Local ingredient sourcing and the assurance of safety are two of the key attributes associated with made in the USA pet products, and both play an important role in why the category has exploded in recent years.
"Made in the USA is a major trend in itself in the pet trade, but that’s not enough," said Jerry Moffett, vice president of sales and marketing for RuffDawg in Worcester, Mass. "A product cannot just be assembled in the states; consumers want products where the raw material and ingredients are also from the USA to ensure safety."
Muttropolis’ two California-based locations in Solana Beach and La Jolla carry a wide range of items that are made in the U.S., including toys, bedding, bowls and apparel items, and customers are very concerned about where the items are made and that they are safe.
"The made in USA distinction is most important for foods and treats," said Estela Lam, chief merchant for the stores. "We also get a lot of requests for USA-made dining items and toys. Basically, any [U.S.-made product] that comes in contact with a dog’s food or mouth in any way is popular."
Samantha Henson, merchandising manager for Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich., noted that since the scares with Chinese-made products came to light, customers have acquired a newfound preference for things made in the states.
"American-made products will always be preferred by many, many customers," she said. "U.S.-made food and treats have the highest fan base, but lately customers have been asking and searching for toys and bowls made in the U.S. as well."
Nancy Chen, digital marketing manager for Lucky Premium Treats, an online commerce store, said the company sources, manufactures and sells only U.S.-made treats.
"We know it’s very trendy, but also very much needed in the market," she said. "Our customers care about what’s being used on their pets, just as a parent would care what they are giving to their babies."
Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pura Naturals Pet in Seattle, said organic is a hot topic in the category as customers are looking for more healthful options for their pets.
"Our dedication to quality in both ingredients and manufacturing gives us the ability to ensure that our customers are using a product with no skin irritants or chemicals," she said. "From our eco-friendly bowls made out of rice hulls to the eco plant-based foam in our Pura Tips, we have spent significant time researching the science and technology in the manufacturing of our products."
The demand for domestically made products is not limited, however, to food, toys and bowls for dogs and cats. The trend is growing in other pet product categories, as well, including those in the exotics and aquatic supplies market.
"The consumer is looking diligently for American-made products; they do their research," said Lance Reyniers, president of Python Products in Milwaukee, which only offers made in the USA aquatic products. "People are seriously looking for safe products."
All of Python’s products are marked as "made in America," and Reyniers encourages pet specialty retailers to either put up a flag or draw attention to the commitment in some way.
"We advertise and push our ‘made in America’ message every day, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with why we’re No. 1 in our category," Reyniers said. "We get consumers who thank us every day for making our stuff in America."
RuffDawg uses mostly thermoplastic rubber or polypropylene/polyurethane in its products, all sourced in the USA.
"Our products are all made of FDA-approved materials, free of harmful phthalates, latex and BPAs," said Jerry Moffett, vice president of sales and marketing for the Worcester, Mass.-based company.
"Even our packaging is entirely designed and printed here in the USA."
The company recently introduced a ball that comes in two sizes and bright neon colors that is not only made in the states, but is virtually indestructible and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Pura Naturals Pet in Seattle launches new products every year at key industry shows, said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing, adding that the company has some great items in the works for 2018.
Auburn Leathercrafters in Auburn, N.Y., continuously looks for materials that are manufactured in the U.S. to create its lines, and its newest lines are a reflection of that effort.
"Our cotton and leather rope collars and leashes are made with U.S. rope, leather and even thread," said Anita Dungey, president of the company. "Our American Traditions Collars and Leashes, a collaboration with Up Country, also a U.S. company, reflects our support for working with U.S. companies from start to finish."
Despite so much buzz about the importance of made in the USA products, there are still customers who see cheaper prices and opt to go for the products made in China or elsewhere.
Jerry Moffett, vice president of sales and marketing for RuffDawg in Worcester, Mass., said it’s important that customers consider more than just price when making decisions on what to buy. With this in mind, the company promotes its products and their various attributes in several ways.
"Besides print advertising and our website, we spread the word on social media," he said. "Instagram in particular has been a great platform for talking directly to consumers about our products. We also regularly give toys out for consumer reviews."
Beyond product data sheets and information on its website, Pura Naturals Pet in Seattle has created detailed educational pieces that explain the science and technology of a variety of its products and how they benefit pets.
"These are provided to our sales team, distributors and communicated through HTML blasts, newsletters and social marketing," said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. "We’re a big believer in ongoing communication to our reps, distributors and retailers, because when they’re successful, we are, too."
Anita Dungey, president at Auburn Leathercrafters in Auburn, N.Y., said it’s especially important to have a well-educated staff, one that is available to answer customers’ questions about a product’s features and benefits, materials and ingredients, and source
or country of origin.
Many stores understand the value in highlighting the U.S.-made and locally made products that they stock.
"I have an endcap completely devoted to Michigan-made treats that heads up our treat aisle," said Samantha Henson, merchandising manager for Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich.
"Customers love supporting the local communities and businesses if it’s made easy and presentable to them. Our American-made toys also get the two endcaps that head up toys. This makes it eye catching and easy to shop."
Estela Lam, chief merchant for California-based Muttropolis, a two-store operation with locations in Solana Beach and La Jolla, said both stores highlight U.S.-made products to make it easier for customers to find them.
RuffDawg in Worcester, Mass., offers spinner display racks with an American flag on top that only takes up two square feet of selling space, helping pet specialty retailers to maximize display space.