Consumers’ desire for products that are made in the USA continues to grow as pet owners increasingly see the value of buying goods made and sourced in the U.S.
Python Products in Milwaukee has been manufacturing its products in the U.S. since the company was founded, said president Lance Reyniers, adding that U.S.-made items inspire brand loyalty in consumers.
"Retailers are finally starting to listen to the consumer that these products are wanted," he said. "The consumer today does research online and finds out what’s out there and what different manufacturers are posting about products. It makes a big difference. They know what they want."
Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis, said the more transparent a company can be, the better, adding that regulatory compliance is important and helps to protect consumers.
The U.S.-made distinction is particularly helpful when it comes to edible products. Andrea Margelis, manager of Pets Naturally in Traverse City, Mich., said made in the USA is a must these days when it comes to treats and food, especially because the U.S. has stricter standards than many countries.
"Pet parents are becoming more educated and want to make sure they are giving the best products to their pets," she said. "With so many recalls occurring, pet parents are leery of products that are not made and sourced in the USA."
Estella Lam, chief merchant for California-based Muttropolis, a two-store operation with locations in Solana Beach and La Jolla, said the stores only carry food that is made and sourced in the U.S. or Canada. But demand for domestically made product is not limited to edibles.
"We get requests for USA-made for anything that comes into contact with a dog’s food or mouth in some way," she said. "We are also able to offer many bedding and apparel items that are made in the U.S., which our customers appreciate."
Sue Tasa, director of education at Pet Food Express, a chain of stores in California, said the stores get many requests for made in the USA products such as toys.
"We’ve seen this as a certain subset of our current customer base and believe it is one that is slowly growing," she said. "Price can sometimes be a factor that limits sales in this category, but those seeking out this feature are usually less price sensitive and are more willing to pay a reasonable premium for a toy made in the U.S."
True Dogs, a Boulder, Colo.-based company, produces dog toys under the brand names of SodaPup, USA-K9, Industrial Dog and Mutts Kick Butt, and specializes in U.S.-made products.
"The made in the USA trend continues to grow and broaden," said Adam Baker, founder of True Dogs. "Whereas in the past, made in the USA largely applied to the categories of food and treats, now it extends into the dog toy category. After all, dog toys are products that dogs put in their mouths, and pet parents want to be sure that the products are durable enough and safe enough for their pet to use."
Gaining Customers’ Attention
While demand for U.S. manufactured product is growing, it is still important to promote these products in-store, and both pet specialty stores and manufacturers are upping their game to make sure pet owners understand what makes these items desirable.
Estella Lam, chief merchant for California-based Muttropolis, a two-store operation with locations in Solana Beach and La Jolla, said the store highlights made in the USA products on the company’s website to make it easier for customers to find these items.
Manufacturers also are spreading the word. Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis, said the company provides as much information as it can on its packaging to highlight its made in the USA products, and it offers an online learning module for store associates to learn more about its products.
"We are also available to consumers via our website, social media and by phone, and have experts on staff to answer any questions that come up," she said, adding that Whitebridge’s upcoming relaunch of its Dogswell brand treats will be supported with marketing collateral. "New signage and consumer brochures will be available in time for our new launch and will help retailers answer any immediate questions their customers might have."
True Dogs in Boulder, Colo., has doubled down on its commitment to American manufacturing.
"We have accelerated our pace of new product introductions, bringing new products to market every month under an umbrella of brands that serve multiple channels of distribution," said Adam Baker, founder of the company. "Through manufacturing innovations, we are able to accelerate the new product development cycle and reduce costs in order to offer high-quality domestic products at a range of competitive price points."
In the back half of 2017, the company introduced its second brand, USA-K9, which offered 13 all-new SKUs. This year, it introduced two SKUs in the SodaPup product line, including a coffee cup treat dispenser and a Lifesaver chew toy, and it will debut its Industrial Dog product line this spring.
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis is planning a major relaunch of its Dogswell brand of made in the USA meaty treats in 2018, including Jerky, Soft Strips, Tenders and Grillers.
Additionally, the company will release a line of skin and coat products, supplemented with biotin, zinc and omega essential fatty acids, available in unique jerky proteins such as New Zealand Lamb and Norwegian Salmon.
"All of the Dogswell meaty treat products are made in the USA at a company-owned SQF3 certified manufacturing plant, located here in the Midwest," said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing.
Milwaukee-based Python Products now offers 0.75-inch and 1-inch Airline Tubing, available in clear and black in 50-foot boxes, expanding its selection of the quality tubing in North America. The tubing is perfect for uses such as plumbing aquariums and ponds, according to the company.
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis is supporting its upcoming product launches with attractive off-shelf display options, which Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing, noted are among the most effective ways to merchandise and bring attention to new products.
Adam Baker, founder of True Dogs in Boulder, Colo., said that while it is not essential, he believes having a made in the USA section of the store or one in toy displays makes it easier for consumers to find these products.
All Python Products have the American flag proudly displayed on them, and Lance Reyniers, president of the Milwaukee-based company, said he encourages pet specialty retailers to put the products in a primary location.
"And if retailers won’t do that and put us next to an offshore product, I suggest using an American flag in the space," he said. "They shouldn’t be scared to put a sign up saying they sell and promote products made in the USA."