Finding the Awe in Spa Products

Spa grooming products and services are strongly mirroring the human market, as pet owners increasingly seek to extend these indulgences to their animal companions, industry participants report.

"From facial treatments and scrubs to medicated baths like oatmeal treatments to nail and pad care, pet owners will spare no expense to give their dogs and cats the same treatment as they do themselves," said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr Products in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

In fact, a majority of dog owners (76 percent) believe it is important to buy pet grooming products that are of a similar quality to grooming products that they use for themselves, according to market research firm Wakefield Research. In a survey conducted by the firm in May, 85 percent of dog owners said knowing exactly what’s in a product, where the ingredients come from and where it was made is important to them. 

A focus on more natural and sustainable ingredients, U.S.-made products and the absence of chemicals that pet owners want left out of spa grooming treatments are key features in the category that are coming from the human side, according to industry insiders. 

"As with many other consumer markets, we’re seeing a strong demand for grooming products that are made in the USA and are naturally based," said Bianca Rossi, head of marketing,

Americas, at The Company of Animals in Davenport, Fla. "The trickle-down effect we’re seeing consumers making in their own purchase behaviors with shampoos and conditioners we are now seeing them make with the at-home grooming products they’re purchasing for their pets."

At Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California, clients prefer all-natural, chemical-free products without parabens and sulfates, said Janene Zakrajsek, founder and chief creative officer.

"There’s been a huge shift toward using products that are less harmful to their pets and the environment," she said.

Fernan Juarez, co-owner of Pet Cuts Pet Salon & Market and of Groomingdale’s Mobile Pet Spa in North Hills, Calif., agreed, adding that customers want more organic ingredients and products that do not use harsh chemicals or artificial fragrances.

"Everyone knows that organic is better, so if they can afford organic, they want it—especially for their pet who’s like their kid in their family," he said. "People love their pets and are willing to spend on them."

Several industry insiders reported that with the trend of earth-friendly and natural products comes higher costs. For example, Richard Ticktin, CEO and chief creator and innovator at SynergyLabs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said that one of the increasing costs stems from using coconut instead of petroleum as the surfactant.

"As pet lovers and owners, we want products that are made with the care and diligence we would use for human babies, with nothing to make pets uncomfortable and unhappy, and containing as many natural ingredients as possible," he said, adding that gentle, tearless and natural are very important attributes that consumers seek.

"Preservation systems are better today and safer for the earth—and more expensive," Ticktin added. "It’s not tangible for the user, but the benefit is there."

According to industry participants, there are several product features and ingredients that consumers are on the prowl for when they consider a dog spa grooming product, including: cleansing and detoxifying charcoals and clays; essential oils with added benefits such as calming lavender and lemongrass oils, and oils that help re-moisturize such as aloe vera, tea tree and emu oils; botanicals such as argan oil and moringa oil; manuka honey; pansy extract; bamboo; micellar water; and a blend of ginger and green tea. 

However, what dog spa grooming products do not include is also significant to note, insiders agreed.

"What most people are looking for is what’s not in them, [such as] parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, dyes and soaps," said Joseph Manzi, president of Total Pet Care in Holbrook, N.Y. "And [the trend is] here to stay."

Finding the Awe in Spa Products

New Products

Manufacturers Key In On Current Trends

Many companies are meeting various consumer demands with the launch of spa grooming products for dogs this year. 

In June, SynergyLabs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., introduced two lines designed for premium and value pricing.

The premium Woof Wash collection features fine ingredients, fashionable fragrances and functional formulations, said company officials. The products do not contain parabens, MEA, DEA or soap, and users can choose from seven shampoo varieties: Deodorizing, 4-in-1, Flea & Tick, Herbal, Soothing Oatmeal, Puppy Pure & Simple and Brilliant White. The line also has a Soothing Oatmeal Conditioner, a Soothing Itch-Relief Cream and a Dry Shampoo.

With youthful and playful packaging to grab shoppers’ attention, SynergyLabs’ Dog Wash line is formulated with quality ingredients that are value priced, officials added. Dog Wash comes in 4-in-1, Flea & Tick, Herbal, Oatmeal Itch-Relief Shampoo and Conditioner, Puppy Pure & Simple and Ultra-White varieties. The line also includes a Dry Shampoo option and an Itch-Relief Cream.

At SuperZoo in Las Vegas in June, Spina Organics debuted its Spina Organics Travel Collection with four 2-ounce travel bottles of body washes and a leave-in conditioner. Shampoo choices include tear-free infused with argan oil and lavender extracts, deep cleansing with green tea extract and argan and moringa oils, anti-itch with ginger root and wasabi extracts, hydrating with argan oil and natural plant proteins, and color-enhancing black and grey body wash.

"We see that more people are traveling with their pets, and industry numbers support this observation," said Mauro Spina, founder of the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based company. "Additionally, [the travel collection] provides an opportunity for customers to try a variety of the body washes to determine which may work best for their pet."

Cardinal Pet Care also introduced a grooming line at SuperZoo this year. Its EcoBath Manuka Honey grooming line consists of a shampoo, a conditioner, a detangling spray, an anti-itch spray, a tooth gel and a dental water additive. Each product is made with natural manuka honey from New Zealand combined with other natural and organic ingredients to create the company’s exclusive Honey Hygiene nature-based concept, said Tom Wien, director of marketing for the Azusa, Calif.-based company.

The products do not contain parabens, sulfates, cyclic silicones, DEA/MEA, BHT, triclosan, plastic microbeads, formaldehyde releasers, gluten, petroleum, paraffin wax, or harmful colors or fragrances, he added.

TrueBlue Pet Products debuted its Pure and Sure Puppy Wipes earlier this summer. 

"We all know that puppies are super cute, but they also get super messy," said Doug Gleason, founder of the Los Angeles-based company. "So we created wipes with an extra-gentle yet effective cleanser. We use chamomile to moisturize the puppy’s delicate skin and honeysuckle to fight germs and bacteria and provide a light, fresh scent."

Upcoming releases in the dog spa grooming category will include: 

  • A foaming facial treatment from Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based Glo-Marr Products that was inspired by private label products the company has produced.
  • Several "next generation" Pet Head projects from The Company of Animals in Davenport, Fla.
  • An all-natural, vegan dog face wash from Spina Organics.

Pricing Trends 

Prices Rise and Consumers Continue to Pay

In canine spa products, pricing trends run the gamut, with offerings for every budget, according to industry insiders. Retailers and manufacturers also report that changing views toward pets and spa products have kept the market from reaching its price ceiling.

These products are no longer viewed as items exclusively for pampering, said Tom Wien, director of marketing at Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif.

"Like all grooming products today, spa grooming products are being purchased for their health and hygiene benefits as well," he said. "The fact that pet parents are prone to view spa grooming products less as a luxury item and more as an everyday necessity is having impact on their pricing: People today want spa-quality products at a price that’s within their reach."

Janene Zakrajsek, founder and chief creative officer for Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has locations in Southern California, reported similar findings with her customers.

"Most pet consumers are still demanding value, so it’s important that even if products are functional and have better-quality ingredients that they are reasonably priced," she said.

Others in the industry said customers remain willing and able to pay for premium—and more expensive—spa offerings.

"Retailers and groomers alike can command higher prices for these products and services," said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr Products in Lawrenceburg, Ky. "Pet owners are readily willing to pay a premium price for these things they want and know make a difference."

Richard Ticktin, CEO and chief creator and innovator at SynergyLabs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., agreed.

"I don’t think we’ve found the top yet," he said. "In general, prices are increasing."

Joseph Manzi, president of Total Pet Care in Holbrook, N.Y., has found this to be true with his customers.

"I don’t see where shampoo is being priced out of anybody’s range."

Finding the Awe in Spa Products

How Manufacturers Develop New Products

When looking to expand business offerings, manufacturers reported several techniques they use to direct innovations in the dog spa grooming products they offer.

1. Listening to Customers 

"As far as innovating and developing these types of products go, we are always listening to the feedback we receive on our website, social media, from trade shows and from our sales reps," said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr Products in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

Doug Gleason, founder of TrueBlue Pet Products in Los Angeles, agreed, adding that his company relies on consumer research when creating new products.

2. Checking out Human Trends

"Cardinal Pet Care’s research and development process includes tracking the trends in human products since the pet product market often tends to follow suit," said Tom Wien, director of marketing at Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif.

Richard Ticktin, CEO and chief creator and innovator at SynergyLabs in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also reported that watching what’s occurring in the human world contributes significantly to the company’s product development.

3. Watching the Marketplace

"We also keep a close eye on our competition, not to ‘copy’ what they are doing, but to stay current with what we are seeing in the marketplace and create superior products that will rival the competition," Nicolosi said.

4. Doing Their Research

Mauro Spina, founder of Spina Organics in Beverly Hills, Calif., said research is a very important part of product development.

"We do a lot of research," he said. "I work with two incredible chemists and always am looking for ingredients that are grown properly."

TrueBlue Pet Products has a similar approach.  

"Our approach is to first look at what we want the products to do, and then to find natural ingredients that serve that purpose," Gleason said.

Wien said that Cardinal Pet Care’s research and development team is "always researching new, innovative ways to produce cleaner, natural, more eco-friendly products, along with greener, more sustainable manufacturing processes."

Finding the Awe in Spa Products