Top2Top Conference Rises in Registrations

The registration for PIJAC’s 2014 Pet Industry’s Top2Top Conference increased by 39 percent.

“We are so pleased to see such strong growth in the Top2Top Conference attendance,” Mike Canning, president and CEO of PIJAC, said. “Last year’s conference was a huge success and saw an increase of 20% over the previous year. We are excited that so many industry leaders are coming together to network and forge the future of the industry together.”

PIJAC will feature top thought leaders and subject-matter experts to talk about their wisdom and insights.

“We are honored to have 32 distinguished companies sponsoring the Top2Top Conference for 2014. These companies understand the importance of working together so the industry can continue to thrive,” Canning said. “The World Pet Association has signed on as the Diamond sponsor, with both American Pet Products Association and Petco as Platinum Plus sponsors of the event this year. We are thankful that all of the sponsors are committed to creating a stronger industry.”

The 2014 Pet Industry’s Top2Top Conference will be held April 23-24, 2014 at the Amelia Island Plantation in Amelia Island, Fla.

Made In USA Pet Expo for Retailers

As more and more pet retailers look for a ‘Made in America’ seal, a new boutique pet expo, will showcase American crafted and sourced pet products.

The NYC Re-tails & Sales Expo will be held Wed., Feb. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Honda of Manhattan 627 11th Ave. in New York City.

This invite-only event will bring retailers and pet product makers face-to-face. Each retailer will have a scheduled appointment with each pet vendor on site.

The event is brought to you by Long Island Pet Professionals and Whitegate PR, with Pet Age as the media sponsor.

“As more and more pet retailers look for that ‘Made in America’ seal, we are thrilled to bring you the first ever boutique pet expo, showcasing American crafted and sourced pet products!” Nancy E. Hassel, founder and President of Long Island Pet Professionals.  “This is something that hasn’t been done before and I am thrilled to partner with pet industry expert Dana Humphrey of Whitegate PR to bring this event to NYC and pet retailers and pet product makers face-to-face.”

Transportation will be provided within NYC to invited retailers for this exclusive event.

Press and pet celebrities will be in attendance and VIP tickets will be given to retailers for a surprise event following the Expo.

“The amount of money people spend on their pets is expected to pass $60 billion,” Craig Rexford, vice president and publisher of Pet Age magazine, said. “The industry continues to grow, creating new business opportunities for both manufacturers and retailers. This event is a great opportunity for manufacturers with unique products to connect directly with retailers.”

NYC retailers and members of the media can request an exclusive invite by calling Nancy Hassel at 631-446-1105 or Dana Humphrey at 619-414-9307.

To become a vendor at this B2Bpet expo, email or

Limited space left. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

To learn more about the event or to register as a retailer to attend click here:


PetSafe to Donate to Animal Shelters

For every “like” on PetSafe’s Facebook page it receives from now to Dec. 31, PetSafe will donate one toy to a pet in a shelter.

“PetSafe is proud to support the lifesaving work happening in animal shelters across the country,” Jim Tedford, PetSafe director of animal welfare initiatives, said. “PetSafe products are designed to strengthen and preserve the bonds between pets and their people. Our tagline is, ‘Protect. Teach. Love.’ and those are three words that can also be used to describe what is happening in shelters nationwide.”

PetSafe aims to provide up to 15,000 toys to pets in shelters across the U.S., including: Los Angeles Animal Service, Los Angeles County Animal Service, Miami-Dade Animal Services, Maricopa County Animal Control, New York Centers for Animal Care & Control, Denver Animal Control, Seattle Animal Shelter, Philadelphia Animal Control, Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control and Nashville Humane Association.


PetHub and DDC Form Partnership

PetHub has joined together with DNA Diagnostic Center to help improve animal ownership an identification for stolen animals.

DNA Diagnostic Center is the world’s largest, most experienced private DNA Testing laboratory.

“We are thrilled to partner with,” Randall Smith, national accounts manager at DDC’s Veterinary Division, said. Our DNA testing coupled with their software services for finding and returning lost animals is a powerful tool to keep our four-legged family members safe.”

According to, up to 2 million animals are stolen each year. With PetHub’s ID tags and software services that help return lost animals, adding DNA identification into the solution increases an animal’s chances of getting home.

“I want my dogs and cats to have every chance possible to get home again,” Tom Arnold, founder and CEO of PetHub, Inc., said. “They have PetHub ID tags, microchips, licenses, and now their own DNA reports uploaded to their online profiles.

Better With Pets

I’ve never been to a TED talk, event or conference, but Purina’s Better With Pets summit held last month in New York City is what I would expect it to be like.

It was informative, collaborative, though-provoking, educational, fun and inspiring.

The pet food giant brought together a diverse line-up of speakers for a full day of talks geared toward showing how people and pets are better together. The packed auditorium was filled like-minded individuals from all walks of life including writers, bloggers, corporate employees, pet industry distributors, marketers and more.

Four-time Emmy Award winner and three-time Peabody Award winner, John  Hockenberry, hosted the event, which featured speakers such as their genomics expert Dr. Steve Hannah, who spoke about the importance of studying the canine genome for the welfare of dogs and humans alike;  animal advocate Beth Stern, who talked about the rescue work she does with local shelters and Simon Tofield, the creative force behind Simon’s Cat, an animated cartoon series featuring a hungry house cat who uses increasingly heavy-handed tactics to get its owner to feed it.

Each speaker was engaging, smart and supported the theory that life is better with pets. They put a spotlight the interaction, and relationship, between pets and people.

For me, it was an affirmation of the way I feel about animals and the pet industry. People are better with pets, and our industry, through products such as toys, food, treats and more, helps foster that relationship to make it the best it can be.

Purina has set up a page on their website, where you can watch video of the speakers and watch their complete talks. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Here is short glimpse of what the event was like:




Keeping Ahead of the Curve

We recently spoke with Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing at Cardinal Labs, about the company’s commitment to the environment and the pet industry.

Q: Tell us a little about Cardinal Labs, and the products your company offers.
Denzer: Cardinal is a rather unique company.
On one hand it’s a privately owned company that’s been in business over 65 years that has the ability to be innovative and support their customers quickly.  On the other hand, Cardinal is a sophisticated 21st century company with global reach.
Owner Tony de Vos is in charge of international sales in over 47 countries around the world and oversees the solar powered manufacturing plant and R&D lab.
Cardinal is a leader in the pet industry in converting to solar power and sustainability and is also one of the founding members of the Pet Industry Sustainability Project.  The company has been a pioneer in the use of botanicals in pet products since 1998 and is a leader in making grain free dog food and dog treats.
Cardinal has always been committed to the evolving marketplace.  The company started out making shampoos and over the counter remedies for pets exclusively.
Today, dog food and treats are a much larger part of the business.  They have continually responded as research identified new opportunities to meet the market needs based on the humanization of pets.
Cardinal has been able to grow as an independent pet company because they’ve also been able to create products that filled unique niches and responds quickly. Their products bring something innovative to the table, whether it’s a unique fragrance, a new packaging opportunity, a treat that offers a unique configuration, or a nutrition trend like hypoglycemic ingredients brought on by the growth of canine diabetes.

Q: Cardinal focuses on the relationship between pets and people. Why is that important for the company?
Denzer:  “Devoted to Pets, People and the Planet” is not just a mission, it’s reality. Everyone at Cardinal has pets and loves pets.
Two weeks ago was National Customer Service week. We spent 10-15 minutes every day, as a group, talking about how the whole company can support our customer service department.

Our customers call us and the most important thing on their mind is their dog.  CS is the “front line,” the people that convey our company concern about their pet, and everyone here supports that mission and those people.
Tony, who travels so often, has a “share dog.” When he’s gone their neighbor takes care of the dog, when he’s home the dog is there, and vice versa. Pets provide us with not only an emotional connection but a lot of fun and joy. The bond is very important to those of us who love pets, which is why we want to make the best products for them.
From a business standpoint, we’ve very lucky to be in a business that just keeps growing and growing, and we appreciate that. We’re thankful that we have jobs that support our connection to pets and a company that is successful enough that we didn’t have to downsize during the last 5 years, in fact we grew during bad economic times.
We understand that our customers want the best for their pets.
We believe that a good pet product should be a quality item, that improves their pet’s life, their life and also provides convenience for the family. One area we concentrate on is dog training rewards. We’ve been working on improving rewards for dog training for years, because we know that if a dog is trained to have good manners, it will always be a valued member of the family. It won’t be disposable, it won’t be going back to a shelter.
We try to promote dog training as much as we promote the rewards for people to give their dogs. If families have fun with and enjoy their pets, there won’t be as many shelter dogs.

Q: As a founding member of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, tell us about your commitment to being eco-friendly.
Denzer: Our mission is to be “devoted to pets, people and the planet.” We strive to live up to this mission in everything we do, from the care we provide for pets, to kinds of products we make, the people we serve, the donations we make, the packages we use, the plant we make them in, the carbon footprint we save and the recycling we do.
In 2009, Tony made a commitment to completely upgrade our office, factory and warehouse infrastructures to high efficiency, solar powered facilities. It required taking the buildings apart from electrical systems to air and water systems, machinery, paint, floors, parking lot lights, you name it.  He constructed new buildings as well.  We found that “going green” made “cents as well as sense.”
That’s what the PISC is all about, showing businesses that green resources are now at the point where they have become a wise business decision.  Since we have a sustainable foundation in our buildings, we try to be sustainable in everything we do.
Becoming part of the PISC was a great way for us to learn what other companies are doing that we can do too. We can also help contribute to getting the word out to other companies in the industry about the importance of making our industry more eco-friendly.

Interview With Text From Mittens Creator

If you’re a pet lover, you’ve likely heard of the popular website and corresponding Facebook page, Texts From Mittens.

The humor site written from a cat’s point-of-view is the work of Angie Bailey, who also just wrote the book whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a parody of cats and craigslist.

Pet Age recently talked with Bailey about how she gets the inspiration for the popular site and more.

Pet Age: Tell us how Texts from Mittens got started.

Bailey: I’ve always thought cats doing human things was absolutely hysterical. This is what drove me to write my book, whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a parody of cats and craigslist. I pitched the idea to last February and they approved it. Soon it became popular and became a bi-weekly column. Readers wanted daily Mittens and just last month I created a Tumblr and Facebook  page for Mittens.

Pet Age: Where do you get the inspiration for the witty banter?

Bailey: Cats are just naturally snarky, so it’s not that difficult to imagine a cat doing or saying the things Mittens does. I wanted to give him some quirky human interests, so he became a TV addict, with special adoration for his idol, Judge Judy.

Pet Age: When you started Texts from Mittens, did you ever think it would get this popular, and when you see how  it’s grown, what goes through your head?

Bailey: I guess I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was funny, but that’s not always a guarantee that readers will connect with it. Thankfully, they’ve really enjoyed the Mittens posts. I’ve introduced a few characters into Mittens’ world and there are several ongoing stories. I’m amazed that readers actually follow along and emotionally connect with these characters! On Facebook I mentioned that I imagine Mittens’ voice to be like Stewie from Family Guy. Most people jumped right in and agreed, but a few got kind of defensive and insisted that was NOT his voice!

Pet Age: Tell us a little about yourself.

Bailey: I’m a freelance writer — most of my work is with My first book, whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds came out in September. I also write Catladyland, an award-winning cat humor blog. I have a husband, two teenagers and three cats. I love silly, irreverent humor and am really a 12-year-old boy living in a 43-year-old woman’s body.

Pet Age:  How would you describe Texts from Mittens to someone who has never seen it before?

Bailey: Mittens is a self-serving cat who has unlimited data and way too much time on his paws, so he harasses his mom, grandma, best friend Stumpy and, of course, Drunk Patty, the  ever-annoying neighbor.




It’s All About the Ingredients

We recently talked with Oscar E. Tenorio, product line manager at PureLife 4Pets, about the company’s research and how the line of animal supplements was born.

Q: Tell us how PureLife 4Pets got started.
Tenorio: PureLife 4Pets is a family-owned company that started trading ingredients between the U.S., Latin America and Europe in 2000. In 2009, when I started in the company, I was amazed at all these ingredients and one of them caught my attention. At that time, I just had moved from Charleston, S.C., to South Florida with my Weimaraner “Zizu,” and I think the humidity and hot weather gave him skin issues.
I took a concentrated Omega-3 ingredient we had and started giving it to him after consulting with our vet, of course. After I saw the results, I knew I had to explore more. We spent about 3 ½ years researching ingredients, their sources and designing the best combinations.
In August 2012, we launched four products: Joint Mobility, Antioxidant Protection, Immune Support and Omega-3 Support, which uses the concentrated ingredient I gave Zizu.

Q: Explain how research and testing play a part in your products.
Tenorio: For me, knowing that what we are putting in each product will create a health benefit for our pets is the greatest satisfaction of my job. With help from our lab and third-party testing we can ensure that our products do what we say they do and customers can rest assured that all of our claims and marketing material has been tested and audited.
We are active members of the National Animal Supplement Council, which ensures consumers are buying from a reputable manufacturer. The NASC seal is a privilege that signifies that the member company has been audited for implementation of specific quality-control standards.

Q: As product line manager, what’s a typical week like for you?
Tenorio: A typical week for me is anything but typical, but there are a couple of things I do every week. One is answer any communication from our website; I am actually the person that replies to any questions, testimonials and comments.
I also take part in a weekly staff meeting in which we review the week and plan for the next. I also enjoy going to the industry trade shows and local events, which occur throughout the year.
The amazing thing about this industry is that it is in constant change and there is always something new or improved, so I also spend time every week with the research and development team.

Q: Your slogan is, “when ingredients matter.” How does that reflect your company’s mission?
Tenorio: We chose that slogan because those are our roots: Ingredients. Dealing with the raw materials for over a decade has given us deep knowledge about the industry of supplements and nutraceuticals, and how to put them together to get the most benefit.
In fact, since I started giving the Omega-3 Support to Zizu, he hasn’t had any skin issues. We have received many testimonials from customers that have used supplements before on their pets for either joint or skin issues and they don’t seem to see a difference. But once they try PureLife 4Pets, they are amazed.

Q: Zizu, your dog, has a unique story. Tell us about it.
Tenorio: Zizu was born on June 28, 2006, north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. His mom was adopted the previous year after she lost her home and family to Hurricane Katrina. She was one of the surviving dogs that was left behind during the storm.
A family that had owned Weimaraners before, adopted her, and a year later she gave birth to a litter of six puppies. One of them is Zizu. He is truly my best friend. His personality and character have enriched my life in a way I never imagined.

Balancing Health, Price and Consumer Demand

We recently sat down with Kirk Young, executive vice president of Precise Pet Products, to talk about his role at the company, and their new grain-free products.

Q: Tell us a little about Precise.   
Young: Precise Pet Products was established by Texas Farm Products Company in 1992, at the start of the demand for “natural type” pet foods. Precise launched as one of the first to make natural claims. In addition to natural preservatives, Precise brought chelated minerals and Ester-C to pet food.
This family-owned and operated company has devoted itself to making high-integrity based decisions, which have resulted in some of the highest level and safest pet foods on the market. In 2008, Texas Farm Products brought me on board to accelerate the Precise brand by bringing new formulations, packaging and strategic guidance to propel the company forward while remaining dedicated to independent stores. We are at the precipice of completing that transition.
In 2010, we launched possibly the most advanced pet food brand on the market, Precise Holistic Complete, featuring human-grade ingredients. Ganeden BC30, a top-performing probiotic used in the Holistic Complete formula, is a probiotic I take daily. And now, with the coming relaunch of the original Precise as “Precise Naturals,” we will be updating, improving and strengthening the Precise brand even further.
Precise Pet Products will become Precise Pet Nutrition, reflecting our true business, which is nutrition. We research, we test, we make our foods with nutritionists and veterinarians, we are not investment bankers.

Q: Precise recently launched a new grain-free formula, why did the company decide to start this line?  
Young:    At Super Zoo 2013 this past July, we launched the start of our Precise Naturals line, with two new grain-free formulas. In 2012, we launched our Precise Holistic Complete grain-free formulas, with human-grade ingredients, after years spent researching, testing and ensuring we had the proper protein levels to avoid the growing problems associated with too much protein, as found in most grain-free products.
Our new Precise Naturals Grain Free line carries forward that same thinking, but with economics in mind.

Q: As executive vice president, what’s a typical day like for you?  
Young: My excellent sales team is working every day to spread the word about Precise, bringing our story to the market and educating the public on pet food nutrition. My work is dedicated to listening to their needs and working with them to bring forth the products, promotions, and tools necessary to help them do their job well.
In addition, strategizing consumes a lot of my day because our industry is changing “hyper-rapidly,” not just fast. We must think forward, anticipate trends and hopefully react in time to meet the quickly changing needs of the marketplace. Consumers have become more and more fickle about what they want. Changes are happening rapidly and it is growing more and more difficult to react.
I might also add, sometimes when a food is simply just right, as in the case of our Foundation and Sensicare formulas, you simply do not change it. So thinking clearly, not over-reacting, is part of the process as well.

Q: All of your dry food is made in-house and goes through a series of checks and balances. Tell us about that process.
Young: This would be better answered by Mike Compton, our vice president of quality assurance and nutrition. But in short, having our extensive on-site lab allows for us to conduct multiple point testing of in-bound ingredients, process testing and post-formulation testing. Looking at the numerous recalls over the years, the Precise team has done well and we have been quite fortunate.

Q: What are some of the community-related programs Precise sponsors?  
Young: Precise sponsors numerous community-related programs across every market. My team has authorization for direct decision making to work local community events as deemed relevant, to grow the interest in pet ownership and proper care. From rescue and adoption programs to working with service animals and military dogs, it crosses all spectrums.

Toys From Nature

Every day consumers are becoming more concerned for the health and safety of their pets. This is evident in the food they buy, supplements they purchase, and now, the toys they select.

In general, eco-friendly toys are durable products made from safe, nontoxic materials, and manufacturers continue to make eco-friendly toys, not only for the pets, but for the planet.

It’s part of a growing trend to satisfy the consumer who is not only worried about what their pet is putting in their mouth while playing, but also where that product came from and how it was made.

“The latest trends in natural pet products are items made from renewable and natural materials: hemp, bamboo, recycled and recyclable plastics, etc.,” Kristen Smith, brand ambassador of Planet Dog, said. “These products include both molded and plush toys, interactive and entertaining dog toys. People are trending more toward Made in the USA products as well.”

Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff line of products, which makes up 70 percent of their line, are all made in the USA from recyclable materials.

“All of these products provide a dog many hours of joyful fun, and when they are damaged, destroyed, or just ready for a new toy, they can be returned to Planet Dog at the end of their lifespan,” Smith said. “In addition, we capture all of the excess material in the manufacturing process, any new items that do not meet our quality-control standards, or any colors that are discontinued. We take all of this material and grind it up so it can be made into a new dog toy in our Recycled Line.”


P.L.A.Y., Pet Lifestyle And You, is a premium pet bedding and toy company. All of their beds are filled with their trademarked PlanetFill, which is a polyfiber made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

“Based on the success of our beds, we have launched a variety of plush toys, such as our Garden Fresh and Under the Sea lines, which can help reduce waste and use the same eco-friendly filler in them,” Deborah Feng, director of sales and operations of P.L.A.Y., said. “The nature of our products allow us to make the biggest impact by saving nonbiodegradable soda bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill. We are a pretty young company, but by now, we have already helped save over one million plastic bottles through our PlanetFill filler.”

P.L.A.Y. said developing eco-friendly products has always been one of their key missions because it’s both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

“It’s the right thing to do because climate change is real and we are consuming ever more resources and creating more waste,” Feng said. “We believe, as part of a thriving pet industry, we can make a meaningful, positive impact to our planet through what we do.”

Feng said it’s also the smart thing to do because an increasing number of consumers are more educated about the topic and are demanding or seeking eco-friendly products.

“Often it’s not the sole determining factor for purchase decision, but it does influence these customers’ impression of a product brand or a shop,” Feng said. “It has always been important for both manufacturers and retailers to listen to the voice of consumers, therefore the most obvious benefits of going with the right eco-friendly products is to better serve the needs of those customers.”

Honest Pet Products makes toys of durable hemp and wool. Their hemp products are handmade by disabled adults, and their wool products are handcrafted by impoverished women supporting their families.

Natural Brainteasers

In 1993, Nina Ottosson started her self-named company and traveled around in her van for 10 years, with a bed inside, educating people at dog shows.

“I showed dog owners how and why dogs need to activated mentally, both for fun but also to prevent behavior problems,” Ottosson said. “My philosophy is that a dog has four legs and one head, and all five need exercise and love but in different ways.”

Ottosson developed all of her toys and games herself with her dogs in real life and not by a computer; they also work for cats, ferrets, parrots, rabbits, pets of all kind.

“Since my dogs, as well as other dogs, eat food and treats out of my puzzle games and toys, I have always had a very high standard for the materials,” Ottosson said. “I only use the best materials available, both in wood and plastic. The materials have to be nontoxic, very durable and user-friendly, and recyclable.

“My plastics are made with recyclable PE, PP and TPE. I am currently also testing them for FDA Food Grade. The plastic I use is splinter-free, which means that even if the dog breaks it, it will not be sharp and dangerous. My wooden products are made with certified MDF board, according to the tough CARB II standards, which means that no forests have been destroyed and no formaldehyde has been added in the process. This is a step above the E1 type of fiberboard which is most commonly used, which contains formaldehyde.”

Cat Food Sees Growth in Natural Category

Dog and cat food often get lumped together in a “pet food” category, but in many cases comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. When it comes to the natural food category, that’s even more the case.

While all-natural dog foods have been taking the market by storm with a wide variety of recipes and mixtures to meet the specific needs of dogs, whether it be for allergies, sensitivities or life stages, cat food options have been somewhat limited.

But, the natural, grain-free and specialty foods make up about 16 percent of all food purchases for cats according to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, and the numbers continue to grow. As a result, cat food manufacturers are pushing out new products to help increase sales and meet the growing demand of customers.

A prime example is grain-free cat food products. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they survive on a diet made up mostly of meat, which means many cat foods were already grain-free. But, with gluten-free diets becoming popular for humans, there are more grain-free products in pet foods surfacing as well, which means manufacturers are touting that benefit right on their labels.

Halo introduced a new Spot’s Stew Cats Grain-Free Healthy Weight Whitefish and Salmon product to answer two important consumer trends, grain-free diets and pet obesity issues.

“Our wet foods have always been grain free, but by introducing this new healthy weight formula in a grain free option we’re helping give consumers another option for feeding their cats that matches up with today’s trends,” David Yaskulka, vice president, marketing and communications for Halo, said.

Grain-free isn’t the only place where cat food manufacturers are expanding their offerings. In addition to the popular indoor formulas, all-natural cat foods now have other options for cats’ health.

Nutro’s Natural Choice brand includes formulas for weight control, hairball prevention and finicky eaters. Nutro and Blackwood also provide life stage formulas in their all-natural cat foods. Whether it’s a kitten, adult or senior formula, the products are made with the appropriate amounts of protein and fat for the energy level of the cat.

New Formulas

Manufacturers are constantly researching what’s best for cats’ health and re-working their products to make them better in many different ways. Both Nutro’s Natural Choice and Wellpet’s Wellness Complete Health have recently introduced new and improved formulas.

“In our new formulas, both wet and dry, we have really focused on meat first, to make sure we are meeting the fundamental needs of cats,” Preston Buff, chief natural nutrition officer for Nutro, said.

Wellpet’s new formulation includes meat, whole grains and fruits and vegetables along with supplements including antioxidants, Omega 6, Omega 3, probiotics and controlled ash and minerals.

“Our formula was designed to support urinary tract and celluar health in cats,” Chanda Leary-Coutou, communications manager for WellPet, said.

When it comes to formulating cat food, there’s more to consider than just wet or dry. Cats are notoriously finicky eaters. Some cats like soft food, others like chunky, and still others like to eat by lapping rather than biting and chewing.

When conducting research for their reformulated cat food product, experts from Nutro worked closely with researchers from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition.

“Our primary focus was to find what cats naturally want and need in their diets,” Buff said. “As a result we found that cats want a variety of textures and have introduced four different types of wet cat food products, soft, sliced, minced and chunky with gravy.”

Going Raw

In addition to texture, there’s also the temperature factor.

“When we decided to introduce a raw food especially for cats, we chose to do freeze-dried formulas first because many cats are sensitive to temperature,” Marie Moody, founder and chairman of Stella and Chewy’s, said. “By adding water, cat owners can make the food more palatable.”

Stella and Chewy’s has six flavors of freeze-dried dinners: chicken, turkey, duck, salmon and cod, salmon and chicken and herring and tuna. All are available in 12-ounce bags and a new single-serve pouch that feeds like a 3-ounce can once it’s rehydrated. In the first quarter of 2014 the company is adding a frozen cat food as well.

“We’ve been getting a lot of requests for frozen, and wanted to create more options for people who want to feed their cats an all-natural diet,” Moody said.

Sales of all-natural cat food might take up less of the total market than all-natural dog food for now, but with the innovations from manufacturers, growth of the category seems inevitable.

“People are starting to pay a lot more attention to what they’re feeding their pets, and really caring what they eat in terms of nutrition, and that goes for cats as well as dogs,” Anthony Burrus, communications director, Blackwood Pet Food, said.

Retailers Cannot Afford to Ignore This Growing Category

Reptiles have only recently begun to come into vogue within the domestic pet trade, but in a few short decades, The American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey shows that over 5.6 million homes in the United States have at least one scaly friend within their walls.

Reptilian pets number over 11.5 million in the U.S. alone, demonstrating massive growing interest in frogs, snakes, lizards and more as pets.

The reptile trade has come far since its early years. Less than 50 years ago, the vast majority of the reptile trade came simply through catching animals native to a given region. Pet stores at the time primarily sold wild-caught or imported animals, which were wild-caught themselves. Even zoos and other wildlife refuges were only just beginning to captive-breed reptiles, and few had the facilities or expertise to begin a well-designed captive-breeding program.

However, captive breeding was about to explode and change was swiftly appearing on the horizon.

Individuals interested in reptiles and amphibians were once relegated to small society meetings and hobbyist herpetological societies meeting in people’s homes and in local halls, but soon began spreading into larger and larger venues.

One example of this is the All Ohio Reptile Show, which started in a compatriot’s basement, eventually growing to take up a local VFW hall, then a National Guard Armory, now filling the Lewis Center in Columbus, Ohio once a month with reptiles of all shapes and sizes.

The Early Days

During those early individual meetings, members often attempted to cross-breed animals, seeking rare or even new colorations, patterns, and morphs. Color and pattern has always been a large part of the reptile trade. As an enthusiast, even on a rat snake you’d look for unique patterns or desirable traits that these animals might have.

The ends of these hobbyist herpetological meetings became “mini swap meets” where would-be breeders would trade animals in the hopes to create a truly unique new animal. These breeders began to sell their excess to local pet stores, as well as other reptile enthusiasts.

As one of these breeders, I began expanding my own practice during this period, initially focusing on  Colubrids, a group of snakes which include corn, rat, and king snakes, then expanding into Burmese pythons and beyond. While most breeders tend to focus on one or two species, expansion boomed when I branched into selling leopard geckos in the early 1990s.

With a boom in the market, numerous reptile breeders were able to expand from simply a part-time hobby into a full-time business.

Much of this success came by establishing protocols for breeding animals throughout the full year, rather than seasonally. Reptiles by Mack was one of the first companies to breed leopard geckos year-round, rather than relying on natural cycles. This practice allows breeders to keep up with pet store demand at all times of the year, expanding their market presence to even the largest of pet store brands, while still catering to smaller, home-owned, retailers.

Reptiles by Mack, in that time, has become one of the world’s largest breeders, wholesalers, and suppliers of reptiles in the industry.

Increased Interest

Demand for reptiles since the 1990s has skyrocketed.

Herpo Productions currently lists over 100 active herpetological societies in the United States alone; while APPA reports a 68 percent growth in reptile sales from 1994 to 2008, nearly double that of any other kind of pet over the same period.

Reptile shows have boomed over this period, taking up major convention centers in cities across the country.  Considering this rise in demand, plus a current boom market for ball pythons, a serious retailer cannot afford to overlook reptiles and reptile supplies in their store.

Brian Potter, who owns a reptile store in Orland Park, Ill., said a “surge of sales” at his store immediately following the North American Reptile Breeders Conference, held in nearby Tinley Park, “particularly in terms of specialty food and caging.”

Selling reptile supplies is often far more profitable than selling the animals themselves; one could compare the practice to that of a home printer:  Even if you’re not making money selling the printer, you’ll more than make up for it on the ink.

The reptile industry has certainly come far since the days of small meetings and one-on-one trades for animals.  As the demand for unique reptiles and amphibians stretches worldwide, a wide variety of reptiles is a must-have for any pet store.  Over the coming series of articles in this column, we will specifically examine all parts of the reptile trade, such as various reptile groupings, housing options, lighting, food sources, and more.

Flea and Tick Control Becomes Year-Round Problem

With the emergence of pet travel, the theories behind flea and tick protection have changed, because there is no longer just a season of flea and ticks. Instead it has become a year-round battle.

“I would say that over the past 5 years, the flea and tick ‘season’ seemed to be longer each year,” Stephanie Boone, founder and CEO of Wondercide, said. “There are certainly peak times and geographic locations, but with pets traveling more with their families, and rescuers driving cross-country to save animals from euthanasia, the seasonal lines have blurred.”

When administering flea and tick protection year-round, products that work and are safe, are some of the first things consumers think of.

“Oftentimes, consumers are misled and oversold falseness on the safety aspects and efficacy of products,” Peggy Smith, media and marketing director for Bio-Groom, said. “Educating consumers on the true facts about products versus false selling points will help them make wiser decisions.”

Jeff Fowler, national sales manager of Natural Chemistry, said the trend continues to grow and many consumers are looking for safe and effective products to solve their pets’ flea and tick problems.

“Consumers first need to focus on treating their yard and or kennel so that their pets do not bring the problem into the home,” Fowler said. “Natural Chemistry offers a yard and kennel product covering 4,500 square feet and it has a pleasant cinnamon, clove and vanilla scent. Once the yard is treated, consumers can focus on treating the pet and home with our other natural solutions.”

Two Types of Buyers

Boone said there are two types of buyers in the flea and tick category.

“The first type of buyer will continue to use topical or spot-on chemical-based products because, one, that is what their vet or retailer sells them and they trust their advice, two, that is what they have always done and what they see on TV, or three, because it’s easy to use and available everywhere,” he said. “However, this buyer is increasingly frustrated that the topical treatments aren’t as effective as they once were, whether OTC low cost or vet clinic higher cost, and will simply switch brands or double the dose to get the desired outcome.

“The second type of buyer will either never use or only use topical spot-ons in dire situations, usually before they have done any research for themselves because their pets don’t usually get fleas or ticks. This buyer only wants to use products on their pets that they trust are safe enough to use on themselves. They try to eliminate chemicals, detergents, cleaning agents, dyes, perfumes, etc., from their living environments whenever possible and try to eat organic. They feed their pets a high-quality kibble or partially raw diet. They believe in supplements and vitamins. They hate fleas and ticks as much as the first group, but will go through multiple home remedies and natural products before they will resort to chemicals in the home or on the pet.”

When talking to a customer, Boone suggests you first ask if they have an active flea and/or tick problem or if they want to prevent one.

“If they have an active population or an infestation, we urge them to ‘treat the source,’” Boone said. “Their home and lawn along with their pet(s), and not just the symptom, a pet with fleas or ticks. Insects come from outside and when they come inside, they can take over. When that is explained, it helps them understand the process and the products required to be successful the first time. This method reduces the impact on the animal and extends wellness by minimizing chemical exposure. A holistic approach is a winning approach and more cost-effective short and long term.

“If they don’t have a current flea or tick issue and simply want protection for outdoor activities, we direct them to EVOLV, our powerful repellent and contact-kill product for pets. As a preventive, they can apply the spray before walks, hiking or the puppy park. But it’s versatile. If they forget and find a flea or tick after play, they can simply spray the dog down and anything that hitched a ride is killed immediately. In a retail setting, understanding the problem is the best way to offer a solution and explain what is needed to win. In this case, one brand fits all, but how and when you use it varies by the crucial question: prevention or treatment?”

Why Natural

Carlos Zamora, the marketing coordinator for SynergyLabs, said the reason people use natural flea and tick products is because of the ingredients used.

“Non-natural products have synthesized ingredients that can be done on the cheap and prove to be very ineffective, while most natural flea and tick products include vitamins, which is definitely an added value for the dog,” Zamora said. “From a manufacturer’s stand point, producing organic products, especially in the flea and tick category, means that their raw materials are better in quality, which translated to a more effective product.”

Zamora noticed retailers and consumers look for authenticity in products.

“There are a lot of companies claiming to be natural when it’s really more of a marketing ploy,” Zamora said. “However, the consumer is now smarter than ever with easy access to a quick search online. A great rule of thumb of differentiating a real product from a fake one would be by viewing if the label contains a list of active ingredients, meaning those ingredients that are used in a treatment.”

Give Them Options

Just like children, not every dog is the same.

They may be the same breed, but each dog that a customer is buying for is unique.

Because of this, natural supplements have many different ways to be given to the animal: pill, paste, liquid, powder and more.

The new emerging trend is to give the consumer an option.

“We have developed a beef tab and liquid alternative, just so the consumer has an alternative,” Darren Landis, president of Hyalogic, said. “We also give a low to high joint alternative too. It gives the consumer the power of choice. Sometimes they may find a product they really like with the ingredients, but it’s in a beef tab and their dog won’t take beef tabs, they will only do liquid. Now they have the alternative.”

Their product, Premium Hyaluronic Acid by Hyalogic, is meant to be used to promote healthy joints in animals.

Hyalogic believes this is the trend moving forward, that when it comes to natural supplements, like vitamins, you want to give the consumer options. Landis said the arguments for either side, tabs or liquid, is too great and too many people will say one is better than the other.

“We did have some additional options, like a powder formula,” Landis said. “But it seems like people are really choosing between a beef tab and a liquid. Now there will probably be some different delivery methods with treats. Just like on the human side, people want alternatives. They are tired of tablets or pills. They want something that is more convenient.”

PureLife4Pets has noticed the trend in the animal supplement market is mimicking the human supplement market.

“Customers are looking for new ingredients that are pure and easy to administer,” Oscar Tenorio, product line manager of PureLife4Pets, said. “Another issue that keeps rising is the number of overweight dogs and cats. We, as manufacturers of healthy products, have the responsibility of providing comprehensive solutions that contribute to the happiness of families by improving the quality of life of their pets.”


The National Animal Supplement Council was formed in 2002 to promote the health and well-being of nonhuman food chain animals that are given animal health supplements by establishing federal and state regulations which are fair, reasonable, responsible and nationally consistent.

“Pressure fell onto the industry because there were a lot of stop sales by state regulators,” Karen Howard, president of the NASC, said. “The FDA was increasingly concerned about the safety of the products on the market. In response, a group got together and formed the NASC.

“The space we operate in is very unique in that it sits on the drug side, since once FDA ruled that supplements were not a part of the deity supplement and health and education act. We automatically fell into the drug realm. They are considered drugs to a low regulatory priority, with which the agency has regulatory discretion over.”

According to the NASC, the value of having their seal on products translates directly to the consumers.

“Because our audited company adheres to the standards that we have defined,” Howard said, “consumers can know they are buying supplements that they can trust.”
Watching the trends on the pet supplement side, Howard said, it seems to follow the human side around the 4-year-mark.

“Right now we are seeing an increase in herbs, botanicals, prebiotics, probiotics,” Howard said. “It just follows the trend of the human side.”

Consumer Buying Power

According to NutraLife Pet, over the last few years, natural products have become more mainstream, resulting in an upswing in the natural supplement industry.

“In the past, veterinarians were the major drivers of these products. However, as consumers are becoming more and more educated regarding their pets’ health, they have taken more of a front seat in the buying process,” Avigail Glass, president of NutraLife Pet, said. “This stems from what the industry calls ‘Pet Humanization,’ which means pet parents are caring for their pets much like they care for themselves, very proactive.

“Based on this demand, pet retailers and online pet retailers have been expanding their natural supplement offerings.”

Pet Naturals of Vermont has noticed that consumers are more aware and more educated on the use and benefits of supplementation than ever before.

“Many pet owners who buy supplements for their pets, also use supplements themselves and recognize the benefits through personal experience,” Sara Phillips, strategic brand manager of Pet Naturals of Vermont, said. “Holistic veterinary practices are gaining market share among mainstream pet owners, and many of these professionals recommend natural supplements as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.”

Capitalizing on the Natural Market

Natural products have already caught the attention of the average consumer. Now it’s just a matter of pointing it out to them in your store.

While some customers may need a bit more knowledge about the ever-changing category, others just need the appropriate sign.

“Using natural displays is a great way to draw the consumer’s eye: wooden display stands, farm baskets, bamboo baskets and bins,” Kristen Smith, brand ambassador of Planet Dog, said. “Using signage to call out a natural section or display helps the consumer to see those items easily and immediately. Feature natural and/or eco-friendly products near the front of the store to immediately alert the consumer that you have a selection to choose from. A trained staff can answer questions from consumers eager to find sustainable and natural products.”

Sara Phillips, the strategic brand manager of Pet Naturals of Vermont, said the interest is already there from consumers.

“Consumers are already looking for natural products, so simply pointing out a ‘natural solution’ will perk the interest of your consumer,” Phillips said. “Featuring natural products on an end cap or stand-alone display will also draw their interest.”

Phillips also said that with their natural supplements, they like to say there are side benefits.

“For example, our hip and joint product contains the necessary nutrients for joint and connective tissue support, but because it contains EFAs and vitamin C, the animal will receive the side benefits of those nutrients: skin support, heart support, immune support, etc.,” Phillips said.

Follow Industry Trends

Rob Cadenhead, vice president of sales and marketing of Spring Naturals, said they closely monitor human trends to see what may happen in the pet industry.

“We follow human food trends very closely and incorporate relevant food ingredients that are healthy for dogs and cats into our diets,” Cadenhead said. “For example, ancestral grains like quinoa, spelt and amaranth are becoming very popular in human diets, and we have incorporated quinoa into some of our dog diets because of its health benefits.”

Maggie Johnson, co-owner of Sojos, said customers gravitate toward natural products if they tend to practice or identify with clean living, and they may use them if their pets have suffered from illness.

“The results speak for themselves,” Johnson said. “Feeding our pets healthy natural food and treats makes us feel better if we value clean living and want our pets to live long lives.”

Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of sales for Bravo!, said their brand message doesn’t vary from retailers to consumers.

“We deliver on our brand promise on both fronts and work to reinforce our message at every opportunity, whether on our packaging or working closely with our distributors and retailers to educate them on the brand. Our core values are front and center,” Schubert said. “Some of the tools we use to do this are Bravo! Beginnings, a booklet that explains raw diets and how to transition a pet to a raw diet, as well as online educational videos on the safe storage, handling and serving of our products. We also have in-store and online training programs for our distributors and retail sales associates.”

Consumer Awareness

Consumers are more aware of all of the products they purchase, their food, their children’s toys, their clothes and the products they get for their pets.

“They recognize that there is no regulation in the pet industry, and they see frequent recalls of tainted products,” Smith said. “Consumers now see their pets as part of the family, and want to protect them and offer them safe, healthy, nontoxic products from companies they trust. The benefits for dogs are the same as those for people: safety and health for the entire family.

“Dogs play with their mouths and tend to puncture or tear apart their toys, so whatever is in the toy is in the dog. Dogs then lick the people who love them, so those chemicals and additives go far beyond the dog product. Environmentally friendly toys are going to be safer for the health and safety of every member of the household, while also being better for the environment.”

Paw Pods Managing Partner Ben Riggan said the fact his product is eco-friendly has really helped show off the pros of his product.

“The pros are obvious, being better for the environment overall, and the people/pets affected by the product,” Riggan said. “But another pro is simply the increase in popularity of buying natural. As more people buy themselves all-natural human products, they become more and more open, and even seek out, comparable eco-friendly options for their pets.”

According to Smith, consumers are looking for companies that demonstrate a deep love for animals that echoes the love they feel for their pet.

“They look for transparent companies who share their commitment to healthy pets,” Smith said. “They look for durable products made from safe, nontoxic materials. In addition, people are including their dogs with them in every area of their life; their dog truly is a part of the family, so people seek all natural products that fit well into a healthy, outdoorsy, more natural lifestyle.”

Peggy Smith, the media and marketing director for Bio-Groom, said consumers look for natural products because they believe natural is better.

“When they see natural they are assuming the product is the best quality, safe and proven,” she said. “Since natural became overused, it fell on some products that might not be the best, safe or proven. Once again, consumers need to use discernment. Make sure the product is made from proven safe ingredients.”

Johnson said consumers are looking for things Sojos has been proving for almost 30 years.

“Healthy whole food ingredients, no GMOs, byproducts, soy, fillers, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, and no added sugar or salt,” Johnson said. “People want to balance healthy feeding and simplicity with cost. Retailers are looking for solutions to the demand for: One, easy-to-prepare; two, great in value; and three, extremely healthy and natural.”

Kristie Hamilton, the director of sales for Imperial Cat, said they utilize informative product packaging that is easy to digest, so it’s a quick tool to educate both the consumer and retailer about their products.

“Customers positively associate the word ‘natural’ with health and well-being, and pet owners appreciate products that benefit their pet in those ways,” Hamilton said.

Retailer Knowledge

According to Peggy Smith, retailers should be educated on the specifics about products.

“This can be done by sales representatives from manufacturers coming to the store and discussing the products with the staff,” Peggy Smith said. “The more the retailer knows about the products they carry, the more they will be able to advise consumers on a wise purchase.”

Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals, said the easiest way for retailers to boost sales is to have trained salespeople.

“You can’t sell something that you can’t explain,” Weiss said. “Just putting a product on the shelf is not going to help a retailer grow his or her business.”

John Gigliotti, the founder and CEO of Whole Life Pet, said they have been doing a lot of work with displays for retailers and have been seeing amazing results.

“We designed a simple corrugated floor stand and it’s made it really easy for new accounts to sell our treats and also helped existing accounts promote certain products and new items,” Gigliotti said. “We also provide a lot of information and resources through a variety of online media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and our website. We recently launched an ‘about us’ video that really brings you inside the way we think and operate on a daily basis.”

Gigliotti also said retailers can raise the sales of natural products in their store by learning more about the brands they sell and telling those stories to pet owners.

“Pet parents want to feel connected to the products they feed their pets,” Gigliotti said.

Cadenhead said Spring Naturals offers a full range of POP materials including on-shelf video displays, banners, posters, shelf talkers, consumer brochures, free samples and more, to help retailers raise the sales of natural products in their store.

“Special off-shelf displays with their highest sales and margin items is a great place to start,” Cadenhead said. “This allows consumers to focus on the most important natural products that a retailer has to offer.”

The greatest tool Bravo! gives to its distributors and retailers is education on their brand, according to Schubert.

“We truly believe you cannot sell products like ours until you understand the brand and what differentiates us from other pet foods,” Schubert said. “We spend a lot of time working with our distributor and retail partners to be sure they understand the brand and the various lines within our product family.  We do this through in-store and online training seminars. They cannot sell raw diet and all-natural pet food products unless they can answer their customers’ questions.”

John J. Phillips, Jr., president and CEO of Wholistic Pet Organics, said they have consumer brochures for their core product lines, a full-line catalog which they update annually, and shelf talkers.

“We also are working on additional training tools that retailers can use to help them detail what makes our product line different and better than the average supplement line,” Phillips said. “With our category, team training is absolutely essential to sell more supplements. Our items afford a very high margin for retailers and the more that retailer sales associates know about the unique benefits of our brand, the more profit they will generate.”


According to Bravo!, all-natural pet foods are the fastest-growing segment in the market today.

“As such, we are seeing more manufacturers entering the category, which says a lot in terms of the opportunities for growing the business,” Schubert said. “Bravo! continues to do what we have been doing since we opened our doors, and that is providing pet parents with a high-quality, all-natural diet that is the best value for their dollar.  We continue to work closely with our distributors and retail partners to be sure they are educated about our brand and the benefits of feeding our products.”

The pet industry trends tend to mimic the human trends by roughly 4 years. Lynda Goldman works in the natural channel with natural, holistic and organic products for people and has seen continued growth on the human side.

“One of the trends of the future is people are looking for more natural healthy products of all kinds,” Goldman said. “The organic sector is growing, the no-GMO sector is growing, people are looking for snacks that are more healthy for themselves, their children and their pets.”


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