Posted: May 30, 2014, 10:00 a.m. EDT
Look to innovations and quality in small mammal products to add profits in this category.
By Stacy N. Hackett
Pet owners are becoming more and more attentive to their animal companions’ well-being, and this trend extends to small mammal owners as well. With this in mind, manufacturers continue to introduce high-quality, innovative products in the small mammal category while offering consistent value with traditional customer favorites.
"As the popularity of small animals as pets has grown, so too have the expectations of their owners,” said Melissa Ross, director of marketing and education for Oxbow Animal Health in Murdock, Neb. "Today’s small animals are more than just pets; they’re valued members of the family.”
To meet customers’ desire for quality nutritional products, Oxbow recently introduced a new line of compressed timothy hay called Harvest Stacks, Ross said. Harvest Stacks have proven popular with customers and have garnered awards at recent trade shows, placing second in the small animal category for new products at last year’s SuperZoo and third in the small animal category for new products at this year’s Global Pet Expo.
"Harvest Stacks use a special compression process to transform all-natural, long-strand, hand-sorted Western timothy hay into compact, convenient-to-feed portions that produce 80 percent less airborne dust than loose hay,” Ross said. "They come in three varieties: Western Timothy, Western Timothy with Carrots and Western Timothy with Chamomile.”
American Pet also recently introduced new hay products to meet the requests of small animal owners. The company increased the size of its smallest bag of hay to 24 ounces, making the new bag size available in four varieties: alfalfa, mountain grass and two varieties of timothy.
"We will increase our signature 5-pound bag to a 6-pound bag by mid-summer 2014,” said Heidi Casdorph, special projects/education manager for the Eureka, Nev., company.
American Pet’s hay products also meet customers’ requests for quality, with all hay products remaining top sellers for the company, she added.
"Our hay comes from the high mountain plains of the west, where the temperature and elevation are perfect for growing premium, slow-growing hay,” she said.
Versatile and Fun
The well-being of small pets drives product development at BioBubble Pets, said Kari Simigran, communications manager. "Our products are inspired by our passion for caring and nurturing small animal companion pets,” she said.
The Boca Raton, Fla., company won second place in the New Products Showcase at the 2014 Global Pet Expo for its Small Animal Terrarium Riser, which allows owners to create a modular and expandable living space for their small animals.
"An emerging trend [in small animal products] is versatility in habitats and accessories,” Simigran said, adding that the habitats and accessories can be customized for almost any owner’s needs, including those of first-time pet owners as well as children and families.
Appealing to children and pet owners of all ages remains a priority for manufacturers. Ware Manufacturing Inc. of Phoenix introduced its Syclone Spinners at this year’s Global Pet Expo—where the product won a Best in Show award for the small animal category in the New Products Showcase—to add an element of fun to the traditional small animal running wheel.
"We were inspired to create the Syclone Spinners by the fun, childlike action of watching the pattern on the wheel,” said Heather Cappel, creative coordinator. "Our customers have been looking for toylike products that increase the fun in pet interaction.”
The new patterns on Lixit Corp.’s Radical Sips water bottles also bring a touch of fun to small animal ownership. The new bottles feature camouflage, polka dot and skull patterns in 32-ounce and 16-ounce sizes, said Sonia Wertz, sales manager for the Napa, Calif., company.
While such products offer a bit of whimsy to small animal ownership, they also keep pets’ well-being in mind. Well-made exercise products, habitats and feeding accessories help owners properly care for their small mammal companions.
"Our customers are extremely knowledgeable and well-versed when it comes to small animal care and nutrition,” Ross said. "Pet parents actively search for nutritional support and solutions for their pets’ nutritional and health needs.”
In response to these savvy customers, Oxbow offers species- and age-specific foods formulated to meet small animals’ daily needs, Ross said. "Our hays and fortified foods are always among our top sellers,” she added. "Together, these products provide the nutrition that should make up the majority of a small herbivore’s daily diet.”
Similarly, American Pet offers a variety of treats, supplements and pellet diets to complement its hay products and provide a "complete” diet for small pets. The pellet diets are formulated specifically for certain species, such as rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs.
"Each recipe is formulated for the species and for a certain age, with alfalfa for young or gestating pets, and timothy for adult species,” Casdorph said. "We also have a prairie dog pellet … created with the consultation of a leading prairie dog specialist, Gena Seaburg, PhD.”
A commitment to seeking the latest information remains a trend with manufacturers as they respond to customers’ demands. "Today’s small animal pet parents are dedicated label readers and want to know exactly what goes into the food or treats they’re offering to their animals,” Ross said. "This kind of passion not only benefits the overall health of pets, but it holds the industry accountable to use healthy, high-quality ingredients and to present them using an appropriate level of transparency.”
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