Consumers are looking for pet supplements with user-friendly delivery methods, and while cannabidiol (CBD)’s popularity continues to grow, pet owners are also interested in other types of supplements that address common pet issues.

The pet supplement category is not a new one, yet research, modern technology and human trends keep this segment abuzz.

While salmon oil and omegas are familiar in pet supplements, “newer and more beneficial oils are being produced that allow more than just two omegas to be used,” said Rob Johnson, vice president of sales for Brilliant Salmon Oil, a brand by Chicago-based Hofseth BioCare ASA.

Strategic companies keep things interesting in this category by addressing consumer trends and pet needs. A major need reported by Mike Bateman, COO and co-founder of Green Coast Pet, a pet CBD brand in Pasadena, Calif., is a need for supplements to assist pets that are being fed grain free. Bateman said this is because owners “want to make sure [their pets] are getting all of the essential nutrients for a healthy heart.”

Manufacturers also reported a rise in demand for natural ingredients and supplements.

“We’re seeing more and more pet parents begin to appreciate the importance of natural digestive supplements for their dogs’ health,” said Jim Finnigan, president and creator of Bernie’s Best, a pet supplement manufacturer in Austin, Texas. “This is especially true as they start to focus on their own nutrition/digestion or start to take similar supplements for themselves.”

Johnson noted that “non-GMO” and “human grade” are trending in supplements, and that “finding companies that can say those two things are more comforting to a buyer.”

Another move in consumer comfort with pet supplements is the reception of CBD.

“Trending still are all things CBD, be it treat or oil,” said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer at Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore. “We have seen a shift in acceptance, and I think it’s from word-of-mouth on success.”

Accompanying these shifting trends, two things remain stable. The first is that customers require mess-free, easy-to-serve supplements that their pets will actually ingest.

“As simple as it sounds, many customers don’t want to spend the time having to mix together special concoctions or cleaning up a mess that some supplements may leave behind,” Finnigan said.

Those supplements sporting fun and different delivery methods give pet owners pause to check them out, Bateman said. And McCohan’s customers favor delivery methods that are similar to something humans would do.

“If you make fruit smoothies in the morning, you might want the Green Juju [whole-food supplement] to add into a bowl [for your dog],” she said. “If you are a mother of five and need something quick, you might be looking at the powders you can add into their food.

“We have multiple delivery methods to accomplish the same health function,” McCohan continued. “Some holistic clients want bone broth for their elder dogs’ hips and joints, while others want the highest level of glucosamine.”

The second stable supplement trend are products that address common pet issues.

“Supplement demands follow the seasons, along with the aging and maturity of the dog,” said Terri Grow, founder of PetSage, a holistic pet supply store in Alexandria, Va. “Dogs often have GI [gastrointestinal] issues as puppies, seasonal issues develop such as skin disorders through spring and fall, and then, as they get older, the need for joint support arises.”

With cats, the common issues are GI and urinary tract infections (UTIs), according to Grow and McCohan. And cat owners prefer cat-specific supplements, Bateman added.

“Pet owners want something that is for their specific pet,” he explained. “So many cat owners feel slighted when companies make products for ‘cats and dogs.’ They know that cats are very different than dogs and want to see that companies are meeting their needs in creating cat-specific products.”

New Products

Supplementing Pet Health

Pet owners have plenty of supplements to check out this year. Beginning with Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in February, manufacturers have been launching a variety of offerings to address the key needs of dogs and cats.

Garmon Corp. introduced three supplements for pets at the show.

NaturVet Hemp Advanced Joint Health with Collagen is formulated to help “maintain normal elasticity to connective tissue, such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments, to help maintain healthy hips and joints,” said Scott Garmon, president of the Temecula, Calif.-based company. Available in 60-count and 120-count containers, the canine soft chews contain glucosamine, collagen, chondroitin, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), hemp seed oil and omega fatty acids.

Specifically formulated for the unique needs of senior dogs, the company’s new NaturVet Senior Advanced product line contains non-GMO ingredients and comes in soft chews. Calming Aid is for stress and tension; Gum & Breath focuses on teeth and gums; Incontinence addresses bladder function and control; Intestinal Support keys in on the gastrointestinal (GI) system; Joint Health provides advanced joint support; and 5-in-1 Support is formulated for overall health, the company stated.

Not leaving cats out of its new supplement options, Garmon unveiled NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Drops Calming Aid for cats and dogs to help reduce pet stress and tension and promote relaxation. Ingredients include thiamine, L-tryptophan, chamomile, ginger, valerian and lavender.

Also keeping both cats and dogs in mind, Chicago-based Hofseth BioCare ASA released Brilliant Salmon Oil to the North American market earlier this year. Containing only one ingredient—salmon oil from fresh Norwegian Atlantic salmon—the human-grade, additive- and GMO-free oil comes in 10-ounce and 34-ounce drip-free bottle sizes.

In June, Green Coast Pet, a pet cannabidiol (CBD) brand in Pasadena, Calif., launched three products to the pet supplement market.

Grain-free Heart Health Chews come in a chicken flavor and a whitefish flavor. Developed for dogs eating a grain-free diet, the soft chews include a high dose of taurine, L-carnitine and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

In response to customer requests, the company now offers its Broad Spectrum Hemp Soft Chews for Cats in a chicken flavor.

Green Coast Pet also added Pawnut Butter with Real Honey to its line of Pawnut Butter for dogs.

Retailer Education

Providing Pet Health Knowledge

For independent pet stores to best serve customers and set themselves apart, having an educated staff is crucial, and manufacturers can help.

Because of the value Mike Bateman, COO and co-founder of Green Coast Pet, a pet cannabidiol (CBD) brand in Pasadena, Calif., puts on education, he takes to the road to provide as much in-person education to retailers as possible, he said.

“During social distancing [as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic], we have embraced live events on social media, Zoom trainings and updating our website to include many training items,” he added.

Beyond understanding the individual supplements, industry insiders emphasized the importance of understanding pet health and how to work with customers.

“It has to be more than a product brochure or demo and spouting the details of a product,” said Terri Grow, founder of PetSage, a holistic pet supply store in Alexandria, Va. “It’s about understanding the health care needs … so you can help your customer be a better advocate for their companion.”

Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer at Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore., agreed, adding that the real “training” comes to reading the customer.

“We take so much time working with staff on how to talk with customers—[for instance,] which questions to ask, [how to] provide options to empower the customer, [and] when to provide quick helpful service versus when to take your time," she said. “Social intelligence is a difficult trait to train, so hiring towards those skills before you even get to products in the store can save your company.”

Optimize Your Supplement Selection

For many pet specialty retailers, a lot of research and consideration goes into choosing which and how many supplements to carry. Sources offered these tips to help curate an optimal inventory.

1. Know your demographics.

“An ideal range of products varies by store and by demographics of that store’s clients,” said Terri Grow, founder of PetSage, a holistic pet supply store in Alexandria, Va. “Who are the pet parents that patronize that store? Do they want a quick fix or health care resolution? Do they want organic, or are they looking for the least expensive? The basics are a must before developing a product selection.”

2. Choose brands and products that you trust.

“Work with brands that speak to you—your clients are relying on you for your valued guidance,” Grow said. “Use the product. Have your staff use the product. Nothing says more than personal experience. And, it will help you find what products work the best in certain situations.”

3. Offer variety in delivery methods.

“Having multiple options, with multiple delivery methods to obtain the same result, is the driving force behind our product selection,” said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer at Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore. “I feel like we could break it down into four further categories of assortment—local, treat, powder, other.”

4. Stock solutions for common ailments and all life stages.

Grow recommended covering the basics in categories: gastrointestinal (GI), skin, urinary, anxiety and joint.

Jim Finnigan, president and creator of Bernie’s Best, a pet supplement manufacturer in Austin, Texas, emphasized the importance of digestion as the foundation.

“It’s vital that retailers make sure they have a comprehensive and high-fiber digestive supplement in the mix,” he said. “Digestion is a lynchpin for any other supplement. If the dog doesn’t have a healthy gut and isn’t absorbing all the expensive ingredients in other supplements, those supplements won’t do any good. Digestion has to come first.”

5. Expand your range.

“Expand to a range of natural medicines for each category,” Grow said. “For instance, a nutritional supplement, an herbal, a flower essence and maybe a homeopathic. You reach a wider audience, and you can combine for more immediate results and a happier client.”