The market for natural pet supplements and health aids is growing as pet owners look to these products to help alleviate pet ailments and increase the general well-being of their dogs and cats as gently and naturally as possible.
"In today’s society, we are exposed to thousands of chemicals on a daily basis, and I feel consumers want products that are natural and don’t want to have to worry about toxic ingredients," said Chrissy Calimano, sales and social media manager for Mendota Pet in St. Paul, Minn.
Manufacturers and pet specialty retailers agree that there is more of a demand for natural pet supplements and health aids in 2018 than ever before.
"Probiotics and digestive enzymes are very popular right now, as they should be," said Samantha Henson, clinical pet nutritionist for Premier Pet Supply, which has stores in Michigan. "Also, CBD (cannabidiol) oil is on trend right now as people are learning the powerful benefits of it."
Ian Quinn, CEO of Phyto Animal Health in San Diego, agreed, saying that the company’s CBD-based pet supplements are at the center of one of the hot topics of conversation trending on social media.
"Part of this trend is a focus on a pure experience with all-natural ingredients and an eye toward environmental conservation," Quinn said. "Consumers want to boost their pets’ wellness with products whose integrity they can trust to protect their pets’ health."
Michael Stoeckle, president and CEO of Ark Naturals in Naples, Fla., said the trends in the category are mimicking a lot of what is happening in the human supplement category.
"The largest segment is hip-and-joint-related products, and that is expected to continue," he said. "Delivery forms for these have changed to more palatable options—liquid, gels, soft chews, etc."
Dallas Dunn, purchasing coordinator at Healthy Spot, which has stores throughout California, said some of the top conditions veterinarians see consistently among pets are digestive, skin and allergy issues, so any supplements that target those issues are highly sought out.
"Supplements are good sellers because every pet, at any stage, can always use a boost," Dunn said. "Our Healthy Spot Bone Broth has been my go-to, time and time again, for just about everything."
Chad J. Tillman, national sales manager for Grizzly Pet Products in Woodinville, Wash., said consumers want to see traceability. They also want to fully trust brands and the claims on their products, he added.
"Grizzly sticks to limited-ingredient products, primarily focused on the ingredients that we get from our own wild salmon plants in Alaska," he said. "This allows us to control our products from catch to bottle, and provide a high level of traceability, sustainability and accountability."
For this reason, Tillman added, the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal, which identifies products as having been vetted by the council, "is so important to Grizzly because the NASC seal gives consumers that peace of mind and trust."
Sue Weyrauch, owner of Total Dog Co. in New Hope, Minn., said customers usually don’t know much when they come in the store and ask for help with pet health problems.
"Often, we hear about digestive upsets, and we direct [customers] toward digestive enzymes and probiotics," she said. "And being in the North, we see a lot of flaky, itchy skin, and for supplements, we point them towards fish-oil supplements."
Merchandising & Marketing
Getting the Products Noticed
Educational point-of-sales (POS) materials and proper in-store placement are all key to skillfully merchandising and marketing natural pet supplements and health aids, according to industry participants.
Grizzly Pet Products in Woodinville, Wash., provides stores with counter displays that provide point-of-purchase and POS materials and necessary information to both stores and customers.
"Our products are high-margin and small-shelf space products, which makes them ideal for gaining add-on sales by being placed on endcaps or near registers," said Chad J. Tillman, national sales manager for the company. "Displays, endcaps and top-shelf placements or near-register placements are some of the most effective merchandising strategies; however, Grizzly supplements also sell well when they are placed in or accompany the alternative diet sections of stores."
Strategies that get products noticed and keep them within shoppers’ reach are, of course, critical to moving them off the shelves.
"You should keep the product accessible within a vibrant and inviting format to generate interest," said Dallas Dunn, purchasing coordinator at Healthy Spot, which has stores throughout California.
Michael Stoeckle, president and CEO of Ark Naturals in Naples, Fla., recommends that pet specialty retailers have information available at the display location on the benefits of the products and their formulations. "We provide comprehensive collateral materials for retailers and consumers," he said. "It is important to organize displays by targeting a need or remedy for supplements."
At Total Dog Co. in New Hope, Minn., the supplements are bundled together in the store’s "pharmacy."
"We have everything together and sorted by the kind of issue they would deal with, rather than brand," said owner Sue Weyrauch.
Ian Quinn, CEO of Phyto Animal Health in San Diego, suggested that retailers ask a family member or a friend to locate a high-selling item in the store and observe their behavior.
"Note where they expect to find information and make sure you place the signage in these key locations," he said.
Samantha Henson, clinical pet nutritionist for Premier Pet Supply, which has stores in Michigan, said that the stores are well known for having an entire aisle of supplements and health aids.
"We make sure to stay up-to-date with new products coming to market," she said. "We dedicate a lot of space to natural products and have 16 feet for natural supplements."
Ark Naturals, headquartered in Naples, Fla., has new product release plans for later this year.
"We now offer Sweet Potato and Cranberry Joint Rescue products with our Sea Cucumber formula," said Michael Stoeckle, president and CEO of the company. "We will have a significant launch of new items sometime in 2018."
Mendota Pet in St. Paul, Minn., has responded to recent supplement trends by providing more products, such as DERMagic skin care, that are all natural and contain no toxic ingredients.
"Our health line offers all-natural supplements with no chemicals," said Chrissy Calimano, sales and social media manager for the company. "DERMagic skin care can be used for skin issues like black skin disease, yeast infections, alopecia and irritated itchy skin."
Additionally, Phyto Animal Health in San Diego, recently launched its Vitality line of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) liquid supplements.