Say "Ahh … Natural"

With more pet owners recognizing the importance of pets’ dental hygiene and health, they are increasingly incorporating dental care into their pet’s routine at home.

"The trend is driven by pet parents directly taking care of their pet’s dental needs," said Michelle McPherson, marketing director for TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo. "Per the APPA [American Pet Products Association] National Pet Owners Survey, 53 percent of pet parents personally take care of their dog’s teeth. Veterinarians are seeing this response, and recommend home remedies like dental chews/treats, brushing teeth and water additives."

As demand for dental products grows, consumers are also becoming more discerning about the ingredients used in these items, leading them to seek out natural options.

"Pet parents want oral care products that are formulated with natural and limited ingredients that are made in the USA and safe to give to their pets," said Brad Gruber, COO of Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N.Y. "Emphasis is continually growing for these products to be corn and wheat free, and free of gluten and GMOs."

One of the biggest trends in the natural dental category is dental treats. According to the Packaged Facts report Pet Treats and Chews in the U.S., 2nd Edition, dental treats make up 25 percent of the treat and chew market sales. 

Still, with so many options to choose from—from treats to water additives to toothpaste and toothbrushes—pet owners in the market for the latest in natural dental care often turn to pet specialty retailers for guidance. Brett Foreman, owner of euPAWria in Owego, N.Y., recommends several methods for effective pet dental hygiene. 

"We encourage chewing of specific toys or bones/antlers, and then we introduce the use of toothpastes and toothbrushes from a young age," he said. "For dogs with tartar and plaque buildup, we sell the ProDen PlaqueOff. It’s a great product—all natural and easy to use."

Marjorie Murray, marketing coordinator for The Missing Link Products, a brand of W.F. Young, in East Longmeadow, Mass., said the company is seeing more natural products that are "dental plus," with benefits beyond plaque and tartar reduction.  

"Skin and coat health along with support for joints and mobility are some key additional benefits," she said. "There is great potential in providing even more productive natural ingredients, like probiotics for digestive health."


Call Attention to Dental

Pet specialty retailers can promote dental hygiene products in several ways.

Michelle McPherson, marketing director for TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo., recommends proactive outreach to consumers to drive awareness of the dental category. 

"Once pet parents are in-store, ensure the dental products are easy to find and promote with in-store events and promotions to increase conversion," she said. "Education is also important. Provide training for retail partners so they can communicate the benefits of a dental regimen to pet parents who walk in their stores." 

Brad Gruber, COO of Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N.Y., noted that not only should sales associates be prepared to chat with customers about dental products, but retailers can also use other customer touchpoints to drive home the message.

"Store personnel should be well educated in all of the products in this category so they can be a knowledgeable resource to the pet parents looking for direction and advice on what products fit their needs best," Gruber said. "Having pertinent information about pet dental health up on the store’s website is crucial for today’s millennials searching for information, and having brochures available in-store for consumers is important as well."

At euPAWria in Owego, N.Y., owner Brett Foreman makes it a point to discuss the benefits of dental hygiene with customers. 

"We generally discuss dental health on a daily basis with our customers," he said, adding that National Pet Dental Health Month, which is February, is a great time to promote natural dental products. "Prevention is important."

New Products

An Expanding Universe of Options

The variety of dental hygiene products for pets runs the gamut from treats and chews to water additives to the traditional method of using a toothbrush with toothpaste. This year, manufacturers focused on offering new products that make dental care easy for pet owners.

TropiClean Pet Products offers a complete line of no-brushing solutions for a healthy mouth and fresh breath, and the company recently introduced Fresh Breath by TropiClean Dental Chews. 

"We’re excited to introduce three new flavors that dogs love: Banana, Blueberry and Peanut Butter dental chews," said Michelle McPherson, marketing director for the Wentzville, Mo.-based company. "The unique chewy texture simulates brushing with each bite. Our gluten-free [and] grain-free Fresh Breath by TropiClean Dental Chews are expertly crafted in the USA and made with natural ingredients like green tea leaf extracts, natural mineral SHMP and coconut oil."

Earlier this year, Health Extension Pet Care relaunched its Dental Bones. 

"You’ll find them in new and distinctive stand-up pouches that complement the imagery of our newly designed dog food bags," said Brad Gruber, COO of the Deer Park, N.Y.-based company. "We offer our Dental Bones in small, medium and large sizes—a size for every dog. From a consumer-demand standpoint, we offer several different flavors such as Peanut Butter, Cheese, Fresh Breath and Probiotic Yogurt. Our long-lasting dental bones help support a pet’s dental health with natural ingredients that help reduce plaque and tartar formation."

Scott Reinhardt, vice president of sales and marketing for SwedenCare USA in Poulsbo, Wash., noted consumers continue to seek natural alternatives to harsh chemical additives in dental applications. 

"Our latest offering—PlaqueOff System Dental Care Bones, has been very well received by the consumer, as a product that aids in oral care hygiene by the abrasive action of the unique chew," he said. "We use natural, grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, natural ingredients."


Sights in the Store

When displaying natural dental products, industry insiders recommend that pet specialty retailers have a permanent on-shelf location and multiple secondary locations. In addition, insiders say, the communication on the display should highlight product benefits and simplicity of use.

"The key is to disrupt the pet parents’ shopping experience, driving visibility and awareness," said Michelle McPherson, marketing director for TropiClean Pet Products in Wentzville, Mo. "The secondary locations can display products in high-traffic areas or areas near related products. For example, a Fresh Breath by TropiClean Drops clip strip could be hung near the water bowls to connect the products together, or near the register for an impulse purchase."

Brad Gruber, COO of Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N.Y., said endcaps dedicated to dental products are a great visual way to merchandise products in this category, allowing consumers to see the various options that best suit their needs. 

"Signs and shelf-talkers should always be incorporated into the endcap as a visual tool to help draw the attention to it," Gruber said. "Clip strips of [our company’s] various Dental Bones should be hung throughout the store, the dog food aisles and the treat aisles and virtually any and every aisle as a cross-merchandising tool. Counter displays at the register make a great vehicle for impulse sales."

Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore., draws attention to its natural dental products in a unique way.

"We have a sign with a large tooth on it," said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer. "It reminds people that dental health is important and makes them think more closely about buying something new."

Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, features a dental endcap where she groups dental products together—treats, toothpaste, toothbrushes, gels, etc. 

"It brings attention to a need the customer may not have thought of and conveniently displays them all in one place," she said. 

"I have a 6-foot-long display table at the front of my store where I display monthly specials. For Pet Dental Health Month, we display some of our favorite dental products on that table and put them on sale," she added.