The trend in healthful eating has swept both the human and pet markets, and the avian food category is no exception. Manufacturers and retailers are finding that bird owners are seeking foods that provide optimum nutrition while also being palatable.
"Due to an increasing awareness and knowledge of companion parrot nutritional requirements by avian veterinarians and professional aviculturists, more and more avian caretakers know that formulated diets are key in diet choices for their birds," said Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. "One of the leading causes of poor health in our parrots is malnutrition."
At Vitakraft Sunseed in Bowling Green, Ohio, marketing and trade sales specialist Lisa Kniceley also has noticed a movement toward healthful ingredients in the avian treat category.
"Growing trends include using ingredients that appeal not only to the bird, but also are familiar to the pet parent, including healthful items such as quinoa seed, mountain ash berries and pumpkin seed hearts," Kniceley said.
Ronaleigh Wheelwright, owner of For The Love of Birds in Sandy, Utah, also has seen a growing trend toward optimum nutrition among birdkeepers.
"Bird owners want foods that are all organic and packed with vitamins and nutrients," she said. "It seems like the bird world is just coming in to being healthy. Products with no grain or wheat and no genetically modified organisms have come into the bird owner consciousness."
New to the Category
Recent product introductions in the avian food category reflect the trend toward healthful diets for birds.
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., recently introduced Tropican premium formulas designed for all life cycles of companion parrots.
"Tropican is a scientifically developed extruded diet developed by Hagen Avicultural Research Institute (HARI)," said Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist. "Tropican has been fed exclusively to many members of the HARI Flock since 1986."
As a complement to these formulas, Hagen also has introduced the Tropimix Enrichment Blends line, featuring an edible fruit and nut blend fortified with Tropican. Tropimix is available in three blends and is designed as an enrichment food for all species of companion parrots, Allen said.
According to Allen, these diets were developed to simplify nutritional challenges associated with companion birds.
"HARI is known globally amongst the avian community for the research facility’s contributions and advancements in parrot care," she said. "HARI’s main focus, and longest ongoing research project, is on longevity studies in parrot nutrition on formulated diets."
Sue Brown, senior vice president of sales and marketing for F.M. Brown’s Sons in Sinking Spring, Pa., described two recently released avian food products.
"Tropical Carnival Zoo-Vital Extruded Daily Diets are rice based with no corn, wheat or soy," she said. "Rice is a more expensive ingredient, but it is easier to digest and will not cause allergic reactions that some birds may have to corn, wheat or soy."
The other recent F.M. Brown’s release is Tropical Carnival Natural Gourmet Food.
"The natural category is growing rapidly in the human and pet market due to an increase in consumer awareness of the health benefits provided by natural foods," Brown said. "Brown’s has incorporated unique gourmet ingredients, bright natural colors and intense flavors into every Tropical Carnival blend."
In order for bird owners to appreciate the healthful ingredients that go into many of today’s new avian diets, customer education is key. That means retail sales staff must have a thorough knowledge of the products they sell.
"Retailers should have an understanding of the benefits of the products they offer on their shelves," said Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. "The best way they can sell a product is to offer it to the birds in their store."
F.M. Brown’s Sons offers educational classes for retailers to help them understand the company’s products.
"It’s very easy to gain information regarding the care of birds in the stores and also on communicating the basic needs of birds to consumers," said Sue Brown, senior vice president of sales and marketing for F.M. Brown’s in Sinking Spring, Pa. "Retailers can go to the website petstorepro.com and sign up for classes for associates and managers."
It’s also important to be educated in order to help customers decide what type of bird to get in the first place based on their lifestyle, Brown added.
"We want them to have a positive first experience so they keep the bird and take care of it," she said.
Display and Marketing
Retailers and manufacturers use a variety of techniques to display and market foods in the avian food category.
"We are well stocked and offer a large array of food," said Edna Bresnaham, owner of the Crystal Parrot in Southampton, Mass.
"People like having choices, and we help them with making the right ones," she added. "We’re very meticulous about keeping consistency on our shelves."
At the Birdie Boutique, a Durham, N.C., store and avian veterinary clinic, a well-organized display also is important.
"We keep the shelves very clean and neat," said retail administrator Deborah Corley. "Sometimes we use placards. I think there’s a trust between us all, so we don’t have to sell anything because we’re part of a hospital. Clients put their pets’ lives in our hands, so they know we’re all about quality and safety."
Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., recommended taking advantage of marketing materials available from bird food manufacturers.
"Retailers need to take advantage of support materials that are consumer friendly," she said. "Many customers these days are self-educated, but they still rely on the expertise of a pet product retailer in making a product selection for their pets."
|Why first impressions matter|
Although birds are the ones eating the food provided by their owners, the owners are the ones making the purchase. This is why the way bird food looks is important.
"Appearance is probably one of the most important aspects when considering a food for their birds," said Gail Shepard, director of marketing for ZuPreem, a brand of Premium Nutritional Products, in Shawnee, Kan. "Also, humanization of pet food is very popular, and bird owners want to be assured that their pet’s food is nutritious and also looks attractive and appealing, just like their own food. This trend is based not just on sight, but also smell, and many bird owners also report that they taste the food they feed to their birds as well.
Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist with Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., has observed that sometimes appearance seems more important to bird owners than to the birds.
"However, a food should look appetizing from a bird’s standpoint and of course be fresh, in-date," she said. "In reality, a bird is more interested in taste and texture coupled with familiarity in flavor. That’s instinctual!"—AP