Manufacturers in the flea and tick control product category report a shift in purchasing trends. More dog and cat owners are educating themselves about product safety and efficacy, and the results are increased sales of natural products, experts said.
"We’re starting to see a move towards natural, chemical-free flea and tick solutions," said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for Wentzville, Mo.-based Cosmos Corp., maker of the TropiClean brand, which offers a line of natural products in the category. "Pet parents are seeking a safe yet effective solution to combat fleas and ticks. Over the past seven years, the purchase of natural, chemical-free flea and tick solutions among dog-owning households increased by 300 percent [according to the APPA National Pet Owners Survey 2017-2018]."
Jan Hopper, owner of Living Pawsitively in Lafayette Township, N.J., said her customers take the initiative to educate themselves, and many prefer the natural products.
"Just like they’re more interested in knowing what’s in their pets’ food, they’re more interested in learning about the products they use on their pets," Hopper said. "There are lots of pet parents that simply don’t want products with chemicals."
However, plenty of pet owners prefer traditional flea and tick control products that might have a more proven and long-held history of efficacy. For example, for customers at Pet Pros in Rockledge, Fla.—a climate in which ticks thrive—it’s crucial for products to work, said Janet Monaco, owner.
"Effectiveness is No. 1," she said. "Since we don’t get enough of a freeze in Florida to kill off these pests, it’s a year-round concern, and pet parents want a product that works."
Offering options is often the wisest strategy for retailers.
"We have both all-natural and not-all-natural products to choose from," said Bethany Lontz, store manager of The Blue Dog Pet Shop in Lemoyne, Pa. "Most pet parents already have their minds made up before they even come into the store about their feelings toward the natural or not-natural debate. It’s mostly a matter of giving them choices that coincide with what they already believe is best."
Whether owners choose natural flea and tick products or not, insiders said the end goal remains the same—safe and effective products that protect their pets from these pests.
"It can often be challenging to know what [is best] when it’s a category with varying opinions," Lontz added. "But both sides are just trying to do what’s best for their pets, which is protect them from dangerous fleas and ticks with the products that are best for them. We believe the best thing that we can do is give our customers choices."
Choices in flea and tick control products range from shampoos and sprays to spot-ons, collars, combs and more. And these can cover treating the pet, the home and the yard.
"Per the APPA survey, [in 2016], 64 percent of dog owners purchased some type of flea and tick product, with topical solutions being the most popular," Brandly said. "Flea and tick collars, tablets and shampoo are also leading products.
"We’re [also] seeing depressed use of some flea and tick products that may be the result of more pet parents purchasing natural, chemical-free flea and tick products," he added. "The category has tremendous growth opportunity and continues to offer numerous solutions."