “Our Tropiclean display is at our No. 1 register, with a mini DVD player showing their many products. It can be seen by customers both coming in and going out and attracts a lot of attention.”

Tropiclean’s new TriFlossBall is designed with three different colored strands working to massage gums, floss teeth and create lasting fresh breath when used with Liquid Floss, according to the company.

“When developing this product we recognized how important it is for humans to floss their teeth,” reported Brian Collier, creative marketing coordinator for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo. “The importance is just the same for our pets to achieve strong oral fitness.”

Zututh’s solution to oral health is a toothbrush designed for the unique anatomy of a dogs’ dentition. Based on customer feedback, modifications have been made to allow for an even more comfortable experience for the user and the dog, and the new product line will be announced in August, the company reported.

“Many more products will be introduced for an easy quick fix—like treats—and I can see at least 10 new companies introducing oral care of one kind or another this year,” PetzLife’s Groth said. “We welcome the competition because it will increase overall consumer awareness.”

With products like these, a savvy retailer can stress their importance by keeping them close to the register, highlighting them with signage and making sure they are seen.

“We keep all dental products together to increase their visibility,” Ronay stated. “We also put some of the dental chews next to the food section to make a mental connection for the customer that food and dental health go hand in hand.”

Many food brands are also developing dental treats and chews, so if the dog is already on that brand of food, retailers can suggest trying a treat to help with their breath. 

“Good dental health goes hand in hand with overall good physical health,” Theresa’s Shalhoob said. “We believe that pets with good dental care have fewer heart, liver and kidney problems as they get older.”

Manufacturers need to be on the forefront of educating consumers about oral health and its role in total pet health, according to industry participants. Companies are achieving that goal through websites, mobile websites, online videos, use of social media, packaging, signage and store displays.

“Today, there is a growing drive toward consumer education. Manufacturers are doing large campaigns, big retailers are embracing dental care and oral health, and vets are doing outreach to patients,” Connelly of Nylabone said. “As a result, the importance of oral care definitely has top of mind awareness across the entire industry.”

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