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Natural Marketplace: The Pursuit of Healthfulness

Posted: March 27, 2014, 3:50 p.m. EDT


As boomers age with their pets and espouse greater human and animal quality of life, and two-thirds of pet owners overall seek safe, natural products, it might be time to re-evaluate health-aid offerings and sales strategies.

By Cheryl Reeves

When Alissa Wolf, the Pet Shops Guide at About.com, interviewed American Pet Products Association (APPA) president and CEO Bob Vetere in conjunction with her review of the APPA National Pet Owners Survey for 2013-2014, she asked him to share the most interesting product trends.

"In the past, by the age of 60, pet ownership used to drop off dramatically. But baby boomers have changed that dynamic,” Vetere said. "People are keeping their pets longer, until they are older and their pets are older. They are looking into health products and increased veterinary visits. This will be an interesting trend to watch during the next four to five years.”

Humanizing Pets Impacts Health Product Choices
"I’m definitely seeing an increase in people of all ages adding more dogs as family members—and treating them like children,” said Jason Squires, owner of The Dog Bowl in Toronto. "This includes people making healthy, natural choices in pet products, such as they would purchase to maintain their own good health. Further, information about the benefits of natural health aid products for pets is more readily available in the news and on social media, so this has influenced today’s consumer in a big way.”

Dr. Steven Allday, founder of LubriSynHA in Simpsonville, Ky., agreed.

"We think that consumers are looking for safe, natural alternatives for their pets,” he said.

In addition to consumers steadily moving toward the all-natural health-aid aisle, where these products are made is very important to shoppers, said retailers.

Natural Health Aids
An increasing number of customers are seeking out natural health aids for their pets. A dedicated area or aisle can draw attention to this growing market. Danielle Mathias/The Hip Hound

Brittany Ambo, a sales associate at Thunderpaws Pet Shoppe in Ketchum, Idaho, said her customers are adamant about only buying products that are USA-made.

"Their pets are family members, and only the best-quality homeopathic products will do,” she said. "Also, prevention is the big trend, just like it is with humans. They are not just waiting to react to a health issue, they are increasingly being proactive.

"Salmon oil for skin; natural remedies for ear, eye and paw care; shampoos and conditioners that have health-benefitting properties—these are all examples of how pet owners are focused mostly on a program of proactive pet wellness. They want to keep their pets happy, active and healthy for as long as possible—just like themselves.”

Dr. Allday said consumers like the results they see with natural supplement products like his.

"It has no side effects, does not interact with any other medications, and it is impossible to overdose,” he said. "It is a safe, natural alternative to existing pain medications that are commonly prescribed by vets for joint pain.”

At The Hip Hound in Portland, Ore., the staff regularly gets together to share new products that they’ve found and tried out on their own pets, said sales associate Danielle Mathias. Often, she said, these new products will find their way onto the store’s shelves in the pet health aid and grooming section, which has been designed to resemble a human pharmacy.

"We’re constantly fishing for new products,” said Mathias. "It’s a passion. For example, we recently brought in the brand Mad About Organics. They make a great product for hot spots. Another strong benefit to this line of products is that it’s manufactured locally in Eugene, which is a big plus to our customers. Local has become so important that we have a designated shelf that features organic products made in Oregon. Our customers value their pets as their babies, and the word ‘safe’ is something that cannot be stressed enough.”

New and Popular for Pet Health
George Luntz, president of Native Remedies in Boca Raton, Fla., said a prevention- and solution-oriented homeopathic modality is key to the success of his brand line.

"This spring, we are introducing 10 new pet health aid products to the marketplace,” said Luntz, adding that the new products homeopathically treat a variety of cat and dog health issues, including ringworm, acne, hot spots, cold sores, flea allergy relief, dry skin, arthritis, and joint and muscle pain.

On the market for customers who love Burt’s Bees products for themselves is a line that caters to their pets. In a licensing agreement between New York-based Fetch for...Pets! and Burt’s Bees Licensing LLC, the Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care line first launched in April 2013 to offer a range of products for dogs, including all-natural shampoos, conditioners, ear care products and more.

Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care line is presently being expanded to include a spring/summer 2014 launch of new items, including a line of products for cats: hypoallergenic shampoo, waterless spray shampoo, antihairball spray, a dander-reducing spray, grooming wipes and more, said Elizabeth Fella, marketing manager for Fetch...for Pets! Additionally, there will be new items for dogs and new bottle sizes (larger and travel size) of original products, she added.

"Our Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care brand upholds the rigorous natural standards of Burt’s Bees human products,” said Fella. "The products are manufactured in the USA and include all-natural ingredients, such as buttermilk, chamomile, lavender and honey.”

The top sellers in the brand line include the Calming Spray, Hot Spot Spray and Shampoo and the Anti-Itch Spray and Shampoo, Fella said.

Senior Complete was introduced to the market last spring from Purcellville, Va.-based manufacturer Vibrant Pets. Lee Phillips, the company’s president and owner of Doggie Wash, a grooming salon/boutique, said that Senior Complete is an immune system booster that also offers joint and muscle support and relief from aches and pains, and enhances a dog’s skin and coat. The powder formula, he said, can be sprinkled on dry, wet or raw food.

"We call it a supplement, but it is really more of a nutraceutical: something between a pharmaceutical and supplement,” said Phillips. "Senior Complete is all USA-sourced ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, probiotics and digestive enzymes. Since the product launched, and because people see their dogs’ health improve within two weeks, demand has grown to the point where I had to expand the grooming salon to accommodate more retail selling space.”

Steve Karpf, owner of Haddam, Conn.-based Treadwell Pet Products, manufacturer of the paw care product Musher’s Secret, agreed that while a product’s effectiveness is what keeps consumers coming back, a health aid that features all-natural ingredients is the one that gives them the confidence to try it for the first time.

INDUSTRY VOICES

What are your top-selling natural pet health aids?

"People continue to favor Earthbath products, from ear and coat wipes to the shampoos.”—Jason Squires, owner of The Dog Bowl in Toronto

"Liquid Health K-9 Ear Solutions is a big hit, especially for dogs that have long, floppy ears.”—Brittany Ambo, sales associate at Thunderpaws Pet Shoppe in Ketchum, Idaho

"DERMagic Cell Restoration Creme and the DERmagic flea/tick bar … and now the products by Mad About Organics.”—Danielle Mathias, sales associate at The Hip Hound in Portland, Ore.

Telling Numbers

Market research firm Packaged Facts reported that pet owners spent $4.1 billion on natural pet products in 2012—a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent for the past four years.
Additionally, the firm’s August 2012 Pet Owner Survey reported that 38 percent of pet owners believe that natural, organic brand pet products often are better than standard national brand products, and 63 percent are very concerned about the safety of the pet products they buy.

"For example,” said Karpf, "with Musher’s Secret, because the ingredients are ‘food grade’ plant-based waxes and vitamin E, people don’t have to be concerned about their pets licking their paws after application. We also encourage them to rub it into their own hands after applying to their pets’ paws.”

Karpf urged retailers to remind their customers that, in addition to wintry conditions, their pets’ paws need protection against hot pavement and sand.

Marketing Pet Health Aids
At Thunderpaws Pet Shoppe, customers frequently are treated to a Special of the Week pet health product.
"It’s usually something that’s very popular or that a staff member is enthusiastic about,” said Ambo.
 
Before he decides to add a new brand to his shelves at The Dog Bowl, Squires said he does a lot of background checking on new products to see if there are any issues.

"But then when I find something that is really innovative, I share it with my customers by talking it up on our store’s website and Facebook,” he added.

Fella said the No. 1 thing retailers should do to promote and sell more product is to educate themselves and their employees on each and every product.

"Even better, try them out on your own pets,” said Fella. "Doing this allows you to stay up-to-date in the category, which enables a more effective conversation with your customers.

At The Hip Hound, Mathias said product demonstrations enliven sales.

"A Mad About Organics sales rep came in recently and did a demo, plus he answered a lot of customer questions,” she said. "He had so much information to share and people really appreciated it—and learned a lot.”

Allday believes that once customers have tried these products, they’ll see the results and want more.

"Once consumers have tried tried LubriSynHA, it sells itself; users see quick results, usually within seven to 10 days. It is cost-effective and there is no need for a prescription.”

Holding an event and offering demos also is a savvy way to educate and sell more products, agreed Native Remedies’ Luntz.

"Here’s an idea,” he said, "do an ‘All-Natural Homeopathic Night’ and tackle a variety of health issues while showcasing products that prevent, treat and heal. Get creative, rather than just letting products sit on a shelf and sell themselves.”

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