The cat litter category continues to grow as new offerings hit the market and manufacturers focus their efforts on solving pet owners’ leading litter-related issues.
"The key trends in the cat litter category are focused on addressing specific problems consumers are facing: clean paws, 100 percent dust free, zero mess and picky cat, to name a few," said Jean Broders, senior brand manager for Muscatine, Iowa -based Kent Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter. "With the exception of picky cat, they all focus on cleanup."
For many consumers, litter can be something of an afterthought until a problem arises, said Geneviève Provost, director of marketing for Intersand in Boucherville, Quebec, Canada.
Manufacturers in the category, therefore, are striving to make litter and related tasks as convenient, neat and safe as possible.
"Consumers don’t want to spend time or think about the daily chore of cleaning their litterbox," Broders said.
Dust is the No. 1 complaint from consumers, according to Josh Wiesenfeld, founder and CEO of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Boxiecat. He noted that odor is a close second.
"[Dust] causes health concerns and can contribute to allergy and respiratory issues as well as accumulate on furniture and around the litterbox area," he said. "Odor is the next most important consumer concern—it can be embarrassing to have a litterbox smell in the home and can also cause a cat to avoid using the litterbox."
Michael Levy, founder of Pet Food Express, a multistore chain in California, said his cat customers come in asking "about tracking, clumping properties, odor control and how much litter to put in their box."
Pedro Bastos, CEO of Petfive Brands, which has U.S. headquarters in Pembroke Park, Fla., reported seeing increased demand for clay alternative litters made from coconut, grass, hemp, bamboo, green tea and cassava.
"It’s part of the public’s own need/want to use something that’s healthier and better for their pets," Bastos said. "Millennials and generation Zers, especially, are actively seeking products that are pet, planet and people safe."
Performance is a focal point for consumers as well, with premiumization a driving force across many pet categories, including cat litter, Broders said.
"As consumers have become more educated and continue to consider their pet as a family member, they are demanding better-performing products," she explained. "More consumers are leaning towards natural tendencies on their product choices; safe and healthy are definitely a priority."
How long a litter will last is one aspect of performance customers often ask about, said Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas.
"People don’t want to have to lug 40 pounds of litter into their house all of the time or have to dump the litterbox often," she said. "They want a litter that lasts longer."
Addressing customer concerns, manufacturers continue to offer new litter formulations.
"We offer six different formulas in the pet channel, [and] all of our formulas offer long-lasting performance," Broders said. "Our Original Series formulas offer overall high performance, whereas our Advanced Series formulas are purpose-built to solve specific problems. All of our products meet the consumer trend of wanting safe and natural products for their homes, and they are willing to spend a little bit more for that added benefit."