Rise in At-Home Bathing Drives Dog Spa Product Sales

Dog owners looking to pamper their pets with spa products have no shortage of options in today’s market, and manufacturers are aiming to meet the needs of both groomers and dog owners with their offerings. 

"Spa products are thriving in the pet industry mainly because consumers are wanting their pet to experience the same types of treatments that they themselves are getting: facial treatments, massage therapy, skin rejuvenation, coat conditioning, etc.," said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager and owner of Glo-Marr in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

Sales are trending up for manufacturer Warren London in New City, N.Y., said vice president of business development Anthony Ivancich. He said this is due to the company’s growing assortment of products and development of new selling channels.

"Groomers have always been our core audience, but we are seeing accelerated growth in owner direct sales," Ivancich said.

A rise in the frequency of home bathing is also driving up sales of dog spa products, said Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif., which produces an array of grooming products.

In addition to bathing, more owners are including maintenance, such as nail trimming and dental care, as part of their pets’ at-home grooming routines, which boosts sales of products like pet toothpaste, breath sprays and styptic powder, de Vos said. 

He added that retailers are increasingly offering do-it-yourself bathing facilities in their stores.

"Having such convenient facilities available encourages people to bathe their dogs more often," de Vos said. "Whether the shampoos are supplied by the retailer or the pet parent, the end result is the same: More grooming products are being used and sold."

Manufacturers are aiming to meet the various demands of pet owners and professional groomers with a variety of offerings and brands designed to address specific functions and skin and coat needs.

For example, TropiClean’s eponymously named line consists of shampoos and conditioners with specific functions such as deodorizing and shed control. The brand’s Spa by TropiClean line offers luxurious shampoos and conditioners made with oatmeal and vitamins. Its OxyMed products target dry, itchy and sensitive skin, while its Natural Flea & Tick line offers solutions for the pet, home and yard, said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for TropiClean Pet Products, a brand of Wentzville, Mo.-based  Cosmos Corp. 

Nicolosi said Glo-Marr’s four lines—Balance, Barktini, Kenic and Kenic Retro—all have the same basic formulations but "are marketed to different audiences with their packaging and different additives that appeal to an alternative client base."

For example, the Barktini Blends line features fragrances inspired by popular cocktail mixes such as Pina Colada Pooch and Margarita Mutt, while the Kenic line features soothing aloe as a main ingredient.

Alongside spa products for keeping pets clean, products that make them colorful remain popular. Warren London’s Pawdicure Nail Polish Pens appeal to both groomers and pet owners, Ivancich said. 

"The pens are great for pets with regularly manicured nails, and also find a niche for the casual pet that just wants to be festive for the upcoming holiday or support their favorite sports team," he said. 

Warren London also offers Critter Color temporary fur dye. Nikki Guimaraes, pet stylist and owner of Immaculate Pooch Grooming in Leicester, Mass., said color is the salon’s most popular add-on service. 

"I think it just brings happiness to [the owners]," Guimaraes said. "… We do a little chalk in their ears or feather extensions or something like that, and it just brightens their day. They just tell us to surprise them with whatever, and we do."

Guimaraes said about 90 percent of her salon’s clients choose to add on extra services such as nail polish, color, paw treatment or tooth brushing to their pets’ regular groom. 

"What we started doing was offering these services in between grooms for people, and I feel like that has helped owners stretch out the groom a little bit," she said. 

Product Development

Listen, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

When it comes to developing new pet grooming products, manufacturers have their ears to the ground.

"We conduct focus groups with pet parents to identify their needs, determine the best application of products, scents and texture that appeal to pet parents and their pets," said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for TropiClean Pet Products, a brand of Wentzville, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp. 

Glo-Marr in Lawrenceburg, Ky., keeps an eye on human trends, as they often transfer into the pet industry. That’s what inspired the company’s upcoming line of hemp products, said national sales manager and owner Steve Nicolosi, adding that he pays attention to customer requests for new products.

"We also have a panel of professionals from different parts of our industry that includes groomers, store owners, veterinarians, pet owners, and even a few competitive peers that share ideas and information about what they see happening in the industry," he said. "They are also invited to voluntarily test our products on their pets and give feedback."

Warren London in New City, N.Y., focuses particularly on feedback from groomers and retail partners in its search for "the next unique, solution-based product," said vice president of business development Anthony Ivancich. 

According to Ivancich, the company is currently testing formulas that contain less added fragrances and colors, because it has found that "less [ingredients] may be more."

"We also look for ways to tweak our existing line as a means to create appeal to new and larger demographics," he said. "Many of our products are over-developed to meet the standards for human use, and it is important that we meet testing requirements while remaining cruelty free."

Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif., holds the teams responsible for its pet products to the same ingredient standards as human products, said company president Tony de Vos. Its solar-powered facility is U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) licensed, and chemists, quality-control specialists, laboratory technicians and sourcing teams all have a hand in product development. 

"All of our products go through stability testing," de Vos said. "This includes pH, viscosity, appearance, color, scent or odor and specific gravity."

All products are tested at room temperature, 113 degrees Fahrenheit and their freeze/thaw point to determine how they would handle freezing during winter shipping. 

Shampoos are tested to determine the amount and strength of the foam they produce, how quickly they lather and how quickly they can be rinsed off. 

"The more soil—dirt, sebum, etc.—on the pet, the more a shampoo has to overcome to lather and subsequently clean," de Vos explained. 

The company’s lab also performs combing tests on its detanglers and conditioners, and checks drying time for a full regimen of shampoos, conditioners and detangling sprays. 

On the Market

New Products that Pamper

Grooming product manufacturers are flooding the market with new offerings that pamper and nourish the skin and coats of today’s dogs, companies report. 

Warren London in New City, N.Y., recently released its powdered Cleopatra’s Doggy Milk Bath. When mixed with warm water, its calming bubbles soothe the dog’s coat, said Anthony Ivancich, vice president of business development. The powder can be added to a traditional bath or mixed with water in a spray bottle for spray-on, rinse-off application. Key ingredients include natural whole milk powder and honey. 

TropiClean is now offering Papaya and Coconut Waterless Shampoo, a no-rinse formula that nourishes skin and helps relax tangled coats. The company also added three new scents to its Deodorizing Pet Spray lineup: Pure Plum, Sweet Mandarin, and Lime and Coconut, said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for TropiClean Pet Products, a brand of Wentzville, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp.

Hemp Breath Spray is a fresh addition to Cardinal Pet Care’s Remedy+Recovery line. Canine dental health is often neglected, said Tony de Vos, president of the Azusa, Calif., company.

"Remedy+Recovery Hemp Breath Spray offers an easy-to-use alternative to brushing that will help prevent tooth decay and fight bacteria when used regularly," he said. 

In addition to those benefits, de Vos said the spray soothes gums with organic hemp oil and freshens breath with peppermint.  

While ingredient disclosure is not mandated by pet industry regulations, some manufacturers are going above and beyond to provide this information to their customers. 

"We have recently launched a redesigned, transparent label listing all ingredients, beyond what is expected through industry standards, on all our grooming products," Brandly said regarding TropiClean’s products. 

Warren London also provides detailed ingredient lists on its products.

"Overall, the most important thing we can do is to transparently communicate the composition of the product to the customer," Ivancich said. 

In order to ensure quality of ingredients, Glo-Marr only sources ingredients from the U.S.

"These ingredients are held to a much higher standard of regulations than those that are imported from outside of the U.S.," Nicolosi said. 

Glo-Marr also keeps its shampoos soap and detergent free, which means that they do not dry out the pet’s skin and coat or the groomer’s hands, he added.

While manufacturers are doing their due diligence, many pet owners expect their local retailers and grooming salons to do theirs by selecting quality products. Most clients at Immaculate Pooch Grooming, for example, trust Guimaraes to choose products with ingredients that are safe for their pets. 

"I’d say I maybe have two out of 100 clients who are concerned about where my products are made and what’s being used on their dog," she said. "… I think that also has a lot to do with our reputation here." 

However, she does have some clients who are concerned about allergens. Shampoos that contain hazelnuts, for example, can pose a risk to owners who are allergic to tree nuts. 

Guimaraes said coconut is the biggest pet shampoo base. 

"The majority of [TropiClean’s] grooming products contain our mild coconut cleanser," Brandly said. "Coconut is enriched with essential proteins that help maintain the natural moisture balance of our pets’ skin and coat and help reduce dandruff."

Cardinal Pet Care has built an entire line around manuka honey, which de Vos said is known for its healing, revitalizing and antibacterial effects. 

"This super-premium honey, which is produced exclusively in New Zealand, is being used in everything from human shampoos and conditioners to facial masks and lip balms," de Vos said. 

Cardinal Pet Care’s EcoBath Manuka Honey line includes a shampoo, a conditioner, a detangling spray, an anti-itch spray, a tooth gel and a dental water additive. 

"The fact that EcoBath Manuka Honey offers a complete assortment of hair, skin and dental care products can be of benefit to retailers, too, since consumers who like the healing and effects of one product may wind up buying the entire line," de Vos said.  

As hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products have continued to crop up in the pet supplements and anxiety relief categories, they have also found their way into the pet spa category. Nicolosi said Glo-Marr has a line of hemp-based shampoos, creams and topical sprays in the works. 

"These will also be available for private label," Nicolosi said.