Slithering Down to the Bottom Line

After years of booming sales in reptiles, especially lizards and snakes, and a slew of new product introductions aimed at the burgeoning market, the pace of growth seems to have leveled off this year.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t increase sales from the reptile department—pet shop owners are heading back to the basics (if they ever left them in the first place) to make departments more efficient and profitable, and they’re always looking for new products.

In recent years, this especially means better lights.

Ryan Gittman, owner of Underground Reptiles in Deerfield Beach, Fla., calls lighting an “essential” that always sells well in his store. The increased awareness of lighting is thanks in part to a years-long effort by pet retailers to educate consumers about the correct way to light a reptile cage to provide the animal with the right amount of UVA and UVB, plus warmth for basking where necessary.

To answer the growing demand, the reptile products industry has stepped up development of lights to make them more cost efficient and smaller. The ZooMed line of ReptiSun T5 bulbs, for example, are perfect for terrariums, said Robert Coral, CEO of The Serpentarium, Inc., in Elk Grove, Calif. They produce strong light and the UVB many daytime reptiles need to thrive. ZooMed also produces a line of mini-compact fluorescent bulbs with UVB radiation that can be combined with basking heat lamps for an energy-efficient set-up.

“They’re really cool,” Coral said.

New product innovations aren’t limited to bulbs. Reptile manufacturer Exo-Terra recently introduced an easy solution for the pesky problem of keeping crickets. The Exo-Terra Cricket Pen is an all-in-one product for keeping and dispensing crickets—an included dispensing tube makes it easy to move crickets from the pen to the reptile cage.

While having the best products is important, it’s vital to create the right atmosphere in the store. This includes hitting the basics: a knowledgeable staff, healthy animals and a clean store.

“You need nice set-ups,” Gittman said. “Don’t cheese out on the set-ups. Unless people walk into the store and say, ‘Man, that looks nice,’ they won’t buy. You have to have a nicer set-up than they have at home.”

For some animals, especially those that are territorial and need to be acclimated to their cage-mates, like frogs, this can mean having a viewing-only set-up and keeping the actual animals for sale in the back of the store. For others, like the very popular bearded dragons and ball pythons, this can mean having a “sample” set-up, with less elaborate tanks of animals for sale. It’s even better if the sample set-up shows the animals in a tank configuration that is available for purchase, whether it’s a ZooMed or Exo-Terra tank kit.

The Serpentarium has taken this one step farther. The facility is a combination “living reptile museum” with rare and unusual animals on display for tourists and a full-service pet shop.

Both businesses are revenue-producing, and one supports the other: museum customers are invited to buy some of the animals they see on display, and pet shop customers can get inspired by the more intricate museum displays.

– Jon VanZile

Light Up the Tank

The science behind LED lighting is constantly evolving, much to the delight of manufacturers within the aquarium industry.

And, as the technology improves, so do the products. It’s a trend that has manufacturers, retailers and hobbyists excited to see what comes next. But, that doesn’t mean the LED products available right now are subpar by any means, as there are some pretty amazing lights on the market.

LED lighting has come a long way in just a few short years, according to Tim Plafcan, senior product manager for United Pet Group, which manufactures Marineland products.

“This is the first year that it has really become mainstream,” Plafcan said. “We are seeing most people using LED for their aquariums. And I think we are just at the start of LED. There is so much more to come.”

While consumers and retailers alike will have to take a wait and see approach to finding out what’s next for LED technology, they certainly aren’t shying away from the products available to them now.

“The consumers are really embracing these lights,” Plafcan said. “And they’re being used for all different types of tanks.”
Just a few years ago LED lights weren’t advanced enough to be used to reef tanks, because it was too difficult to get the correct amount of lighting and heat coming from them, Plafcan said. But now, it is one of the top choices for reefs.

One product seen quite often in the industry is Marineland’s Reef LED Aquarium Lighting System from United Pet Group. It has 460nm blue and 10,000L white LEDs that can be controlled by a timer, so you can give consumers’ tanks the proper lighting at the right time of day.

The product was also recently upgraded to include a new dispersion lens over the blue LEDs to provide a better mix of light.
United Pet Group’s Marineland also offers a product perfect for customers who are tired of seeing a bulky light fixture sitting atop their tank.

The Hidden LED Lighting System brightly lights the aquarium without you having to see an actual fixture. It literally brings the light to the inside of their tanks.
These are good for freshwater, saltwater, and reef tanks, making for a very versatile product. Some other benefits of this product include bulbs that never need replacing, reduced cord clutter, powerful light with energy and cost savings, and a night light feature.

New Products

Further proof that LEDs are constantly evolving comes from Rolf C. Hagen’s Fluval brand, which launched a new series of these lights at the Global Pet Expo in February, according to Damian Hall, marketing and events manager for Rolf C. Hagen Corp.

“They look great,” Hall said. “We have LEDs for all types of aquariums. One of the best things about them is that they actually mimic the light from the sun, so they promote the growth of plants and corals.”

Hall agreed that LEDs have come a long way the last few years, and should continue to advance technologically in the future.

“When they first came out you just had a bright white light,” Hall said. “The color spectrums weren’t exactly what you needed. As the technology has improved they have been able to improve the light temperature and vision spectrum. And this is still something that’s evolving.”

Many Options

The series Fluval launched at the Global Pet Expo include three different types of LED products: Ultra Bright LED strip lights, Sea Marine and Reef LED Strip Lights, and Aqualife and Plant Performance LED Strip Lights. All of the lights come in a variety of sizes, so they are available for most tanks and aquariums.

Fluval Ultra Bright LED Strip Lights have three rows of LED lights. These LEDs consume much less energy than twin-tube strip lights, so they help consumers save on their electric costs. They’re also much smaller and compact, making it easier for hobbyists to move clean tanks and move around them. These lights are ideal for fish-only marine tanks or freshwater low-light planted tanks, providing superior color rendering and a natural shimmer effect.

Fluval Aqualife and Plant Performance LED Strip Lights are made for freshwater aquariums — particularly heavily planted tanks, according to Hall. These strips give a balanced combination of multiple LEDs for optimal photosynthetic activity, plant growth and viewing.

The full-spectrum lights provide five  unique LED band waves, high CRI values for accurate color rendition, perfectly balanced lighting, and 120-degree light dispersion for full area coverage and uniform lighting.

Fluval Sea Marine and Reef LED Strip Lights are made for saltwater aquariums and provide optimal photosynthetic activity, coral growth and viewing.

Another manufacturer making waves in the LED trend is AquaticLife, whose LED 0.5W Freshwater Light Fixtures are a prime choice for showcasing plants and fish in aquariums. These fixtures are colored red, white, and blue, are available in four different sizes, and feature broadcast reflectors with a “dimple” design that diffuses LED light evenly throughout the aquarium.

Other exciting features of this product include an expandable design that allows up to four fixtures to be linked together (hardware included), adjustable width frame mounts that hold the fixture securely above the aquarium, a durable on/off rocker switch for convenient lighting control, and a cUL-approved low-voltage power adapter that provides metered electric to ensure a long life for the light.

Expanding Interest

As LEDs continue to become a mainstay in the aquarium industry, they’re also starting to take over in another area — ponds and outdoor water features, said David Kelly, vice president of product management at Aquascape, a company known for water garden and backyard pond products.

“There are a lot of LED products and options,” Kelly said. “It allows for customers to be flexible with what they want to do.”
Kelly said he has seen a trend of LED lighting taking over outdoor ponds and water gardens for a number of reasons: electrical savings, bulb life (most LEDs will last up to 5 years before needing a bulb replacement), less maintenance and smaller sizes that allow for more creativity with setups.

One of Aquascape’s more popular products is the Pond and Landscape Light Kit (LED), which is a “high quality, yet affordable LED lighting system for small water features,” according to Kelly.

It can be used in or out of water and is ideal for highlighting focal points within a water feature. The 1-watt bullet spotlight’s powerful output and small size make it very versatile. The kit includes everything needed to create a beautiful nighttime focal point in any water garden or traditional landscape.

LED lighting is booming in both the aquarium and pond industries, because of the energy it saves, the small compact sizes it comes in and the beautiful yet powerful lighting it provides.

– Bill Kolbenschlag

Less Is More

As owners become more cognizant of what they are putting in their bodies, they are also becoming more aware of what they are giving to their pets.

While many times dog and cat treats get all the attention when talking about the natural category, there is a strong consumer base looking for the same human-grade, no preservatives or additive treats for their bird, too.

With natural treats gaining more and more popularity, large and small companies alike are jumping on the bandwagon.

“What makes a treat ‘natural’ is that it contains no artificial colors, no added sweeteners and contains real fruits and vegetables,” Mary Ellen Kaminski, merchandising manager for Drs. Foster & Smith, said. “Baked Birdie Munchies are baked cookies made in three delicious flavors — Cran-Blueberry, Tropi-Fruit Medley and Veggie Delight — that are received well by birds.”

These biscuits are sized appropriately for larger breeds, but are easily broken into small bite-sized pieces for smaller birds. They come in handy when using treats for training purposes, cutting down the time between the bird’s desired behavior and the reward.

The Tropi-Fruit flavor includes fresh ingredients such as mango and papaya, while the Veggie Delight features split-pea, pumpkin, and sweet potato. Regardless of the flavor, Baked Birdie Munchies contain no added sugars or dyes.

Another natural brand carried by Drs. Foster & Smith is Harrison Power Treats, Kaminski said.

Harrison Power Treats have certified organic ingredients for the pet owner who wants to provide a well-rounded treat,” she said. “These treats include Brazilian red palm fruit oil, nuts, seeds, veggies and more. They are formulated to support skin and plumage health.”

The small sized treats provide an extra boost of energy for birds who are weaning, going through a diet change or who are recovering from illness or injury. Other ingredients found in the Power Treats are alfalfa and spirulina, which offer a balance of fatty acids and antioxidants to aid the bird’s immune system.

Using natural treats helps to round out a bird’s seemingly bland diet and acts as an exciting reward when training. Since seeds are high in fat, offering fresh fruits and vegetables aids in balancing a bird’s nutrition.

Fresh foods are a staple of an avian diet, but can get messy or spoiled if left out too long. Natural treats, in biscuit or pellet form, provide an alternative while containing the same vitamins and minerals in compact morsels.

“For birds that are challenged with obesity, treats can be low calorie yet satisfying in the way of taste,” Melanie Allen, avian product specialist for the Rolf C. Hagen Corp., said.

Dr. Greg Burkett, DVM, from The Birdie Boutique, recommends treats from the Lafeber Company.

“The company has excellent quality control and provides only the freshest products,” Burkett said. “I also recommend Goldenfeast products. Each blend contains 30-40 ingredients, all human grade and fresh. Roudybush also offers a selection of healthy treats, too, like Tuscan Recipe and Orchard Harvest Soak and Cook mixes.”

Goldenfeast boasts a laundry list of unprocessed ingredients in each of their avian treat products, some of which include soy beans, chick peas, green cabbage, Goji berries, red and green grapes, and chives.

Each bird owner is different, and an exact treating schedule is dependent on the species.

“Treats are a great way to interact with your bird, but remember, treats should make up less than 10 percent of your bird’s daily intake,” Kaminski said.

The bottom line remains the same. Treats are a great way to spice up a bird’s diet and provide physical interaction, bonding and mental enrichment when used during training exercises, but don’t overdo it.

– Erin Salley is a freelance writer and customer service manager at Wyvern Consulting LTD. She lives in Pennsylvania with her fiance and all her rescue animals.

The Grass Is Always Greener

The popularity of the cat garden category has surged over the years.  Whether you focus on offering live catnip and grasses, self-growing kits or merely seed refills, there is a wide variety of options available to stores.

Interest in greens varies greatly amongst felines, but it’s important to provide cats with a way to increase their fiber intake and satisfy their natural instinct to graze, or your houseplants may be the first to fall victim.

Theories on why cats eat grass range from increasing their intake of vitamins and minerals, to assisting them in passing hairballs through the consumption of fiber. Some experts consider cats’ grazing to be a behavioral trait, while others believe it to be an instinctual response and consider it an important part of their cats’ diets. Whatever the reason for making grasses available to cats, there is no denying that most enjoy some fresh grass.

Most retailers divide cat grasses into two categories, live and self-growing.  There are benefits to both.

Be Flexible

Having green plants in the store is eye catching and helps stores feel more natural, which can inspire consumers to purchase higher quality foods. However, live plants require maintenance, including water and light, which some retail locations cannot provide.

“The most important thing for retailers to know is that live cat grass is a perishable item that under ideal conditions has a shelf life of 2-3 weeks maximum,” Connie Baldwin, sales manager of Priscilla’s Pet Products, Inc., said. “This is why we feature other options, such as our self-growing garden kits. They hold the visual appeal of live grasses, but have a longer shelf life.”

But, it doesn’t work for every store.

“After learning that the natural light in the store did not really support the position of live grasses, we decided to stock growing kits rather than live grasses,” Gayle Fritz, owner of All Cats and Dogs in Chico, Calif., said. “They have a longer shelf life and sell a little more quickly.”

When stocking container grass kits, the type of container becomes the focus.

Priscilla’s Pet Products offer an easy to maintain pot, and Smart Cat offers a reusable box in their popular product, Kitty’s Garden. Both are appealing and easy to use, and both come with replacement seed packages. Other options include “Garden in a bag” which features catnip and barley grass that is USDA-certified organic, and Four Paws “Vita-Greens.”

“While a growing number of health conscious consumers are enthusiastic about including wheat grass and other greens in their own diets; many lack an understanding of the specific applications and benefits when it comes to the overall health of our animal friends,” Bell Rock Growers, a certified organic grower of live wheat grass and the pioneer supplier of green nutrition products for pets said.

Rich in chlorophyll, antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients, wheat grass has been nicknamed “liquid sunshine.”  In fact, according to agricultural scientist Charles Schnabel, regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on cereal grasses, one pound of wheat grass is equivalent to 23 pounds of garden vegetables.

What to Stock

Whether you choose live or self-growing plants, the type of grasses stocked is important.

“Our special blend of grains are formulated for the highest level of benefit to the animal, as well as creating a sweeter taste,” Baldwin said. “Wheat grass alone can be far too rich for digestion and may cause digestive problems.”

Imperial Cat has chosen to focus on oat grass.

“We chose oat grass because it is extremely easy to grow, and cats love it! It’s a safe alternative to house plants, some of which can be poisonous to pets,” Kristie Hamilton, director of sales for Imperial Cat, said. “We purchase certified organic oat seeds for both our Easy Oat Kits and Easy Grow Oat Seeds. This ensures there are no harmful pesticides present in the grasses.”

Consumers enjoy the idea of natural grass in their home, and with a product this easy to grow, it’s little wonder why.  There is a certain amount of education that must take place. Consumers rarely come in to purchase cat grass.

“It’s something that people need to be educated about,” Abby Bishop, store manager at Only Natural Pet in Boulder, Colo., said. “Many manufacturers offer programs to educate stores on product lines, knowledge that we can then pass along to consumers.”

Pet Greens Garden from Bell Rock Growers makes it easy to grow certified organic greens right out of the bag. Ready-to-use containers of Pet Greens Live Pet Grass and Live Catnip are also available in pet stores nationwide.

The answers to the best type of cat grass vary, but with a multitude of grasses on the market, the thing that all vendors agree upon is that it should be naturally grown, chemical- and pesticide-free, certified organic, and a nutritious blend that is appealing to felines.

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who has covered the pet industry for nearly 16 years. She is the founder of and an award-winning author.

Brain Teasers

When it comes to purchasing dog toys, consumers are concerned with a number of different factors like safety and durability, but are also looking for items that stimulate their pet’s brain, keeps them occupied when they are away and helps prevent chewing problems.

The leading drivers in this segment include games and puzzles, innovations in material and design, and an emphasis on durability. While consumers are becoming more concerned with both eco-friendly products and those that are made in the USA, they have yet to emerge as heavily in the dog toy market compared to the other factors. In fact, the dog toy market is one where consumers seem unwilling to spend a little extra for those added features. This is likely due to the fact that toys may not last a long time.

Among emerging trends in the dog toy market, game and puzzle toys are experiencing a surge in popularity. Dog owners are concerned about keeping their dogs busy, and there is an emphasis on mental stimulation, especially for dogs that are left alone for long stretches of time.

For example, KONG launched a line of Genius toys. Designed to appeal to a dog’s natural curiosity, the KONG Genius toys combat boredom and separation anxiety. Two styles are available in three sizes. Either one can be used as a treat dispensing toy, or they can be connected together to increase the challenge.

Traditional toys appeal to consumers. Toys like ropes and balls will remain popular as reliable favorites. PetSport USA manufactures tennis ball toys, including Tuff Balls, Fling Its and Flavored Mini Balls. The brand also makes the Laser Chase Toy and Laser Chase Toy II. These are toys that pet owners have come to rely upon. Another traditional toy is the plush, stuffed figure.

Patchwork Pet offers a range of sizes, colors, and figures of the traditional squeaky plush toy. The different designs — from a hedgehog to a monkey to toy box classics — are available in different sizes to appeal to owners of small to large breeds. Their Tuff Puff is an example of a toy that fits  both the traditional type of toy with the added toughness.

Be Unique

Whether it’s innovation in design or innovation in material, dog owners look for new products that deliver unique features. In some cases, these new features can prolong the life of a toy. In other cases, the innovation helps make a toy more appealing to the dog or the owner. Dog toy manufacturers who innovate new products will gain ground in the dog toy market.

Quaker Pet Group has two lines of innovative dog toys: Hear Doggy! Ultrasonic Dog Toys and goDog Toys with ChewGuard Technology. The Hear Doggy! toys are patent-pending toys that have an ultrasonic squeaker that only dogs can hear. From an innovation standpoint, the Hear Doggy! toys have been successful for Quaker Pet Group.

The goDog Toys with ChewGuard Technology are among the best-selling dog toys in the country for QPG. The company has put inside the plush what they call their ChewGuard Technology, which is a durable nylon mesh material, similar to what is found in running shows, sewn inside the plush to add a layer of durability. This technology is also being added to the Hear Doggy! toys to make the ultrasonic toys more durable.

Consumers also look for durability in their dog toys. Dog toys require replacement more frequently than other pet products like, for example, dog beds. Consumers want their toys to last to get more value for their dollar. Further, owners are concerned with the safety of toys that are easily destroyed, especially since small pieces can be ingested accidentally.

Get Tough

West Paw Design manufactures a range of eco-friendly toys that are all made in the USA, two factors that also appeal to a certain segment of consumers. The toys include active dog toys, durable dog toys for aggressive chewers and soft plush dog toys.

Zogoflex is tough rubber-like material used to make the durable dog toys.  Buoyant, pliable and designed to be recycled, Zogoflex creates virtually no waste during the manufacturing process. The line comes with a guarantee of a free one-time replacement or refund if the toy gets destroyed. While this guarantee appeals to consumers, according to West Paw Design, less than 1 percent of the toys are returned.

Coastal Pet Products also has a durable line of toys, the Rascals canvas line. Constructed of heavy-duty nylon, the toys are designed to withstand hours of play. Each of the four designs is created to stimulate a different type of play. The Saucer Tosser is a flying disc, perfect for games of chase. The Tug toy has a handle on either end so that owners can play with their dogs or, in households with multiple dogs, the dogs can play tug together.

– Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who covers pets, the pet industry and lifestyle topics. She lives in Indiana.

Natura Pet Expands Recall

Natura Pet is voluntarily expanding its March 29, recall of dry pet foods because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.

The expanded recall now includes all dry pet food products and treats with expiration dates prior to and including March 24, 2014. An entire list of the impacted products can be found here.

Sampling conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of salmonella in additional dry pet food and a cat pet treat.

“In an abundance of caution, Natura is also recalling product made in the surrounding timeframe,” the company said in a press release on their website. “This action affects dry pet foods and treats only; no canned wet food or biscuits are affected by this announcement.”

The affected products are sold through veterinary clinics and select pet specialty retailers nationwide and in Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Costa Rica, as well as online.

Those who have purchased these pet foods should discard them. For additional information, consumers may visit For a product replacement or refund call Natura toll-free at 800-224-6123. (Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST).

Going Green

More than ever before pet supply manufacturers and retailers are taking steps to be as environmentally conscious in their operations as possible and spread the message to customers and vendors alike that the planet is as precious as their pets.

These efforts are demonstrated in a myriad of ways, from a wider adoption of recycling programs to retrofitting facilities with energy-saving lighting systems.

One company trying to make a difference is West Paw Design, a manufacturer of dog and cat toys, bedding and apparel. This Montana-based firm sets a high standard in the industry for sustainability in its manufacturing processes, products and facility design.

Among their numerous sustainable efforts, West Paw Design has developed an injection molding process that minimizes waste to as low as 2.4 percent; uses special fabrics and fills, milled from recycled soda bottles in its products; repurposes scrap material to produce new toys, many of which are 100 percent recyclable; utilizes recycled material in its shipping materials, packaging and office supplies; sources its materials locally and regionally whenever possible; recycles all paper, plastic, metal and cardboard and stocks each workstation with recycling bins and reclaims and reuses banana boxes to store finished goods.

Spencer Williams, owner/president of West Paw Design, creates dog sweaters made from reclaimed cotton that would otherwise go to waste.

“We use recyclable or recycled products whenever possible,” Spencer Williams, owner/president of West Paw Design, said. “For example, our Reknitz dog sweaters are made from reclaimed cotton. This means that, although cotton is a crop resource, ours are made from crops that were already grown, harvested and would otherwise go to waste.”

The company also implemented the latest developments in energy efficient design when it built its facility in 2001. During construction, crews set the building on piers to avoid pumping ground water, which would have impacted the water table.

Additionally, exterior walls were built with movable and reusable 10-foot panels. During a recent building expansion, the business reused the walls, reclaiming 175 tons of concrete.

“As a business owner, it makes sense to save money and reuse materials we had already paid for and to repurpose things like boxes for storage,” Williams said. “We strive to keep costs down so that we can pass these savings on to our customers. It just so happens that our money-saving efforts that are good for business can also be good to the planet. It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.”

A Growing Trend

Teresa Miller, owner of Treats Unleashed, a retailer of natural pet foods with seven locations in Missouri, says she aimed to turn her stores green as a continuation of her eco-friendly efforts at home.

“I had been doing these practices in my own home, but wanted to extend them to my business,” Miller said. “So I began encouraging staff members to reuse and recycle, as I believe these are good human practices.”

In addition to recycling their office supplies with local animal shelters — which receive money from a third-party for the used goods — Treats Unleashed has instituted a “bag buyback” program that has eliminated the need for plastic grocery sacks during the checkout process.

Customers are given sturdy paper bags, each equipped with a handle, that they are encouraged to return to the store at a later visit for a credit toward a future purchase.

“These paper bags are more expensive — we could have easily bought cheap plastic bags,” Miller said. “Yes, the upfront costs are higher, but in the long run, this benefits our environment and our community. There’s been very good reception to this program so far.”

Petsense, a pet supplies/services retailer based in Scottsdale, Ariz., with 69 stores in 21 states, is also preparing to introduce reusable shopping bags in all of its stores.

“It makes economic sense to print and utilize these bags for all stores and drive down the cost of production,” Joshua Patterson, sales and profit manager for Petsense, said. “It’s important for retailers to understand the advantages that green practices can deliver, from cost savings to a positive image in the community.”

One Step at a Time

To help lower overhead and reduce her carbon footprint, Laurie Morse-Dell structured Pup’s Place LLC, a Michigan-headquartered online retailer of non-toxic dog products, as a business where she and her employees work remotely from their homes.

The company uses eco-friendly shipping materials from Globe Guard made from 100 percent post-consumer waste and recycled paper. Large products are shipped directly to customers from the manufacturer to avoid duplicate packaging and shipping, and the staff uses electronic files to avoid paper printing, except for the shipping invoice.

In addition, the owner donate to the group, 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1 percent of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide.

“There was never a question in my mind, if I was going to operate a business, it was going to be green,” said Morse-Dell. “In my previous careers, I was always the one setting up recycling bins for paper and aluminum cans in the office. Knowing my business is now eco-friendly and making a difference is very gratifying to me.”

Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company in Wheeling, Ill., said one of the ways she likes to measure a company’s green efforts is to determine how much garbage it creates.

“We produce very little — the equivalent of a standard family 60-gallon can each day,” Sher said.

The company uses recycled packaging materials, has an on-site recycling program, supplies its water from its own on-site well, uses green trays for food cases, employs LED lighting with motion-activated lights to conserve electricity, equips its motors with variable frequency drives to use less power and uses steam to heat its plant, and cook its food products.

Also, 90 percent of the ingredients used are sourced locally within 50 miles of its plant, and product labels use 80 percent recycled material and soy-based inks.

“Evanger’s was originally a farm,” she explained. “As a tribute to our roots, we wanted to continue the sustainable practices started 78 years ago, as this gives us the most control over the quality of our products. Ultimately, most of our green efforts save the company money. For example, we get rebates on the cardboard we recycle, so we have an additional incentive to maintain being green.”

Spreading the Message

They say no man is an island, and no company operating greener is an island, either. Ask Kathi Molloy and she’ll tell you that businesses that demonstrate environmental responsibility encourage consumers and other businesses to do the same.

“We feel that implementing sustainable practices resonates with more customers today,” said Molloy, co-owner and founder of Bark Place, a pet spa and boutique in Boston, Mass., which installed reclaimed furniture and eco-friendly flooring made from recycled rubber in its store. “People appreciate that you’re making green choices in your operations and ‘walking the walk.’”

Bark Place also uses energy-efficient lighting, paper bags, recycled materials and a local company that enables customers to shop via codes on their phone and receive emailed receipts.

“By alerting your customers to your green practices, you spread awareness of the need for environmental consciousness,” Sonia Charry, marketing director for in Scottsdale, Ariz., where recycled paper and packaging materials are routinely used, said. “That alone magnifies the impact of each green decision.”

Morse-Dell believes going green is a wise decision because, ultimately, it’s better for the buying public, “and in the end it’s the consumer who will make the decision who to buy from. As the entire spectrum of green products grows, consumers will increase their awareness and demand for green products in other industries, especially the pet industry, since pets are such an important part of many families’ day-to-day lives. If your company isn’t making a conscious effort to be green, consumers will sway to those that are.”

Set an Example

By setting a good example in your market, you can also influence other area companies to do the same, says Nathan Kaufman, web content manager for One Stop Green in Houston, Tex., which sells eco-friendly products.

“One business makes a difference because it forces its competitors to act or potentially miss their opportunity,” Kaufman said. “Also, compared to homes, many businesses consume more resources and generate more waste, so a business going green makes a bigger difference.”

Ecologically-minded companies should not only practice what they preach by operating greener, but should also expect the same of their business partners, said Jennifer Woofter, president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting in Herndon, Va., which provides green consultation services for pet supply firms.

“Consider creating a vendor code of conduct with terms and conditions that state, if I buy from you, you have to meet certain criteria for quality, reliability and sustainability,” Woofter said. “This creates expectations for suppliers that they should have an environmental management system in place and that they seek to use recyclable and biodegradable materials whenever possible. This may also provide some measure of legal protection if you choose to stop doing business with a vendor that, for example, you’ve learned is dumping toxic waste into the river behind its facility.”

A Worthwhile Investment

Webster cautions that opting for sustainability in efforts such as producing locally and manufacturing eco-friendly products is an investment that can be expensive, especially initially, for a business. Consequently, the goods and services often have to be priced higher to the consumer than many alternative choices.

“However, there is an audience that is willing to pay for this,” she said. “Those people who are committed to purchasing green products understand what we have and embrace our products.”

Going green “almost always comes with a higher up-front cost. The benefits are seen down the road,” Kaufman said.

For instance, when calculating the return on investment of installing an LED lighting system in your business, it can take two to three years to recoup that initial investment, but in the long run, it will save money.

Don’t let fears about going green possibly being a passing fad or a trend with a short shelf life stop you from adopting sustainable measures in your operations, Morse-Dell said.

– Erik Martin

Pet Ownership Rises Among Singles

In the past few years, the rise in pet ownership for singles, especially men, has increased, according to a recent survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

According to their U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, while it’s still more common for a pet to be owned by a family, pet ownership among single people increased by 16.6 percent, from 46.9 percent pet ownership in 2006 to 54.7 percent in 2011, compared to just 1.47 growth in pet ownership for families.

The number of single men living alone with pets increased by 27.7 percent, from 34.3 to 43.8 percent, while the number of single women living alone with pets increased by 22 percent, from 46.8 to 57.1 percent.

“It’s interesting to see that more and more single people are discovering the comfort and satisfaction that owning a pet can offer,” Dr. Douglas Aspros , president of the AVMA, said. “Pets are powerful, positive influences on our lives, offering unique emotional, psychological and physical health benefits to their owners.”

Talking Dog Video Goes Viral

They’re at it again.

The non-profit campaign Pets Add Life, founded by the American Pet Products Association, released a new video, “Dog Wants a Kitty,” that features a “talking” dog, who wants a cat.

It is part of their ongoing campaign designed to demonstrate the joys and benefits of responsible pet ownership and encourage increased animal adoption.

Pets Add Life recently won an award for their talking guinea pig video.

Making a Difference

Publisher’s letter as published in the April 2013 issue of Pet Age.

It’s the simple things that make the biggest difference to our planet and to retail stores.

Many people tend to think going green, or changing your store to be greener, is an expensive, time consuming process. We decided to write a story about taking the green initiative, bettering your store and leaving behind a better planet.

I first noticed the beginning of going green when I was traveling to the Interzoo show in Nuremberg, Germany almost 20 years ago. It was amazing to see how much recycling was happening in Germany; it was something I didn’t see as prominent over here in the United States at the time. It was all the little things that you don’t think about when you’re in America.

In the morning I like to go get a cup of coffee, as most of us do, and the wonderful people behind the counter always hand it to me in a plastic cup with a nice holder on it so I don’t burn my hand. Then when I finish with it, I throw it away. It’s something so simple that I never gave a second thought to it.

When I got a cup of coffee in Germany, I was amazed to see it come in a ceramic mug. It forced me to not only sit down and enjoy the cup of coffee but also it allowed the coffee shop to reuse the mug.The company now saves money by not buying cheap cups that are thrown away into our landfills. It’s the very little things your company can do to make our world better and to help your company.

It’s a very slow process, but we are getting closer to a greener planet every day. In the Pet Age office we are a single-stream recycling place. All of our recycling goes into one bin and is sorted out later on. I think this is a great system that stores can do because it takes away the work, and complaints, people may have about recycling and makes it easier than ever. In the employee lunch room there are recycling bins to encourage people to recycle.

Even at my own home, we are doing the single-stream recycling system, and it’s astounding how much we recycle. We fill two huge bins twice a month of just things that are recyclable.

Recently, I went on a tour of Phillips Pet Food & Supplies, where they are taking a lot of steps to go green. They recycle everything from plastic shrink-wrap, to cardboard, even the pallets. After seeing it, I realized that if a company this large, with this many moving parts, can do so much to help our planet, I can do my part and so can our office.

In this month’s cover story you can find details, pointers, advice and everything else you need to start the green process. It’s a long process that will take time, and it won’t happen overnight, but it’s imperative that we all start doing our part to help the world and the environment. I promise you that when you do, you will not only see the benefits in the town or community you live in, but also in your store and your bottom line.

– Craig Rexford

Economic Health of the Pet Industry

Editor’s letter as published in the April 3013 issue of Pet Age

We just got back from this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., and are overflowing with story ideas, new products to share and industry news.

It was the largest Global to date, spanning the equivalent of 13 football fields, with a record number of exhibitors and booths. This is a good sign for the pet industry.

More exhibitors and booths mean new, innovative products to carry in your store and to introduce to customers. Speaking of that, Dave Ratner touches on why it so important to seek out these new items in his column this month.

A bigger-than-ever trade show is also good for the overall economic health of the industry. It means established companies are spending money to showcase their products, on travel and innovation.

For example, the legendary brand Field & Stream teamed up with Hartz to introduce a new product line geared toward the outdoor dog, and PetSafe introduced a record number of new products at Global.

These brands would not be doing that if there was a chance that the pet industry was going to be slowing down.

It also means more people are seeing the economic benefits of being in the pet industry, as new companies, like Zututh and Buddy’s Line, enter the pet space. These are new companies that are placing their bets on the pet industry and looking to win big.

When deciding how to cover the trade show, we took the approach that we were your eyes and ears of the show. If you couldn’t make it there, we wanted to bring the show to you.

We did that mostly through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tout, to be exact. We also took thousands of photographs and shot dozens of video interviews with everyone from high-profile executives to industry experts. More information about them can be found on our 24/7 page.

In this issue we talk about sustainability and being eco-friendly. These are words that are thrown around a lot, not just in our industry, but across the board.

A new group called the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, is trying to bring more awareness about the topic to the pet industry. They were pounding the pavement during Global getting their message across and already have several industry powerhouses, such as Cardinal Pet and KONG, signed on as founding members.

Their mission is to guide pet companies toward sustainability by encouraging multi-party collaboration, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers. We talked with Chris Bentley, co-founder of the group, about why he thought this was an important move for the pet industry and why companies should get involved. Our interview with him will be available on our website April 1.

Pets Are Good for You

Over the past year, the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation’s online hub, HABRI Central, has collected extensive research and data that shows seven areas of strong scientific research evidence of positive impacts animals have on human health.

The areas include: allergy and asthma immunity among children, Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Research exploring the human-animal bond is still a relatively new area of study, and we are pleased with the compilation and strong amount of research that has been conducted on these health issues thus far,” Bob Vetere, president of the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation, said. “We look forward to continuing the momentum and our commitment to supporting research in multiple fields, to help solidify that pets provide people with dozens of health benefits and much more than just love and companionship.”

Among key findings in these seven fields, the new research shows that contact with companion animals can have physical benefits to those with PTSD, including the release of oxytocin and endorphins in the brain; pets can have a protective effect for young children from allergies later in life and patients recovering from heart surgery have a better rate of survival if they own a pet.

Housing research on these health issues and more, HABRI Central serves as an online comprehensive bibliography and repository of scholarly material and a platform for peer-reviewed content for those involved in human-animal bond studies. Managed by Purdue University, this centralized research and resources are available at

Founded by the American Pet Products Association, Petco Animal Supplies Inc., and Zoetis, HABRI is a broad coalition of companies, organizations, entities and individuals whose mission is to achieve formal, widespread scientific recognition that validates and supports the positive roles of pets and animals in the integrated health of families.

Motivating Your Employees

Employee engagement is a management concept, popularized especially over the past two decades, that seeks to measure and enhance employees’ emotional investment in their jobs and in the mission of their employers. Pursued successfully, employee engagement is considered a way to produce a more bought-in and committed team.

Can employee engagement be successfully implemented, and can it deliver results, within the operations of a pet retailer?

Scott Ahlstrad, senior vice president of talent management for Broadview Heights, Ohio-based Right Management, says he has seen it work in many retail settings.

“In retail, I think of it almost as a silver bullet,” Ahlstrad said. “Most programs around the work force that would be initiated – coaching, assessment, on-boarding, performance management – have upside to the retailer. But that upside has some limit to it. What I love about employee engagement is that it’s been analytically proven to be a strong impact on all kinds of key business metrics that retailers care about – productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, shrink, quality and speed, as well as a lot of intangibles.”

Employee engagement involves extensive surveying to gauge employee attitudes and the depth of their emotional investment in their jobs and in the mission of their employers. Some critics of the practice have suggested the notion is overwrought and merely the latest trendy management idea that doesn’t tie that closely to bottom-line results. Writing in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Liz Ryan says many employees can do everything that’s needed of them without much emotional investment at all.

“People plug into their work at different levels and for different reasons,” Ryan wrote. “Your IT people, if they’re like lots of techies, may connect to their work at the level of the most interesting problems they’re asked to solve. They may have no clue about your company’s mission and goals, and care even less. That’s fine. You don’t need them to memorize the company’s fight song. You just need their brains and energy plugged in where it counts.”

She also criticized engagement surveys as insulting to employees, and as indicators that real-world communication in an organization is not where it should be.

But Ahlstrad disagrees, saying that most employees want to be engaged – but especially at the retail level it can be difficult to find managers talented enough to do it effectively, while it’s far too easy to find bad management practices that have disengaged employees.

“Most managers who are in retail shouldn’t be managing,” Ahlstrad said. “If you look at management studies, you’ll find that maybe 20 to 30 percent of people who are managing are born for that, having the innate natural talent to do that and do it well. Another 20 percent can do that job if you surround them with the right tools and practices. A third to half the managers shouldn’t be managing people.”

Employee engagement, Alhstrad said, can help overcome those issues in a retail setting, but it can’t be one-size-fits-all.

“We tend to take a lowest-common-denominator approach to engagement,” Ahlstrad said. “Companies genericize their approach to the lowest employee. You have to realize that there are things from the top down, from senior leadership, that have to be addressed in a systematic way that also affects your employees. Engagement is both a bottom-up and a top-down sport.”

Mary Knight, a talent management consultant with Gallup, recommends three strategies companies can use to integrate employee engagement into their regular routines:

Define the engagement goal in real-world terms. This means everyone on the team can recognize the metrics that would define success or failure in meeting the goal.

Talk with team members one-on-one about engagement. This helps to break down the resistance some employees might feel to discussing issues in a group setting.

Empower team members to lead team engagement sessions. This seeks to take advantage of the employees’ intimate knowledge of issues on the floor.

“The ultimate goal of any engagement effort must be to transform the culture, so the primary goal of a company’s engagement efforts should not be creating an impact plan,” Knight said.

-Dan Calabrese

Ferret Business

We recently talked with Peter H. Reid, president and COO of Marshall Pet Products, based in Wolcott, N.Y., about his company and their commitment to quality ferret products.

Q: How did you get into the pet industry?

Reid: I got into the pet industry a few years after college. It definitely wasn’t planned, it gets into your blood, you know you are helping to make the lives of children, families and pets great. 

Q: Marshall Pet is a leader when it comes to ferret and small animal products. Tell us about this niche market, and why it’s important.

Reid: Marshall has been involved in the pet business since 1939, breeding and raising world class quality ferrets.  About 21 years ago, we entered into the product and nutrition business to make sure anyone who decides to own a pet ferret will have the very best products to care for their new pet. Since then we have expanded into the dog, cat and equine markets.

The ferret market fills an important niche. It is often a first or second pet to a household.  It is smaller in nature, but large on personality, which is why they are so popular.  They are great for all demographics and adapt well to the lifestyles of the household they are in.

Q: At one point you had a ferret in the office, who got the chance to test out all the new toys before they hit the market. What inspires the new products, like the recently introduced two lane ferret racetrack the company introduced at Global Pet Expo?

Reid: Yes, we often will have ferrets at the office and more recently focus groups all over the USA and Canada that get to test out new ideas and give us excellent content and feedback.

Anyone and everyone at Marshall provides feedback on new ideas and concepts, we tend to be quite the creative group, of course it is ultimately the ferrets that give a thumbs up or thumbs down on product concepts. The racetrack was definitely a compilation of many and it is a riot to race ferrets, great for the home, or store or distributor events.

Q: Giving back to the community is a big part of the culture at Marshall Pet. What are some of the ways you do this?

Reid: Giving back to the community definitely has deep roots at Marshall. It really started with our founder Gilman Marshall and his wife providing that example to all of their employees, and since then it has been engrained in our corporate culture for over 70 years. Everything from schools, fire departments, community events, animal shelters and special events. We give back to those who dedicate so much time to our success; it goes both ways.

Q: Tell us about your business philosophy, and how it impacts the way you run your company.

Reid: My business philosophy is quite simple; find the right people with the right character and skills and let them do their job without being overbearing. Treat people fairly and with respect and they will do the same for your business and its customers.  We have a great team that is willing to do what it takes to serve our customers and future customers.


Bravo! Voluntarily Recalls Pet Food

Bravo! is voluntarily recalling three of its raw diet frozen foods for dogs and cats, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

This recall is being issued out of caution, the company said, because while these products tested negative for pathogens by an independent third party prior to distribution, they were run on the same day or an adjacent day to a product that did test positive for pathogens.

The product that tested positive has been 100 percent contained and is not subject to this recall.

The recall involves only:

  • 5 pound Bravo! Chicken Balance frozen raw diet chubs (tubes) with “best used by” dates of 3/6/15 and 3/12/15 imprinted on the side of the plastic casing. There were 26 cases with the 3/6/15 date distributed nationally and 36 cases with 3/12/15 date were distributed nationally.
  • 2 pound Bravo! Chicken Blend frozen raw diet chubs (tubes) with the “best used by” date of 3/21/15 imprinted on the side of the plastic casing. There were 67 cases with the 3/21/15 date distributed nationally.
  • 5 pound Bravo! Beef Blend Burgers bags with the “best used by” dates of 3/21/15 and 3/22/15 imprinted on the back panel of the plastic bag. There were 47 cases with the 3/21/15 date distributed nationally and 55 cases with the 3/22/15 date were distributed nationally.

No other products or sizes are affected.

The recalled product should not be sold or fed to pets.  The company has received no reports of illness in either people or animals associated with this product.

For more information on the Bravo recall, visit the company’s website, or call toll free 1-866-922-9222 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST).


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