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The attention pet owners pay to the ingredients in what they give to their pets doesn’t end with kibble and treats. Demand for natural, healthful ingredients crosses over to dental products as well, but that’s not all pet owners are looking for—choice matters too.

Customers are looking for a variety of applications, according to Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pure and Natural Pet, a Norwalk, Conn.-based manufacturer.

“Customers want options,” Creed said. “Not all pets like to have their teeth brushed in the traditional sense, so manufacturers have been creative in developing sprays, rinses and dental chews.”

At Wag N’ Wash, which has locations across the country, ingredients factor in to customers’ purchasing decisions, said Rob Flanagan, president and pack leader of the Denver-based retailer.

“What we’ve noticed in the past six months, compared to pre-COVID, is that our guests are way more focused on the ingredients in the dental treat versus what the purpose of the dental treat is,” Flanagan said, noting that this trend is not just with dental products, but across the store’s full line of pet products.

Sales of dental products might also be on the upswing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were already seeing a large increase in the dental category, and then COVID-19 hit,” said David Levy, executive vice president of Primal Health, the Minneapolis-based parent company of Teef, adding that once veterinarian visits were reduced nationwide, the category saw a big increase in sales.

James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for St. Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., manufacturer of TropiClean dental products, has also noticed a pandemic-fueled increase in sales, particularly online.

“In a recent update on the impact of COVID-19 on the global packaging industry, market research firm GlobalData reported growth in pet care sales primarily via online channels,” Brandly said. “We’re certainly seeing that at Cosmos Corp. across different categories including dental.”

Consumer Education

Know Your Products

In-store interactions are still the best way to educate customers about pet dental care products and position brands, according to industry insiders.

Pet speciatly retailers should encourage their sales associates to learn as much as possible about a brand so they become passionate advocates.

“When pet parents come in seeking a safe and effective dental care solution, you’ll be able to direct them to products that you’re knowledgeable about and trust,” said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for St. Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., manufacturer of TropiClean dental products.

At Wag N’ Wash, which has locations across the country and is based in Denver, engaging consumers helps staff members start a conversation about dental products.

“Our guests aren’t just coming in and shopping and leaving,” said Rob Flanagan, president and pack leader of Wag N’ Wash. “We’re working with each guest as a consultant and tracking the overall health of their companion.”

Groomers are also a key piece in the consulting and education process at Wag N’ Wash, because when they notice potential dental problems, they can offer recommendations.

“It’s all about the holistic health and well-being of our companions,” Flanagan said.

Retailers can also rely on manufacturers to provide education materials. Pure and Natural Pet, a Norwalk, Conn.-based manufacturer, does just that.

“These pieces go beyond a traditional datasheet and dive into all of the ingredients and their functions,” Creed said. “We have also created a variety of digital POP and social posts that our retail accounts can utilize.”


“What we’ve noticed in the past six months, compared to pre-COVID, is that our guests are way more focused on the ingredients in the dental treat versus what the purpose of the dental treat is.”—Rob Flanagan of Wag N’ Wash


Ingredient Trends

Short and Simple Labels

With more consumers focused on ingredients, manufacturers of pet dental products are striving to offer the best.

“Traditional products, however effective, can contain chemicals that potentially harm pets and their people,” said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for St. Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., manufacturer of TropiClean dental products. “Pet parents are seeking products that contain ingredients they trust and understand.”

According to Brandly, TropiClean defines ingredients to be natural or naturally derived if they are either naturally occurring raw materials or adapted from naturally occurring plant or mineral-based raw materials.

Pure and Natural Pet uses a variety of natural ingredients in its products, according to Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for the Norwalk, Conn.-based manufacturer.

“Our ingredients include organic grape seed extract that helps prevent tooth decay and extend the life of teeth, organic grapefruit seed extract that works as a preventative and anti-inflammatory while killing microbes and fungi that can destroy teeth, and organic peppermint oil to naturally freshen breath with antiseptic properties to eliminate bacteria,” Creed said.

Even Pure and Natural Pet’s new eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes are a more healthful choice for pets and the environment as well, according to Creed.

“They don’t have any glue, toxins or paint,” Creed said, noting that each handle is carved from a single piece of naturally grown moso bamboo.

Primal Health, the Minneapolis-based parent company of Teef, offers a patented prebiotic formula, Teef Protektin42, a powder that is added to a dog’s water to stop bacteria from causing dental disease.

“With no fillers and only made up of four safe, natural ingredients, I think we have the shortest ingredient panel in the industry,” said David Levy, executive vice president of Primal Health.

The company is working on a Protektin42 powder-coated dog dental chew that follows the same limited-carb approach and will have cat dental care products available by mid-2021.

Format Variety

Ingredients are important, but what formats are customers asking for? According to Creed, choice is important here as well.

“We offer our dental products in a variety of formats,” she said. “Our Plaque and Tartar Dental Gel and Dental Spray in Clean Mint have similar ingredients but different applications. The spray makes dental care easier for senior pets, and dogs of all ages, that have an aversion to brushing.”

TropiClean recently introduced two dental products that offer consumers a choice of formats, Brandly noted.

“The Fresh Breath by TropiClean Dental Wipes provide a safe, easy way to help remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth,” he said. “The unique textured surface helps wipe away plaque and tartar safely and effectively while the unique blend of ingredients works together [to] help support oral health.

“The Fresh Breath by TropiClean Fresh ‘N Fun Dental Chew Toy has textured bristles to help brush your dog’s teeth, defend against tartar and massage your dog’s gums,” Brandly added.

Retailers also recognize the need for variety in the dental category.

“Overall in terms of ingredient profile, what we do and what we recommend is having a variety to meet the needs of our guests,” said Rob Flanagan, president and pack leader of Wag N’ Wash, which has locations across the country and is based in Denver.

Randy Klein, owner of Whiskers Holistic Petcare, which has two locations in New York, has noticed several formats that are popular with customers.

These include “natural bones, including frozen meat bones, [as well as] non-rawhide chews and dental products including gels and sprays,” Klein said. “Of course, supplements that get put into meals are very easy but not always most effective.”


Trade Talk

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Jessika Zulic, senior brand manager at Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis

What does “natural” mean to Whitebridge Pet Brands when it comes to pet dental products, and what does the company offer in this category?

At Whitebridge, choosing natural ingredients is always the starting point for developing our pet food and treats. We are committed to improving pet health and happiness through better nutrition. We know that dental health is critical to overall wellness, so we are excited to be able to offer pet specialty retailers unique treats in the No. 1 functional category.

Our new Dogswell Dental Jerky, made in our company-owned facility in Joplin, Mo., is made with clean, recognizable ingredients like real USA-sourced chicken plus parsley, spearmint oil, dried seaweed and coconut oil. Spearmint oil and parsley freshen breath, dried seaweed helps reduce plaque systemically and coconut oil reduces oral bacteria. Real chicken is the first ingredient, making these minimally processed jerky treats highly palatable.

In addition, our new Cloud Star Wag More Bark Less Dental Biscuits are sure to excite pets, pet parents—and retailers—alike! Staying true to its core philosophy, Cloud Star’s newest biscuit starts with a homestyle recipe with natural, recognizable ingredients, and adds purposeful additions like natural bone charcoal, parsley, and peppermint to help freshen breath and support dental health.


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“They need to educate in person, online, newsletters—any way they can, because oral health is actually the gateway to overall health. In-store they should have a dental section and every consumer should be asked what they are doing for their pet’s dental health.”—David Levy, executive vice president of Primal Health, the Minneapolis-based parent company of Teef


“Dental awareness month is a really big month for us so we utilize our marketing and our partnerships with vendors to drive awareness during that month.”—Rob Flanagan, president and pack leader of Wag N’ Wash, which has locations across the country


“We find that placing multiple in-store placements like counter displays and endcap displays can help drive awareness of the dental category. TropiClean offers educational merchandising and displays that highlight product features.”—James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for St. Peters, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., the manufacturer of TropiClean