Consumers are becoming more informed about the value of proper oral hygiene for their pets, both for the sake of improving their health and freshening breath. This rise in awareness is driving sales of natural dental products, as discerning pet owners seek safe and effective oral-care solutions.
Scott Reinhardt, vice president of sales and marketing for SwedenCare USA in Poulsbo, Wash., said many oral-care applications are loaded with chemicals that are hard to pronounce, so it is important for pet specialty retailers to know what they are selling.
Fortunately, many manufacturers are supplying the market with a variety of options for shoppers seeking natural solutions.
Pet owners do not have to use chemical-laden dental products when they can safely clean their pets’ teeth naturally, said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pura Naturals Pet in Seattle.
"Customers are looking for healthy solutions with their canines’ dental care," Creed said. "It’s important to know what ingredients are beneficial and what you don’t need, which is why we researched ingredients and spoke with veterinarians."
Kristen Watson, area manager for TailsSpin Pet Stuff, a Bentley’s Pet Stuff Co. with stores in Georgia, said some of the latest trends when it comes to all-natural dental products are gels, water additives and individual dental chews.
"Customers don’t want dogs with stinky breath, and they are usually looking for a quick fix to remedy the problem," she said. "We’ve been selling a lot of the water additives. It’s very easy for the consumer to add a capful to the dog’s water bowl for the day. Another very popular item are dental chews like Whimzees. They offer different shapes and sizes suitable for all dogs, and these chews do a good job of cleaning plaque off of the teeth and creating fresh breath."
Elizabeth Lewis, owner of Canine Carousel Pet Boutique & Salon in Ashburn, Va., said that customers are interested in products they can put in their pets’ mouths while they sleep so the products can work all night.
"We also have good luck with the sprays and gels that work on the teeth in the daytime," she said. "People are more interested in these products, and we’ve noticed a rise in sales."
Rory Flynn, store manager for Feed Rite Pet Supply in Lincoln Park, Mich., said natural dental products is a big category for the store.
"We especially find interest in anything with a more holistic
approach or American made," Flynn said.
Fresh on the Market
James Brandly, content writer and public relations manager for TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., said there has been a noticeable increase in pet owners seeking natural ingredients, products that are made in the USA, and options that are both effective and easy to use.
The company recently introduced its Fresh Breath Dental Chews.
"[These are] gluten and grain free and expertly crafted in the USA," he said. "The unique chewy texture and natural ingredients help remove plaque and tartar with each bite."
Pura Naturals Pet created Organic Dental Solutions in time for National Pet Dental Health Month in February.
"The kit comes with a nonslip-grip canine toothbrush that is free of phthalate, latex, BPA and BPS," said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for the Seattle-based company. "The Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Toothpaste Gel is all about the healthy organic ingredients. This product is a co-brand between Pura Naturals Pet and Radius, a recognized innovator of premium personal care products."
Merrick Pet Care in Amarillo, Texas, introduced Merrick Fresh Kisses last year, a natural dental treat designed to clean dogs’ teeth and freshen breath at the same time.
"It features a new-to-the-category double-brush design to clean teeth by removing plaque and tartar during the chewing action of the treat," said Betsy Berger, communications manager for the company. "It is the only dental treat to be both grain free and potato free. They are made with all-natural ingredients and, like all Merrick treats, are safely cooked in the USA with no ingredients from China."
A Standout Assortment
There are many ways to merchandise dental care products in pet specialty stores, but manufacturers and retailers agree that visibility and accessibility are key to any merchandising strategy.
Natural dental products should be displayed in high-visibility areas such as endcaps or by the cash register in order to generate interest and spark inquiries, said Scott Reinhardt, vice president of sales and marketing for SwedenCare USA in Poulsbo, Wash.
Canine Carousel Pet Boutique & Salon in Ashburn, Va., has most of its natural dental products on the counter near the register, said owner Elizabeth Lewis. Having products by the register increases the likelihood that customers will see them, pick them up and start reading the packaging, Lewis said.
Feed Rite Pet Supply in Lincoln Park, Mich., caters to a millennial crowd and tries to catch customers’ attention by keeping oral-care products behind the counter.
"About 75 percent of our customers come in for holistic dog food and don’t have time to waste, and this is a great way for them to notice the items and look at it," said store manager Rory Flynn. "I like to hand them the products when discussing things. If they are holding it, there’s more of a chance they will buy it."
Kristen Watson, area manager for TailsSpin Pet Stuff, a Bentley’s Pet Stuff Co. with stores in Georgia, agreed that merchandising natural dental products next to the register is a smart idea.
"Single chews are a good add-on item for customers at the register," she said. "Having a conversation with the customer and being available to assist them in choosing the right product for their needs is also a good way to sell more."
Retailers should tell a story with merchandise by promoting the dental category with signage that is informational, clear and concise, and illuminates the benefits of good dental care for the pet, said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Seattle-based Pura Naturals Pet.
Elizabeth Lewis, owner of Canine Carousel Pet Boutique & Salon in Ashburn, Va., said that sometimes the best marketing is done face to face.
"Talking with customers is the best way to get them interested; not everyone knows that these products are out there and what they can do," she said.
Rory Flynn, store manager for Feed Rite Pet Supply in Lincoln Park, Mich., said a lot of customers have questions about the products and that the staff is prepared to answer them the best they can.
"You still want the customer to think for themselves, because they know the pet better than we do and experience things firsthand," Flynn said. "The pet owners are the ones who feed them and see the changes in their dogs. You educate them and get feedback from them so you have a broader sense of how it’s working."
The store also displays toothpastes, gels and water additives in its health care aisle, and individual dental chews are incorporated into its chew bar.