High Health Standards
Dry cat food has undergone a big transformation over the years. According to reports from Statista, dry cat food sales have nearly doubled since 2000, rising from $2.3 billion to $3.8 billion in 2014. One of the results of this data is that manufacturers are focused on providing a better quality control, smarter manufacturing facilities and a better understanding of premium, functional ingredients.
Solid Gold is one such manufacturer. The company’s high-protein dry cat food delivers 40-percent protein and healthy fats in the form of pumpkin, blueberries and spearmint to aid in overall health and well-being. Indigo Moon, one of Solid Gold’s first dry cat food formulas combines the perfect balance of 20 nutritious superfoods with a generous level of digestible ocean fish meal to deliver balanced levels of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Solid Gold offers a wide variety of delicious and nutritious dry food recipes for cats of all ages and lifestyles.
“As America’s first holistic pet food brand, Solid Gold has been delivering transformative nutrition for dogs and cats for over 40 years,” said Bob Rubin, CEO and president. “All of Solid Gold Pet’s formulas focus on a balance of high-quality proteins and nutrient-dense superfoods carefully curated for a pet’s overall health and well-being. We believe that a healthy pet is a happy pet, and a life of enjoyment with our pets begins with a solid nutritional foundation. With a broad line of dry food offerings, Solid Gold has formulas designed to meet a variety of nutritional needs and life stages.”
The past decade has also seen manufacturers take a walk on the wild side with exotic proteins capable of resolving health issues that range from food allergies to weight gain. For example, Addiction’s ultra-premium foods are made with innovative protein sources, like venison, salmon, kangaroo, eel and brushtail possum (a marsupial found in New Zealand). The fully rotational holistic pet food line was founded in 2002. To date, Addiction is the only brand to offer a dry pet food with salmon certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch “Best Choice” program.
“First and foremost, I’m a pet owner and, like most owners, I wanted only the best for my pet,” said Jerel Kwek, CEO and co-founder of Addiction Foods. “All of our proteins are humanely raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free and hypoallergenic to provide a healthier natural solution to prevent allergies from more common proteins found in pet food.”
“As a family-owned brand, I’m proud that Addiction Foods always puts the health of pets over our profits,” Kwek said. “We let nothing get in the way of delivering the highest quality, unique foods and treats to benefit dogs and cats across the world and ensure they can live their healthiest, happiest, fullest lives.”
Humanization reigns supreme and manufacturers continue to mimic human trends, such as grain-free recipes. Consumers have taken it upon themselves to become educated when it comes to their cat’s food which means manufacturers need to be cautious about claims they make on labels.
“Humanization tends to influence the cat food market in the United States; many pets have an intolerance for glutens or allergy to grains,” said Brad Gruber, president and COO of Health Extension Pet Care, a family-owned holistic company. “We develop diets that are grain free and offer several different protein options to help decrease the risk of developing a food allergy as well as preventing cats from becoming finicky.”
Each of their recipes contain high levels of animal proteins that are grass fed, free range or wild caught.
“We also use low glycemic ingredients like chickpeas and lentils to help prevent obesity and relief from common allergies,” Gruber continued. “We use novel ingredients like coconut oil and organic apple cider vinegar to aid in digestion, help boost the immune system and provide a shinier, healthy coat. We’re proud that all of our feline formulas are manufactured in the USA, have never had a product recall and have never lost a taste test.”
How dry diets are fed can be just as important as the diet itself.
“Cats need to hunt their food, not be served from a bowl,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bales, founder of NoBowl Feeding System. “The NoBowl Feeding System satisfies your cat’s inborn instinct to hunt, letting your cat hunt, catch and play with its food the way nature intended. Using our patented training system and the food your cat is already eating, you portion 1/5 of the day’s ration into each of the five NoBowls and hide them. The NoBowl Feeding System is the ultimate in Feline Environmental Enrichment.”
Premium foods offer small boutique stores an opportunity to educate and differentiate. New advances in feeding and different approaches to feed should be communicated to consumers. These are foods that require some knowledge of nutrition and it’s left up to retailers to communicate the value of a premium diet to pet owners.
Many small retailers have built up their business carrying these sought-after pet foods containing simplified ingredients. However, specializing in premium pet foods does not come without its fair share of challenges, including higher pricing and shorter shelf life of the product due to it containing no added preservatives. These difficulties can be overcome with education and expressing the benefits of high-quality, limited-ingredient foods.
Try Before You Buy
The healthiest food in the world will not be of value to a cat if it refuses to eat it. A sampling program is one of the most efficient ways to overcome that issue. Not only do sampling programs cut down on store returns, but they also encourage pet owners to justify a higher spend when they know their cat already enjoys the food. This is particularly important when dealing with a premium pet food.
As always, education is key for small stores to succeed in the cat food category. Knowing the benefits of each product line and being familiar with the diet results will help any retailer overcome the challenges associated with carrying premium dry cat foods.
Natural products have hit their stride in the pet industry. As consumers become more aware of what they’re offering their pets, companies have responded with toys that are not only natural, but also manufactured using environmentally responsible business practices.
The number of pets owned has remained relatively constant this year, yet people are spending more on their pets. Natural, organic and made-in-the-USA products are leading the pack in rapid growth. As sustainable manufacturing practices and organic products enter the arena, we can expect plenty of natural toys to liven up the industry for all species of pets.
The use of renewable materials is important as the natural category continues to expand, with hemp being the new darling. As one of the earliest domesticated plants, hemp is fast-growing, requires little water and thrives in almost any climate. Nearly every part of the plant can be used, which makes it remarkably efficient.
Hemp’s durable natural fibers make it a natural choice for pet toys. Compared to cotton, hemp has a 62-percent greater tear strength and 102-percent greater tensile strength. It’s also naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, mildew-free and nearly twice as strong as cotton.
West Paw Design, one of the early leaders in natural and eco-responsible manufacturing, features organic hemp for its line of hemp dog toys.
“Hemp feels luxurious, but it’s not too fancy for machine washing and drying,” said Spencer Williams, owner and president of West Paw Design. “And since hemp naturally fights odors, bacteria and microbes, it stays clean longer afterwards.”
West Paw Design’s stuffed toys and beds get their resilient fluff from IntelliLoft, an eco-friendly stuffing used in beds and toys, which is made from recycled bottles. By recycling existing PETE polymer material, West Paw Design has reduced energy use while keeping plastic bottles out of landfills.
The company was recently recognized for the third straight year by the nonprofit B Lab. The B Corp Best for the Environment list honors businesses that earned an environmental score in the top 10 percent of more than 1,200 Certified B Corporations from over 120 industries on the B Impact Assessment.
Creating products that use IntelliLoft recycled material can use up to eight times less energy than it takes to manufacture the same material new. The company’s eco-friendly, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Montana is committed to near-zero-waste pet toys, and has diverted nearly 8.2 million plastic bottles from landfills.
“The employees of West Paw Design could not be more proud of this acknowledgement,” Williams said. “Since 1996, we have worked hard to bring joy to people and their pets as well as do our part to take care of the planet.”
On the cat side, organic catnip has been available for years, but few companies have embraced this expensive form of catnip in manufacturing.
Honest Pet Products integrates an “earth-first” approach and fair-trade agreements in all of its products, focusing solely on the use of sustainable hemp fabrics, organic wools, catnip, oils and extracts in all of its toys and shampoos. The company’s wool balls for cats are handcrafted by rural Mongolian women in certified fair trade conditions. This supports the impoverished farmers of Mongolia and also protects snow leopards by giving farmers an alternative to killing the animals that occasionally take their sheep.
“The Eco Pouncer toy was one of our first natural cat toys, and it stimulates cats for hours of safe, natural exercise and fun,” said Mary Wolff, founder of Honest Pet. “Our new Fetchin’ Stick dog toys come in three sizes. Inside each Fetchin’ Stick is a core of hemp rope surrounded by compressed wool, which allows the toy to float. Each toy is screen-printed with nontoxic, lead-free, water-based, eco-friendly ink.”
Bavarian Cat Toys, from Aumueller Korbwaren, are stuffed, soft toys featuring valerian, lavender and anise. Valerian has an invigorating effect on cats, inspiring active play. The included herbs are the highest grade available, and the toys are handcrafted in Germany. They are available in a variety of shapes and colors, including a Christmas Collection and an extra-large, cat-sized pillow.
“Our toys are filled with organic spelt,” said Stacey Gelkopf, project manager at Bavarian Cat Toys. “This provides the cushiony feel in a natural way (no poly filler or other man-made stuffing), and it also helps to keep revitalizing the valerian for long-lasting appeal. As the cat plays with the toy and turns it over, the surface of the valerian root gets broken up by the organic spelt—continually reactivating it.”
There are many things to consider when stocking a natural toy. Earth-conscious consumers appear willing to pay a premium if they know the purchase helps the environment, yet they still rely heavily on retailers to educate them about safety and benefits. Retailers should be able to explain if toys have been tested for dangerous chemicals, and whether products are humanely sourced and manufactured using eco-friendly, responsible practices.
“Just as pet parents are paying close attention to food labels, they are now turning their attention to other pet products that are natural, organic, environmentally friendly and beneficial to their pets’ well-being, including toys,” said Joel Kaplan, president and CEO of Tall Tails. “We have seen an uptick in demand for natural toys that not only stimulate playtime, but also have other benefits such as natural ropes that have teeth-cleaning benefits.”
Tall Tails recently unveiled its all-natural three-piece gift sets for dogs that include a fleece blanket, a Waterwoof Pad with triple-layer protection and a Squeaky Soft Bone fleece toy.
As the unregulated natural category expands, it’s logical that it would begin to self-regulate to protect those who are using sustainable, natural materials and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. Planet Dog is a founding member of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition and one of the leaders in eco-friendly manufacturing processes.
“Planet Dog has been thinking globally and acting doggedly since 1997, and we remain committed to the notion that our values bring us our value,” said Stephanie Volo, chief retail officer and partner at Planet Dog. “We look forward to a productive and successful collaboration with other leaders in the industry to put sustainability at the forefront of the pet industry, which will strengthen the industry as a whole while protecting our most valuable resource: our planet.”
In 2011, Spot Ethical Pet equipped its Bloomfield, New Jersey, facility with 1,472 solar panels in an effort to operate solely on solar power. The investment has reduced the company’s internal operating costs while contributing toward a cleaner environment. The solar panel system has reduced CO² emissions by 861,000 pounds a year—the equivalent of eliminating the CO² emissions from driving 978,000 miles. The company’s sustainability goals also extend to its Spot products, where Planet Dog utilizes recycled and natural materials whenever possible.
Once upon a time, it was difficult to be a cat owner while remaining loyal to our environment. But eco-friendly practices have changed dramatically over the years and these days there are plenty of ways cat owners can make healthier choices for both their pets and the environment.
Cat litters are now made from nearly every type of natural material—from recycled paper to green tea leaves. While some manufacturers still rely on the tried and true clay or silica litters, there are plenty of new options that are better for your feline friend as well as the environment.
“Sustainability and stewardship of our resources are paramount,” said Anthony Giudice, vice president of Weruva. “That’s why we source products that have been salvaged from other industries for our natural Hinoki wood and green tea cat litter.”
Hinoki, a wood from the cypress family, naturally suppresses the growth of mold and bacteria which in turn helps control odor. Green tea leaves contain the antioxidant properties of catechins, which naturally helps suppress the growth of bacteria and odor.
Healthy Pet is another company stepping up to provide eco-friendly litter options. ökocat Soft Step is made from sustainably-harvested, lightweight wood granules that are perfect for seniors cats, kittens, or other cats with sensitive paws. Similar to the texture of clay litter, Soft Step makes it easy to transition cats to a natural, eco-friendly litter. This biodegradable line of natural cat litters offers up five times its weight in absorption, 7-day odor control, and an all around lighter-weight and environmentally-friendly alternative to clay litter.
They aren’t the only ones implementing alternative materials. Companies like Next Gen Pets utilize a combination of recycled wood and green tea leaves to make their eco-friendly cat litter. World’s Best Cat Litter is made from whole-kernel corn; Yesterday’s News uses recycled paper to create a dust-free, eco-friendly litter; Swheat Scoop utilizes natural enzymes from renewable wheat crops; and Benevo is made from non-genetically modified maize and other vegetable derivatives.
There are plenty of environmentally friendly toys for cats, as well. Choosing toys made from renewable or recycled resources can go a long ways towards making you and your cat better earth stewards. Favorite natural materials include hemp, bamboo and wool.
Hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants and thrives in nearly any climate. This fast-growing plant is nearly 100-percent biodegradable and every part of the plant can be used. It’s naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and mildew-free. Hemp toys are wonderful ways to be environmentally friendly and cats love the natural fiber.
“We choose to use hemp to make our products due to his strong and durable nature,” said Pascal Bedard, Owner of From The Field. “Hemp fiber is a renewable, earth friendly replacement for paper, cotton, and other synthetics building material. Hemp seed oil is a cost effective food and clean energy source. We believe in creating products that are biodegradable, pet-safe and pet-friendly.”
Honest Pet Products integrates an “earth-first” and fair-trade agreements in every one of their toys. They are handcrafted by rural Mongolian women supporting their impoverished families and protecting the snow leopards in Mongolia. Their “eco-pouncer toys” come in a variety of sizes and even feature natural, braided yak hair tail.
“The Eco Pouncer was one of our first natural cat toys and it stimulates cats for hours of safe, natural exercise and fun,” said Mary Wolff, founder of Honest Pet. “They are handcrafted by rural Mongolian women supporting their impoverished families and protecting the snow leopards in Mongolia.”
West Paw Design takes their environmental commitment seriously. From constructing an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Bozeman, Montana, to creating near-zero-waste cat toys, West Paw Design takes their commitment to the environment very seriously. Materials such as IntelliLoft has diverted nearly 8.2 million plastic bottles from landfills. West Paw Design even encourages customers to return their old toys to be recycled into new toys.
“Today’s pet loving consumers are willing to spend more on products that are great for the planet, its pets and its people…but a ‘green’ decision does not have to mean ‘more expensive’,” said Eric Abbey, President of Loving Pets. “Bambu Bowls are the best-selling recycled pet product in the Loving Pets line, made from crushed bamboo, cornstarch and water, is a lightweight bowl, easily handled by the curved cut-out forms around the base of the bowl.”
This year, Worldwise will effectively prevent the equivalent of over 100,000,000, 16.9-oz plastic bottles from ever reaching landfills and will use them to make your pet happier. Many of their products include a soybean-based foam called Benefoam, an alternative to the more typical petrochemically-based foams used in some dog beds. Worldwise products also use a recycled fiberfill blend called EcoRest made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles to add puff and fluff to dog and cat beds and soft toys. These are inexpensive and eco-friendly options for cat beds.
Collars are another natural choice for bamboo and Wagging Green has created a line of dog collars made with a double layer of soft, organic Bamboo fiber that are attractive and affordable. The company also offers a “Wagging Green recycling program” that encourages customers to return their old collars and receive discount on a new one.
Pelcor pet products are crafted in Europe using the highest-quality cork skin harvested from the sustainable cork oak forests of southern Portugal. With cork’s organic, dappled appearance, no two Pelcor pet accessories are exactly alike.
By making a commitment to carry products made from sustainable, renewable materials, it’s possible for retailers to differentiate themselves from big box stores. For education and guidance, look to professional organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets standards for exemplary forestry that includes environmental, social and economic values; and the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, which strives to be the leading organization for sustainable advancement in the pet industry and promotes creative collaboration throughout the pet industry that prioritizes business-minded solutions for sincere environmental improvement.
“Retailers have the opportunity to educate consumers about which products and brands support the environment,” said Eric Abbey, President of Loving Pets. “We hope that retailers will consider creating an end cap specifically for earth-friendly products and highlight brands making a difference.”
Other eco-friendly options include cardboard cat scratchers; wool, palm, and cork toys; and scratchers, beds, and bowls made from a plethora of other natural fibers.
Natural Antioxidants for Pets
Antioxidants serve an important role in pet health. They help slow the aging process, improve immunity, fight illness and even help preserve our pets’ food. We’re seeing the phrase “natural antioxidants” pop up more frequently as it relates to our pets’ food and health.
Antioxidants can be natural or synthetic and not long ago, manufacturers focused on synthetic preservatives to keep food fresh. However, consumers are shying away from anything synthetic and opting for the oxidant power of fresh foods, also known as superfoods.
Oxidation occurs when foods are exposed to oxygen. This process breaks down nutrients and fats, resulting in discoloration as well as rancidity. Antioxidants can slow down this process and help stabilize the shelf life of our foods.
“The pet industry is trending toward quality ingredients, which includes things like whole foods, pure ingredients, organic and human grade foods,” said Emily J. Hall, Marketing Manager of Nummy Tum Tum. “Pet owners want the very best for their pets and it all starts with the right diet. What’s trending right now in the food world has slowly made its way to the pet market as well.”
Antioxidants are measured according to their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value. This unit of measurement was developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Each raw food is assigned an ORAC score, which helps to evaluate the “superfoods” so often referred to in the pet food industry.
“Kale is a super antioxidant that contains essential vitamins, including beta carotene, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C and lutein,” said Paula Savarese, President and Co-Founder of Twiggy’s Cupcakes and Dogs Love Kale. “Kale and Flaxseed aids in making your dog’s coat softer and shinier, with healthier skin underneath. Flaxseed also provides fiber to your dog’s diet. Dogs and pet owners everywhere love our treats because they provide our pets with the health and nutrition they deserve.”
Turmeric is a new favorite for pets and people. The spice is naturally high in curcumins, which are very effective in scavenging free radicals and neutralize them. There are many manufacturers and consumers who extol the virtues of turmeric.
The Honest Kitchen offers an instant “Bone Broth” treat for dogs and cats that combines turmeric (95-percent curcuminoids) with dehydrated beef broth, pumpkin, parsley and turmeric.
“The active compound in turmeric that’s been studied extensively for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen.
Ewegurt, a relatively new supplement, uses sheep’s milk to provide a nutrient rich powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols. Sprinkling it on pets’ food can help your pet reap the benefits of this natural calmant.
“I created this product out of a need to help my Golden who suffers from anxiety that caused him to have seizures because his cortisol levels spike during stressful situations,” said Jennifer Erdman, Founder/Managing Partner of Ewegurt, LLC.
Pet Releaf recently launched Gluten-Free Edibites CBD Treats for Dogs, which are specifically designed to be used as daily nutritional supplements, as they are extremely high in antioxidants, omegas and essential fatty acids. All Pet Releaf products contain a guaranteed amount of whole hemp plant CBD, which is the only compound in the natural world that activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
“Pet Releaf’s products have quickly received a wonderful reception from customers and retailers alike,” said Pet Releaf Founder and CEO Alina Smith.
Antioxidants can be used in non-food items as well.
“There are so many unseen environmental toxins that our pets are exposed to through inhalation (indoor air quality and materials off gassing), absorption (pesticides and materials toxins through paws and skin), and ingestion (food quality and licking off coat),” said Stephanie Boone, founder and CEO of Wondercide. “Antioxidants with high orac values, like neem bark and neem leaf, are essential to cleansing your pet’s liver and kidney for a longer, healthier life.”
Antioxidants can be found in natural tear staining remedies as well. All Angels’ Eyes Tear Stain remedies are specifically developed to help eliminate tear stains by offering natural support to dogs and cats from the inside out.
“The active ingredients in our products are a proprietary blend composed of natural antioxidants and helps support the normal inflammatory response,” said Lynda Winkowski, founder of Angels Eyes. “Angels’ Eyes never adds any corn, wheat, soy or artificial food colorings, which can add to tear staining.”
Plenty of changes are coming down the line as studies and new advances are released. Recently, two Clemson professors won a national award for an innovative natural product they have created that can extend the shelf life of pet food. Vladimir Reukov and Alexey Vertegel, professors in the bioengineering department and researchers for Clemson’s Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC), won the 2016 Bisplinghoff Innovation Award by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation for their creation of Prot-X, a natural antioxidant created from red blood cells found in animal blood.
“This product is a very effective natural antioxidant that is as efficient as synthetic antioxidants and less costly to produce than other natural antioxidants,” Vertegel said. “When added to pet food, it allows the food to maintain its freshness and quality and prevents fat rancidity.”
“Red blood cells are natural oxygen carriers so they are well protected from oxidation,” he added. “So, because red blood cells have all the biomolecules they need to protect themselves from oxidation, our idea to use (blood) as antioxidant was pretty logical.”
Feline in Winter
Winter is approaching and that means changing activity levels for cats. This is a great opportunity to switch out inventory and freshen up displays with new products that keep crepuscular cats warm and active during those long winter nights.
Warm and Dry
Senior or arthritic cats can struggle with the cooler temperatures of winter. Heated pet beds can be beneficial in helping to ease arthritic pain.
“It’s important, though, to make sure any heated bedding you create is safe,” said Pam Johnson-Bennett, an author and certified cat behavior consultant. “It’s also important to make sure your cat is able to freely move away from the heat should she get too warm. If you typically lower your thermostat for the times during the day while you’re at work or before you go to bed, remember to take your cat’s comfort into consideration. Be sure to provide warm places within the house or raise your thermostat just enough to take the chill off.”
There are plenty of stylish, comfortable cat beds to choose from these days.
“With the influx of cat beds on the market, purchasing a practical bed for those lazy cat naps no longer means having to sacrifice your own style,” Natalie Hennessy, public relations and integrated marketing manager for P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You). “P.L.A.Y. manufactures eco-friendly pet beds that are stylish for owners, safe for pets and better for our planet.”
The durable, award-winning beds are designed to fit any home, and are overstuffed with the manufacturer’s in-house PlanetFill filler made of certified-safe, 100-percent post-consumer recycled products.
“Since cats are known to fall asleep anywhere they please, cat beds need additional features to lure cats to use them and motivate pet parents to buy them,” said Wonjung Song, director of bedding product development for Worldwise, Inc. “The simplest way to do this is with a handful of organic catnip in a secure, hidden pocket. The catnip scent lures cats back to the bed over and over. Our cat beds are often designed with this feature built in and come with a starter stash of catnip included. This point of differentiation gives pet parents a reason to try the pet bed and will bring them back to your store to buy catnip to refresh the catnip allure.”
Owners must not forget to provide plenty of places to hide in addition to areas where cat can nap among sunbeams. The KatKabin has a weatherproof shell to keep outdoor cats dry and cozy during winter storms, or can be placed indoors with a carpeted top to work as a scratch post. The unique dome shape makes it easy to hide in bushes and the removable cat door gives them an extra feeling of security while simultaneously blocking wind and weather.
“Our SkratchKabin is a great indoor activity center because it’s a scratcher and lounge in one, which is a big hit with consumers,” said Pascale Deffieux Pearce, executive vice president of Brinsea Products. “The KatKabin has a weatherproof shell to keep outdoor or feral cats dry and cozy in adverse weather, as well as shaded in the summer. The unique dome shape makes it easy to hide in bushes, which cats love, and the removable cat door gives them an extra feeling of security while simultaneously blocking wind and weather.”
Keeping cats active in winter can prove to be a challenge, but it’s more important than ever to keep them stimulated to reduce behavioral problems resulting from boredom. Luckily, the industry is filled with fun, purpose-driven toys—from remote controlled cameras that encourage interaction to interactive cat toys and puzzle feeders to help cats stay engaged during feeding time. Each is designed to stimulate a cat’s more primal instincts, whether it’s stalking, hunting or chasing.
The average spending per toy has increased from $40 to $47 from 2008 to 2014, according to the 2015-16 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners survey.
“Cats need to play,” said Tom Kamp Eriksen, area export manager for Kruuse. “Cats are born with a hunting and chasing instinct that needs to be stimulated. If the cat is cut off from getting mental stimulation and exercise, a lot of energy accumulates and may result in behavior problems, such as chasing imaginary prey up and down walls and across table tops. While playing and ‘hunting’ toys the cat gets exercise, which then again will help prevent weight issues and the secondary health problems that come with it.”
New ways to keep cats active in smaller spaces are available in the form of cat exercise wheels, and they also make great store displays. GoCatWheel is constructed with an aircraft-like structure; the wheel is light and strong while the base is intentionally made heavy to provide a stable platform to accommodate the running speed of large, more active cats.
“In field testing our cat wheel has proven to not only enhance the physical well-being of our cats but altered their disposition to be more relaxed and calm,” reports manufacturer One Fast Cat on its website.
Activity for cats doesn’t have to be extensive. Wand toys have improved in recent years with the development of higher-quality wands and detailed lures modeled in the same painstaking detail as fly fishing lures.
“Using wand toys allows cats to use their various skills of hunting such as stalking, jumping, running while chasing prey,” said Ellen Tsuyaki, owner of Neko Flies. “As well as general exercise to keep your cat fit and minimize obesity issues, which is currently a problem in many indoor cats.”
Embrace the winter months as a time to explore new product lines and fast-moving approaches to cat care.
The world of pet food has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, much of which can be related to an increase in humanization of pets. Consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits of feeding their pets a healthy diet, and the industry has mobilized to reinvent pet food focused on human-grade, prime cuts of protein-rich nutrition.
Just as the industry has changed, so have the proteins used in pet foods. Less mainstream protein sources such as kangaroo to ostrich and emu are being introduced, along with a variety of fish-based proteins.
Natural foods represent just six percent of total dog food sales, but they’re growing in sales about five times as fast as the pet food market as a whole. While U.S. consumers are increasingly interested in all manner of organic and environmentally friendly products, sales of organic dog food—roughly $84 million in 2008—have increased at almost twice the rate of organic food intended for human consumption, according to the Organic Trade Commission.
Scaly and Scrumptious
“Our formulas are produced in a human food facility using many of the ingredients and processes that are used in products made for people,” said Anthony Giudice, vice president of Weruva. “Our ingredients maintain a natural look and recognizable texture which allows the pet owner to see and understand the ingredients. One of our popular alternative proteins is basa, a freshwater river fish that’s similar to its cousin, the American catfish. We’re proud to say it’s the only full freshwater fish in a can available to cats.”
Saba, a choice mackerel found in sushi rolls and routinely rated by sushi chefs as one of the “most underrated fish in the world,” is also the star of Honor Roll, one of the products in Weruva’s Truluxe line of super-premium cat food.
“Saba happens to be the most prized in the sushi fish market,” Giudice said. “Just like all of our tuna, the saba is all wild caught, dolphin safe and sea turtle safe. One of our true concerns is sustainability and selecting the right ingredients to remain good stewards of the earth.”
Despite its rougher exterior, alligator meat is being found in more and more pet foods while its tougher cousin, the crocodile, takes a back seat in the pet industry. Alligator is considered to be similar to traditional proteins like pork and chicken and thanks to successful conservation efforts, is considered a plentiful resource.
BLUE Wilderness, a leading pet food line from Blue Buffalo now includes Bayou Blend natural dog food, which celebrates the exotic flavors of America’s southern bayou teeming with alligators, catfish and shrimp.
“Bayou Blend gives dogs the chance to experience the exotic flavors the South has to offer, while offering a complete and balanced meal and/or a tasty treat,” said Dan Schneider, marketing manager for Blue Buffalo.
From Land and Sky
For land-based proteins, kangaroo, a mainstay protein for indigenous Australians, is fast becoming popular as manufacturers like Addiction Pet Foods discover this source’s additional benefits. This lean protein is thought to be more tender and flavorful than other red meat alternatives (which include lamb and beef) and contains one of the highest levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) of any red meat. It also outperforms more traditional meats across nutritional measures like calories, fat and cholesterol content. Addiction’s Wild Kangaroo & Apples diet is a favorite with many dog lovers.
There is a variety of other novelty proteins available to consumers as well.
“Evanger’s recently introduced a holistic pheasant dinner for cats, along with whole fresh sardines for cats,” said Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Co. “Novel meat protein sources, rabbit and quail, are blended for a recipe for cats with common food allergies, and the pet parent looking for something unique. Their ‘mixers’ line of game meats offer a great alternative to pets.”
Primal Pet Foods is another manufacturer setting the bar high with new alternative formulas that include pheasant, venison, rabbit, and even turkey and sardine. Primal Mixes are produced using only the freshest, human-grade ingredients. Its poultry, meat and game are free of antibiotic and steroids and without added hormones. The company incorporates certified organic produce for additional fiber and food-based vitamins and minerals.
While the pet food revolution results in healthier pets, it may be contributing to a problem with sustainability as the human population continues to expand.
According to a 2015 report from the United Nations, the world population is projected to increase by more than 1 billion people within the next 15 years, reaching 8.5 billion in 2030. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that global consumption of meat and dairy products will rise by 102 percent and 82 percent, respectively, by 2050 (as quoted in a 2012 report from the Ridget Institute in New Zealand).
In light of this potential food sourcing problem, the pet industry is stepping up to make changes and approaching suppliers who focus on sustainability.
Some are addressing the sourcing problem with alternatives to traditional proteins in the form of insects. Crickets, for example, are sustainable, eco-friendly and filled with protein.
“Crickets contain three times more protein than beef and twice as much iron,” reports Chris Glascoe, co-founder of EntoBento, creator of the pet-friendly treat made from cricket flour. “It takes about 134 square feet to produce 1 pound of crickets compared to 1,345 sq feet for 1 pound of beef.”
Many are calling this novelty protein “the new kale,” according to BugBites, another entry into the cricket flour game.
“Many experts consider edible insects to be one of the main food trends of 2016,” according to the company’s blog on its web site. “And with cricket flour costs going down, support by the United Nations, and a global awareness around this ridiculously eco-friendly and nutritious protein source, it seems the movement will likely become a durable part of our food system, and that of our pets.”
“Being entrepreneurs enables us to tackle issues that are important to us that we feel are not being addressed by existing companies,” writes Philippe Poirier, CEO and co-founder of BugBites, on the company web site. “In our case, the lack of diversity in our food system and the challenge with global food supply.
The Cat’s Out of the House
More and more, cat owners are taking their favorite feline on strolls around town, and as the millennial generation continues to propel the cat into the category of world’s most popular pet, we can expect stroller and carrier sales to rise. Today’s cat owners are actively seeking safe, well-designed carriers in fashion-forward styles.
“Retailers that stock pet strollers in their stores give their customers another option for traveling with their pet anywhere they want to go with them,” said Todd Jakubowski, owner of Pet Gear.
There are plenty of benefits to taking a cat out for a walk, including a happier, more socially adjusted pet. Exposing cats to new sights, sounds and smells can even help alleviate problem behavior. Strollers offer cats a safe way to experience new things.
In their natural environment, cats get plenty of exercise. From hunting prey to playing with littermates, they are always on the move. But now that we recognize the many benefits to keeping cats indoors, we must also understand there are benefits in taking them outdoors under controlled supervision. Become lax in offering felines plenty of time to play and they become overweight—or worse, resentful. Cats who lack stimulation are more likely to take out their frustration in the form of aggressive or destructive behavior.
“Pet Gear strollers are a great way to take your pet with you on a long walk through the park, a walk around the block, or maybe even shopping at the mall,” Jakubowski said. “They safely contain and protect your pet wherever you go. You never have to worry about your cat escaping as our patented no-zip feature helps keep pets secure.”
“It’s the little things that make our products different and make your life easier as a caring pet owner,” said John Sandiford, president of Gen7Pets. “Whether it’s a stronger zipper on a pet carrier so that it doesn’t snag or our proprietary design that features one long stroller floor so it never collapses or bends, we put more into our products so you get more out of them. Gen7Pets is the creator of the exclusive Smart-Features, a collection of unique features that you and your pet will love.”
When shopping for a stroller, keep in mind that familiarity with the device will go a long way towards a happy outcome. Set up the stroller indoors and allow your cat to lounge in it and make it her own. To help encourage them to go into the stroller, treats and catnip can go a long way to enticing your hesitant cat.
New innovations in cat carriers also signify a boost in the number of felines on the road. But, selecting the proper cat carrier is very important.
Sleepypod’s unique round shape is one that cats love, and each carrier includes luxurious ultra-plush linings designed to alleviate travel stress. Battery-operated warmer kits for colder travel and air mesh hammocks for warm-weather travel can be easily added. While at home, simply remove the dome top to convert the carrier into a secure cat bed. This feature encourages cats to make the carrier their safe place, making transport simple when it’s time to go mobile.
Educating consumers on the benefits of individual carriers will create an opportunity for cross-selling. Remind clientele to train their cats to enter carriers regardless of travel plans, as one never knows when a situation might require an emergency evacuation. Cats should always view their carriers as safe havens.
“It’s important to understand that a carrier is a cat’s home away from home,” says Michael Leung, Sleepypod’s lead product designer and co-founder. “A familiar space helps to make trips away from home less stressful, so a mobile pet bed is ideal because the pet is always traveling in its everyday pet bed. Happy pet travelers make it easy for pet owners to spend more quality time with their pets.”
Using safety guidelines developed for infant car seats, the Sherpa Safety Suite attaches to a vehicle’s standard in-seat latch to keep pets and carriers securely in place while traveling inside the car. Clipped in place, the Safety Suite offers five additional points of security through a system of adjustable straps that help ensure the stability of all sides of the carrier. Sturdy nylon straps secure the entire carrier over the top, while a generously sized solid forward lip prevents tipping forward.
In addition to a non-skid base, the Safety Suite also features two side straps to help steady lateral movement. The pet safety system is compatible with any brand of soft-sided pet carrier and has undergone safety testing.
Carriers with roll-down sides of fine mesh air vents help obstruct a cat’s view of the outside world, thus reducing the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Padded carriers with removable tops can help a cat adjust to a carrier while inside the home, thus reducing the panic of being confined. The Sherpa Cat Tote offers cat owners additional points of entry, and convenience and comfort traveling with their favorite feline.
Whether a cat prefers a carrier or stroller, it’s important to remind customers to have a plan for transport in the event of emergency. As the leading producer of pet carriers and portable pop up shelters, Sturdi is excited to share their innovative products in the category of pet emergency preparedness. The best way to protect your pets from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan in place.
“The likelihood of a pet surviving a disaster depends largely on the planning done before a disaster occurs,” said Penny Johnson, CEO of Sturdi Products Inc. “With natural disasters occurring more often today, it’s crucial pet owners take preparation seriously and recognize that emergency preparedness also applies to animal companions.”
In the Raw
The idea that healthy food creates a healthy mind and body is not new, but that philosophy is increasingly seen at work in the pet food industry.
According to new data from GfK, retail sales of raw freeze-dried dog food jumped nearly 64 percent from 2014-2015, while raw frozen pet food increased from $52 million to $69 million. At GfK’s point-of-sale panel in the US, freeze-dried products have shown the strongest sales growth at pet retail, but grain-free and other established categories remain most valuable players in the $7.6 billion pet food market.
Frozen and dehydrated foods are finding their place in retail. The costs of having a freezer on site or dealing with shorter shelf lives of preservative-free products may seem like a high price to pay, but retailers are learning that it’s well worth the added expense, as customers are willing to pay premiums for easy access to high-quality diets.
To succeed in this category, it’s imperative that retailers commit themselves to educating consumers about the benefits and how to transition their pets to a new diet. You can pique pet owners’ interest with displays that educate customers about the benefits of frozen and dehydrated diets.
“Retailers must have a strong understanding of how to communicate nutritional benefits,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior manager of marketing communications for WellPet. “A key approach to training employees on food labeling is understanding the order in which ingredients are listed, what the nutritional value and health benefits of these various ingredients are, and how each can satisfy different flavor preferences, lifestyles and nutritional needs.”
A strong sampling program for customers and employees is also important.
“Sampling and education are key,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “One of the most effective programs we have at The Honest Kitchen is our Real Food Gurus program, which enables store associates to purchase our products at a ‘pro deal’ rate (with their first box absolutely free), so they can then have more meaningful conversations with pet owners about how the product works.”
“Protein from a meat source provides sustained energy and is burned completely and efficiently,” according to Tracy Hatch-Rizzi, vice president and co-owner of Radagast Pet Food. “Rad Cat Raw Diet is a premium, all-natural, complete and balanced raw frozen diet formulated exclusively for the domestic feline carnivore. We are the only ones on the market who produce grain-free, fruit-free, bone-free and vegetable-free whole food diets for cats.”
Primal Pet Foods also has a long history in the raw, frozen and dehydrated category. They offer a full line of raw meaty bones for dogs and cats to have as part of their daily feeding or as a treat to enhance their tooth, gum and jaw health.
“The Primal Pet Foods product line offers an easy way to keep your pet’s diet as close to nature as possible,” said Matt Koss, president of Primal Pet Foods. “For example, our domestic pork vendor follows Federal Guidelines for Antibiotic-Free Hogs and maintains strict control of sanitation, cleanliness and temperature. By eating raw foods and treats produced using the highest-quality raw materials available, your pet receives optimum nutrition through active enzymes, unprocessed amino acids, and necessary vitamins and minerals that are essential to a natural, long, happy and healthy life.”
For customers not yet ready to make the jump to a raw diet, food toppers are a great solution.
“We’ll continue to see a trend towards pet owners being more in charge of what they put in their pets’ bowls, meaning an increase in the customization of meal times, mix-in and topper products that add variety and nutritional elements that may not exist in their pets’ basic core diets,” Postins said. “This trend is another element of the humanization of pet food, and wanting to feed cats and dogs a more varied diet (that more closely resembles what humans eat) rather than a monotonous diet of ‘fast food’ every day without any variations.”
The Honest Kitchen recently unveiled Proper Toppers, a dehydrated crispy whole food solution that can be sprinkled or crumbled onto meals for added variety, as well as to boost nutrition and palatability.
“Proper Toppers are also nutritionally balanced and complete, so they can also be fed as the sole diet if desired—for example, for smaller breeds or when traveling,” Postins said.
Through the Sojos brand, WellPet offers a range of raw freeze-dried treats and complete diets for both cats and dogs. According to the Sojos website, all their products are grain-free as well.
“2016 is an exciting year for us,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet. “We started the year off by welcoming Minneapolis-based raw pet food company, Sojos, to the WellPet family to expand the breadth of WellPet’s offerings, as well as reach pet parents interested in the benefits of raw nutrition.”
“Slow and steady is the key to success,” according to Bette Schubert, co-founder of Bravo. “That same tried-and-true methodology applies to successfully transitioning your pet to a raw diet. Because sudden changes can disrupt your pet’s digestive system, it is important to gradually change your pet’s diet by slowly integrating the new raw food of choice into their existing diet over an extended period of time.”
It’s also important to emphasize convenience when feeding frozen or dehydrated foods. Most frozen raw foods come in easy-to-serve frozen patties, chubs or bite-sized chunks. The dehydrated foods are simple to pack and take along while traveling and easy to measure for more accurate feeding.
With so much opportunity to expand the customer base for raw pet diets, Koss sees unlimited potential for the category and his company.
“The sky’s the limit, but we have a lot of work to do,” Koss said.
Services are the Cat’s Meow
Word is out: cats are the official pet of the millennial generation and it’s becoming apparent that retailers need to start planning unique services they can offer to these feline fanciers.
Pet services, such as full-service grooming, dental care, boarding, training and day camps, are the fastest-growing product segment for the industry over the last five years.
According to a recent report from IBISWorld, “the emerging trend of pet parents has bolstered demand for price premium pet products and services.”
“Because pets are treated as family members, pet owners frequently lavish them with all-natural and organic pet foods and treats, in addition to high-end services,” the report reads. “As the economy continues its upward trajectory and consumers have more discretionary income, revenue from premium products and services is projected to increase.”
That’s all fine for dogs, but how do our traditionally shy cats find their place in the pet store? It turns out that there is plenty of room for our feline friends in the service industry and those who are the first to embrace this new trend will benefit the most.
From in-store cafes that serve raw organic meat meals to acupuncture clinics, specialty services are where it’s at for cat owners.
Pussy & Pooch call themselves an urban oasis for pets and their people, offering a signature in-store pet cafe for modern pets. A daily selection of raw meat meals, simmered stews and meaty bones are prepared fresh to order, in addition to gourmet treats, snacks and specially designed drinks. Custom divider seating for up to three cats at once help facilitate a safe environment.
As cats move from roaming the yard to exploring cushy catios and homes designed specifically to meet their individualized needs, there is more need than ever for in-store design services.
Thanks to cat-centric designers like Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther working with feline behaviorists like Jackson Galaxy, environmental enrichment (referred to as “catification” by the pair) is going mainstream with more consumers seeking out feline-friendly designs they can easily integrate into their homes.
Retailers have a unique opportunity to implement these products into store design to demonstrate unique ways to help pet owners maximize their home environment. Innovate by offering in-store design services or virtual workshops and webinars. This will translate into an opportunity for the sale of unique products from smaller manufacturers, giving the smaller retail stores a leg up in this segment.
Social media will continue to be the key to driving traffic into stores. The millennial generation is one of the most informed, and with easy access to internet and online data, it’s important to give them a reason to come into your brick and mortar store.
This can be accomplished by encouraging nutritionists to visit and offer in-store classes, training seminars, and even having a room designed specifically for feline agility courses, play areas, or even adoption centers where cat owners can try out new toys and products.
Be sure to consider loyalty programs and take advantage of the ability to offer food and treat samples from distributors.
Grooming As a Mainstay
There will always be room for full-service grooming services. However, as most cats are notoriously shy of water, there should be plenty of options available for calming cats, as well as providing stress-free environments.
For example, Petsmart now offers grooming services for cats that include aromatherapy to help keep cats calm during and after services. The package includes avocado, sunflower and lavender oils and lemongrass extract, which help soften the skin and relieve dryness.
Offering nail trims and nail caps application not only help encourage proper care, but can help educate cat owners that declawing procedures are cruel and unnecessary.
For the cat-centric store, there are plenty of opportunities in the cat cafe market. The industry is experiencing extraordinary growth worldwide.
Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, was the first to open in the U.S. in late 2013. Since that time, dozens of other cat cafes have begun operation across the U.S., from California to New York.
Fan favorites include Meow Parlour in New York City, where cat loving patrons can rent time to relax with dozens of free-roaming cats or just have a bite to eat in the Meow Parlour Patisserie with a furry friend.
Koneko cat cafe is another great locale, offering Asian-style refreshments in a relaxing bar devoted to those who enjoy watching cats but not necessarily interacting. Large windows allow patrons to enjoy a glass of sake while watching cats play. For the adventurous, enter the two-story cat condo and interact with lucky rescue cats who lounge around both indoors and on their outdoor patio. If you happen to make a special connection with one or more, the cats are all adoptable.
The cat cafe concept is quickly being applied to other species, with dog adoption cafes opening as well. In Japan, the founders of the cat cafe concept continue to innovate and now patrons can find dog, owl, turtle, reptile and even falcon cafes across the country.
Focusing on the Cat Owner
Services don’t have to be the only thing you offer, but specific events for cat lovers are something you should add to your calendar. These include cat-centric book signings with local celebrities and authors. Design services can be easily offered in workshops or in the customer’s own home, by partnering with cat-centric designers.
Health screenings, vaccination days, and services focused on specific “holidays” (such as “National Dental Week” or “Hairball Awareness Day”) are easy to support and can draw into your store people who normally wouldn’t be there.
Other events that stores should look into include CPR certification courses, behavioral consultations, cat yoga classes and more. The only limit to what your store can offer is your imagination.
Chew It Over
Consumers are invested in selecting eco-friendly products that are good for their pets. According to a report from Packaged Facts, combined sales of natural pet care products will grow by 10-15 percent over the period from 2014-17. Sales are projected to reach $9.4 billion by 2017, doubling from an estimated $4.1 billion in 2012.
Yet with an expanding industry comes popular buzzwords such as “all natural” and “organic.” These terms can be misleading and create distrust among consumers.
“Virtually every pet food and treat calls itself ‘all-natural’ these days,” said Anthony Bennie, co-founder and chief nutrition officer of Clear Conscience Pet. “But there are no regulations that define these terms, and mega corporations have learned to employ these buzzwords, which has put consumers in the position of not knowing what is really the best for their pets. That’s why we came up with the CleanLabel line, which respects consumers by giving them information that is easy to understand.”
Making Better Choices
Consumers demand high standards and quality control in manufacturing, sourcing and packaging processes, and make it clear that they expect the same standards for their pets’ treats and chews, too.
“Treat selection is a natural extension of these better food choices,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder of Bravo.
Chewing is natural for pets and can help behavioral health as well as their physical health.
“Dogs have a natural instinct for our type of products,” said Suzanne Madenis, who works in marketing at Jones Natural Chews. “Gnawing on bones and munching on meat treats is what they would do in the wild. It’s something that dogs not only enjoy, but need to do to be completely content.”
As more pet owners watch their pets battle obesity or have reactions to common proteins, there is a call for leaner alternative proteins. Whether it’s alligator jerky, bison bones or naturally shed elk antlers, there are plenty of exotic proteins available to pets.
However, stocking all-natural chews that pets love and pet owners will buy is not always simple.
“When it comes to keeping dogs of any size happy, engaged and occupied, it all comes down to the aroma, texture and taste,” said Bill Chilian, marketing vice president at Barkworthies. “Our Goat Horn chews offer pet parents a new, enduring way to keep their dogs occupied and happy. They’re composed of a dense keratin outside layer with nutrient-rich marrow inside, so they’re durable, appetizing and challenging enough to offer even aggressive chewers.”
Barkworthies offers a natural kangaroo steak made of all-natural, free-range Australian kangaroo that is rich in iron, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12.
“Whimzees are long-lasting chews made from potato starch, a highly digestible, gluten-free source of energy,” said Lion Houkes, global marketing director at Paragon Pet Products. “The limited, natural ingredients in Whimzeez offer a high quality vegetarian option to your pet that promotes dental/oral health, but with a taste and texture dogs adore.”
“I think we’ll continue to see a trend toward simplification and minimization of ingredient decks,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “As customers become more attuned to their pets’ food sensitivities and allergies, they’ll seek out food solutions that are formulated without the ingredients their pets can’t tolerate.”
“We’ll also continue to see a trend towards pet owners being more in charge of what they put in their pets’ bowls, meaning an increase in customization of mealtimes, mix-in and topper products that add variety and nutritional elements that may not exist in their pets’ basic core diets,” Postins said. “This trend is another element of the humanization of pet food, and wanting to feed cats and dogs a more varied diet rather than a monotonous diet of ‘fast food’ every day without any variations.”
For pet owners who want an alternative to meat, Himalayan Dog Chews are a favorite. The chews utilize an ancient recipe of yak and cow milk to create an extremely hard cheese that dogs love. The company reports that these products last, on average, five to seven times longer than bully sticks.
Copper’s Classics products are minimally processed, single ingredient chews that are made with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Program products are exclusively sourced from animals born and raised in the U.S. and are produced and packaged solely in U.S. plants that uphold the highest standards in food safety.
“Being trusted with the welfare of our customers’ pets is a responsibility we take very seriously,” said Rebecca Deveau-Greene, program development manager at JBS USA, maker of Copper’s Classics. “We only offer products that we feel comfortable feeding to our own dogs.”
“Ingredient purity and integrity are paramount,” Postins agreed. “Customers should seek out treats that are free of added chemical preservatives, artificial palatants and sweeteners. Wishes are a pure fish treat made from wild, line-caught Icelandic haddock with nothing added at all, and can easily be snapped into smaller pieces for smaller pets.”
Natural Chews for Pocket Pets
“When stocking natural chews, it’s important to remember that all species can benefit from chewing, particularly rabbits and other cavies, whose teeth continuously grow,” said Lisa Kniceley, marketing director of Vitakraft Sunseed. “Rabbits need to chew, both for physical and psychological reasons. Vitacraft Sunseed provides interactive treats and chews that help all small animals keep their teeth. Our Vita Prima Garden Pops Strawberry is a toy and a treat, and our new Sunsations Brain Teaser is a way for pet parents to interact with their guinea pigs.”
Super Chews from Marshall Pet Products are a favorite among ferret owners.
“Our Super Chews help satisfy a ferret’s natural chewing instinct and prevents destructive chewing,” said Linda Cope, marketing director for Marshall Pet. “Best of all, they are protein-based and free of sugar and preservatives, making them a fun and healthy treat.”
Probiotics for Pets
With all of the talk about natural pet food in the industry, there is relatively little time devoted to information about probiotics. While feeding a pet nutritious food is an important way to gain probiotics, supplementation can make an obvious difference in an animal’s health.
Better Digestion, Better Health
At their most basic, probiotics help support a healthy digestive function. Supplementing a pet’s diet with beneficial microorganisms is a way to help make the digestive process more efficient, which in turn can help increase immunity, offset reactions to medications (especially antibiotics) and reduce the effects of stress in pets.
“Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, such as Bacillus coagulans found in Plant Enzymes and Probiotics by Animal Essentials, which add to existing microflora in the intestinal tract,” said Greg Tilford, CEO of Animal Essentials. “A prebiotic on the other hand is a substance that serves as functional food for pre-existing microflora in the gut.”
Beyond promoting good intestinal health when used on a regular basis, veterinarians and retailers recommend keeping a supply of reliable probiotics on hand for pets that are prone to stress, such as animals in stores or rescue environments and those who are prone to stomach upset and digestive tract issues such as diarrhea.
“Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a variety of digestive disorders that can be triggered by many different things,” said Joe Petracca, vice president of business development at Lifes2good.
“Whether your pet suffers from a diagnosed chronic disorder like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or simply ate something that they shouldn’t have, it is easy to recognize when they are not feeling well,” Petracca said. “By introducing the Pettura Digestive Health supplement into their daily routine, you are providing them with GanedenBC30, a lactic acid producing bacteria that will support their daily digestive health by producing a wide spectrum of enzymes that help maintain proper gut flora. This drug-free chew is an easy and quick solution to supporting dog’s digestive health. It is for dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds and the once-a-day digestive health chew comes in a resealable bag for extra freshness.”
When selecting a probiotic, it’s important to remember that they are species-specific. Humans and animals have very different prebiotic and probiotic needs, so simply adding a human probiotic is not an efficient way of helping pets.
LICKS’ Pill-Free supplements are individually packaged for easy storage and help consumers avoid measuring out powders. They are also simple to administer by mixing into food, giving it to them directly, or placing on a dog or cat’s paw and allowing them to lick it off.
“When used at mealtime, LICKS’ digestive supplements utilize a proprietary blend of digestive enzymes to help relieve gas and bloating from food transitioning or just everyday stomach upset,” said Amy Paris, founder of LICKS Pill-Free, which offers an extensive line of species-specific supplements. “By providing your pet with a natural digestive supplement, you can help boost their immune system and give them optimal digestive health.”
Probiotics are also available in chews, which are healthy ways to reward your pets during training.
Tomlyn Multi-Vitamin Chews Plus Probiotics and Enzymes come in pet-friendly flavors, and each is scientifically formulated with a comprehensive blend of vitamin E, digestive enzymes, omega-3 for inflammation and selenium for antioxidant/immune support.
Drinking to Health
Heyrex, manufacturers of the Torus innovative and award-winning pet water bowl system, recently announced the launch of Torus supplements: four new soluble animal health supplements for dogs and cats. To help maintain a healthy digestive tract, the Probiotics formulation contains 200 million colony-forming units of live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms. All of the new supplements are veterinarian-formulated and backed by scientific research to help provide essential nutrients for dogs and cats.
“The pet supplement market is experiencing unprecedented growth due to a strengthening of the human-pet bond,” said Kim Goldsworthy, general manager of sales and marketing at Heyrex. “Pet parents continue to seek out unique products that address specific needs and that are easy to use. Our supplements are formulated to meet what pet parents expect in terms of quality ingredients and convenience of use. With the addition of these new products, we’re able to offer a more complete line of pet care options, so that it’s easier for retailers to select the ideal mix for their customers.”
When selecting probiotics, it’s important to understand what to look for on the labels.
Each species and strain of probiotics should be noted. A good supplement will usually contain at least ten strains; this ensures better diversity of good flora. The label should also include the number of colony-forming units (CFU) per serving and per gram. This is a measurement of the viable microbes in a probiotic. The better supplements will include at least 20 million CFUs per gram.
The only downside to stocking probiotics is that individual animals may respond differently to a specific brand. This may make it necessary to carry several brands that you can recommend customers try for each of their pets. Stocking a variety of probiotics and prebiotics will allow stores to recommend alternatives to pets that may not respond to one specific brand.
The Great Outdoors
Summer has arrived and that means cats are going to want to be outdoors at least part of the time—even more so than usual. Letting cats outside has some risks, but there are safe ways to allow cats outdoors. Plus, it can help alleviate behavioral problems and promote good health. Retailers should be aware of solutions and have the ability to make recommendations to keep cats safe when they’re outdoors by stocking up on plenty of cat harnesses, natural approaches to pest control, outdoor enclosures and even cat-proof fencing.
Outdoor Fun and Safety
Cat enclosures (a.k.a. “catios”) and fencing can go a long way toward protecting indoor cats who want to prowl a backyard. Companies like Purr…fect Fence now allow consumers to screen off a porch with nearly invisible fencing, install freestanding fencing to enclose an entire backyard, or add fencing to an existing fence in order to make it cat-proof.
For those who choose not to fence their yard, a free-standing enclosure may work best. Companies like Habitat Haven and C&D Pets offer enclosure kits that can be ordered online or stocked neatly in larger stores.
While stocking fencing or entire enclosures may prove challenging in a small brick & mortar store, there are plenty of other options.
Despite hailing from the desert, cats are very susceptible to heatstroke and precautions should be taken when installing or using any outdoor shelter. Shade should always be provided throughout the day.
The Green Pet Shop Self Cooling Pet Pad helps solve the problem of overheated cats. The pads require no refrigeration and are self-activated by weight. Cats love them because they offer gentle, long-term cooling that fits naturally with a cat’s comfort level.
“The Cool Pet Pad is a great product for both cats and dogs, especially during the summer/warm seasons,” said Brian Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop. “Even though cats typically tend to gravitate toward warmth (which is one of the reasons we’ve also brought on the Achy Paws Warming Mats), the cooling pads offer a cool sensation for your cat to help prevent overheating and dehydration. As the spring and summer season approaches, your cat needs this safe and reliable solution to protect itself from the heat.”
Specialty cat harnesses are all the rage in the cat world, and most cats adjust to their wear quickly and easily. Crazy K Farms offer a Velcro close on their walking vests for cats, while Sturdi Products offers vests that use a snapping closure. Petsafe also offers a unique line of harnesses specifically designed for cats.
While enclosures can protect cats from escape or large predators like coyotes, there are other risks that need to be considered. Stocking up on pest control items is an important consideration. Beyond a cat’s monthly heartworm protection, stores should have a variety of safe, natural pest control items at the ready.
“When formulating Wondercide Natural Flea & Tick Control for Pets + Home, we knew it needed to be safe and effective for cats,” said Stephanie Boone, Wondercide CEO. ”To do this, our cedar oil is steam-distilled and tested to ensure all phenolic compounds have been removed, providing a safe, pesticide-free and non-toxic solution for unwanted fleas and ticks for our cats and other pets.”
Natural Chemistry, which has been acquired by Muntech, also has an extensive line of natural flea and tick products.
“While fleas themselves are irritating, some cats may even be allergic to the saliva they contain, which can result in a hypersensitivity reaction and more discomfort for your pet,” reports their website. “Natural Chemistry Pet provides a full line of flea products to help provide relief and treatment for your furry friend!”
Despite our best efforts, the occasional tick may find its way onto a pet. That’s where the Tick Releaser Spray and Test Kit from Marshall Pet Products will provide security for owners.
“The number of people who have contracted Lyme disease has increased two-fold, leading consumers to seek out solutions to help protect them against this disease,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products. “Our Tick Release Spray uses all-natural essential oils to encourage the tick to quickly release itself from you or your pet. Once it has disengaged, simply drop it into a vial that is included in the Tick Release Packet and mail it in for testing. Our laboratories will test for up to seven tick-borne diseases, including Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia.”
Each kit includes an all-natural releaser spray, tweezers, a collection tube, an alcohol prep pad and a mail-in testing order form. Testing fees range from $25 for three tests to $65 for all seven tests.
Food and water should always be provided when cats are outdoors, but that can often result in ant invasions. These days, there are a number of specialty bowls available to keep ants and bugs from entering a cat’s outdoor area. Sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) around a cat’s food and water bowls will often keep ants at bay. There is no need to stock large bags of this bulky item and take up precious shelf space. The Diatomaceous Earth Dust from DERMagic is available in handy “sprinkle jars” that are attractive and very simple to stock.
Despite the popularity of cats, not everyone welcomes the idea of outdoor cats and you’ll likely have plenty of people wander into your store asking how to repel feral and stray cats from their yards and gardens. This also provides a unique opportunity to cross-sell yard supplies.
America’s Finest organic cat repellent is one of the more popular all-natural repellents on the market and is available in a 3.5 lb. shaker bag. The active ingredients include dried blood, garlic, cedar, rosemary, peppermint and citronella oils. It’s safe for outdoor use and organic gardens as it contains no dangerous chemicals and actually trains cats to stay out of yards.
No matter what you choose to carry in your store, it’s important to be aware of the safety needs of cats in the great outdoors and make recommendations based on what is best for each individual cat.
The land has always provided for humans and our pets, and with the increase in popularity for natural products, there’s little wonder that products sourced from the land are getting most of our attention these days.
Food and Supplements
While natural, eco-friendly materials are being sourced in more innovative ways, pet food is also seeing growth in traditional land-based products. We know that human trends are almost always followed by pet trends and we’re looking at some of the ways this holds true.
Turmeric is a plant from the ginger family that is taking center stage in helping all species with everything from digestive issues to inflammation and helping with joint health. Last year, The Honest Kitchen introduced Bone Broth with Turmeric. This dehydrated broth for cats and dogs is a gourmet mix of beef bone broth, parsley, pumpkin and turmeric, which is a powerful antioxidant for pets and people alike.
Treat manufacturers are also breaking the mold on traditional proteins, including a new treat from Awesome Possum Dog and Cat Treats made in New Zealand. According to Awesome Possum, “these eco-conscious dog and cat treats are made from a destructive invasive opossum.” These treats are free of grains and GMOs, and are great for pets with food allergies.
Wild boar is another trendy canine culinary treat. This year, Tasman’s introduced Natural Pet Wild Boar Chews. These long-lasting premium wild boar hide chews are sourced in the U.S. and are antibiotic- and chemical-free.
For those craving a different taste, the new bite-sized alligator, rabbit and wild boar Soft ‘n Tasty treats from Caru are made with USDA-inspected meat as the first ingredient plus healthy blueberries and cranberries.
We’re also seeing new sources of supplements from a variety of companies. Ewegurt is an all-natural supplement that features sheep’s milk.
“Sheep’s milk contains about one-third more energy than cow or goat milk,” said Jennifer Erdman, founder of Ewegurt, LLC. “It has double the protein and much more of the right kinds of fats, vitamins and minerals—particularly calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc—while being lower in sodium. It has more than twice as much vitamin C and double or triple the other essential vitamins. Importantly, it also has more folic acid.”
Companies continue traveling the globe to find unique ingredients. Natura Petz Organics just added a new, premium organic supplement collection that each contain proprietary Master Rainforest and Andean herbal blends from the world’s richest biospheres.
Pain management for pets is also seeing green with the legalization of medicinal cannibis and hemp products. One of nature’s best sources of plant-based protein, the hemp plant is quickly starting to be recognized as a superfood.
“Pet Releaf’s products have quickly received a wonderful reception from customers and retailers alike,” said Pet Releaf founder and CEO Alina Smith. “We’re looking forward to sharing our healthy new offerings with our consumer base, as it was our consumers’ voices that led to the creation of the new products.”
Toys and Accessories
The benefits of other products require a little more research, but once you understand the interest, you’ll be purchasing for your own yard.
Dog Rocks were discovered in Australia and have been selling in the Aussie and U.K. market since 2000. Recently introduced to the American market, they’ve become popular, as dog owners have seen the rocks keep yards green and free of dog urine marks.
Land-based materials have always been a staple in manufacturing pet products, but these days, materials are being sourced from unusual locales. For instance, the cork oak tree has bark that regenerates itself every nine years. The smooth, pliable bark is durable, lightweight, waterproof, buoyant, hypoallergenic and stain-resistant.
Pelcor pet products are crafted in Europe using the highest-quality cork skin harvested from the sustainable cork oak forests of southern Portugal. With cork’s organic, dappled appearance, no two Pelcor pet accessories are exactly alike.
Sustainable materials are also important to those in the pet toy categories. These companies typically use a short list of ingredients and materials, affording a high level of transparency to consumers. For example, Jax & Bones uses nontoxic vegetable dye and cotton rope to manufacture toys.
Bamboo continues to be the darling of the pet industry. Hypoallergenic and naturally resilient against pests, bamboo is easily grown in nearly any climate. Since it does not require the use of pesticides to thrive, plantations can be kept organic and replanted each year to replenish stocks with a minimum of effort.
Companies like Loving Pets are taking full advantage of the flexibility of bamboo and have created Bambú Bowls, an eco-friendly option for pet feeding dishes.
Beco Pets was founded by British duo George Bramble and Toby Massey. The company has also embraced bamboo as a sustainable material for pet products, along with recycled plastics and natural rubber.
“Our dog and cat bowls are made from bamboo fibers taken from off-cuts when chopsticks are made and our Beco Beds contain stuffing made from recycled plastic soda bottles,” said David Levy, founder of Pet Product Innovations and distributor of Beco Pets. “We are also bringing to the U.S. a new range of eco-friendly toys, including the brand new Beco Flyer, a flying disc dog toy that whizzes through the air to the delight of its canine catchers. All our rubber chew toys, including The Beco Flyer, are made from 100 percent natural rubber and rice husks, which are toxin-free and extra tough.”
Better Boxes, Lighter Litters
Cats have also captured the attention of the millennial generation and that means it’s more important than ever to expand your knowledge of the many new products available. New additions to the litter/waste category include diagnostic cat litters, lightweight and portable litter boxes, as well as a vast array of organizational options that keep cat owners purring.
Diagnostic cat litters are the newest addition to health-monitoring, early-detection litter. Checking your cat’s urinary pH levels can go a long way towards solving problems before they start. In fact, according to Pretty Litter, the average American cat owner spends an average of $600 on veterinary bills every year—mostly due to emergency visits for urinary issues.
“The importance of monitoring pets’ health is critical to good pet parenting,” said Daniel Rotman, CEO of Pretty Litter. “Cats, for example, are stoic and resilient creatures. They can hide illness for weeks before you see any signs or symptoms. Using a tool like Pretty Litter, which is a cat litter that will change color if it detects certain health issues with your cat, was built because early detection is key in preventing serious issues from spiraling out of control.”
Pretty Litter changes color when it detects the most common feline illnesses. Cats are genius at hiding pain and this makes early detection of problems nearly impossible. Their new litter makes it possible to catch the problem before emergency surgery is required and it’s as easy as changing the litter.
Environmentally Friendly Litter
Made from sustainably harvested, extra-lightweight fine wood granules, ökocat Soft Step is perfect for senior cats and kittens, as well as any cat with sensitive paws. Similar to the texture of clay litter, Soft Step makes it easy to transition cats to a natural, eco-friendly litter. This biodegradable line of natural cat litters offers up to 500 percent absorption, seven day odor control and a lighter weight and environmentally friendlier alternative to clay litter.
“The summer months can mean more allergens, dirt and bacteria being brought in and out of your house, so choose ökocat naturally dust-free cat litter to keep the home healthy and clean,” said Jane Wasley, brand manager of Healthy Pet, maker of ökocat litters.
Other natural litters include those from Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Litter, which utilizes the power of natural enzymes in renewable wheat crops. This low-dust and low-tracking litter is completely biodegradable.
Next Gen Pets uses recycled wood and green tea leaves to make their eco-friendly cat litter.
World’s Best Cat Litter is another favorite that is made from whole kernel corn, while Benevo Cat Litter is made from non-genetically modified maize and other vegetable derivatives.
Yesterday’s News Cat Litter, which is made from recycled paper, creates a dust-free option and their new package design is even 100 percent recyclable.
Latest Litter Boxes
Thinking outside of the box has its rewards. The KatPak from The Green Pet Shop is a water-resistant litter box made of heavy duty paper that stores flat. To use, simply unfold it and pour a week’s worth of litter inside. The KatPak measures a generous 13 inches wide by 18.9 inches long by 15 inches high when opened. Cats are intrigued by the privacy and design, which is just like climbing into a box. Clean up is as easy as replacing the box.
“The KatPak is ideal for apartment dwellers, seniors, travelers and pregnant cat parents,” said Larry Wright, The Green Pet Shop’s president and CEO. “In fact, it’s great for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with kitty litter mess ever again.”
The industry is also seeing innovation in the form of crowdfunding as more people jump on the bandwagon and retailers can see what will potentially do well in their stores. The Luuup Litter Box has raised over $1.1 million (CAD) for the development of a simple yet ingenious system that allows for a lift and sort process.
“After selling almost two million units of the original version, we knew we had a great product,” wrote Luuup founder Nicholas Petty. “The goal of the redesign was to make the best litter box, period. We improved functionality, the quality of materials and construction along with the overall aesthetics.”
While it may seem that some boxes are becoming simpler, others are becoming high-tech. The Litter Robot Open Air III has been completely redesigned with a larger, upward-facing entryway and an improved self-adjusting weight sensor. Litter is automatically cleaned after each use and waste is deposited into a convenient drawer.
When stocking litter boxes, retailers are presented with an opportunity to cross-sell other helpful accessories.
“We all love our pets, but cleaning up after them can be a really messy chore,” said Fernando Becattini Jr., founder and president of Neater Pets. “The Neater Scooper’s attached waste bin and trap door design make cleaning the litter box so much neater and easier. When litter boxes are cleaner, cats are more comfortable and much less likely to have accidents outside the box so everybody is happier.”
The Litter Genie Plus Cat Litter Disposal System reduces odor, hygienically seals soiled litter clumps and reduces trips to the garbage. The Litter Genie can hold up to two weeks of waste before emptying, eliminating the daily need to go to the outside trash and making it a convenient way to keep litter boxes clean.
SmartyKat offers a variety of stylishly designed and functional waste management, scatter control and odor control products that improve the litter experience for pets and pet parents. Litter mats become important products when upselling a customer, but knowing which accessories to recommend require an understanding of feline behavior—products like Clean Exit, a scatter control mat that keeps litter off of the floor to decrease tracking.
Organizing products are just as important.
“We think that cat owners will really appreciate the PurrfectOrder and VaporVault,” said Shannon McWilliams, vice president for product development at Worldwise. “No more searching through cabinets and drawers—now everything you need for litter box maintenance and waste storage is in a neat and stylishly organized modular system.”
In the Raw
Pet owners are spending more time dishing out grain-free, organic and all-natural foods to their pets. According to GfK, from 2014-2015 retail sales of raw freeze-dried dog food jumped nearly 64 percent, while raw frozen pet food increased from $52 million to $69 million. A study by Research and Markets stated that the total North American pet nutraceuticals market was valued at over $1528.4 million in 2015 and is projected to continue to grow significantly between the years 2015 and 2020.
While raw diets are rapidly increasing in popularity, there is still confusion about what raw means and how best to define the term. Lacking an official definition by the FDA, retailers will need to become more educated than ever on pet nutrition and diets if they want to succeed in this category. A change in terminology may help, as consumers tend to be more inclined to understand “species-appropriate” or “ancestral” diets.
Convenient and Healthy
Most agree that there are many benefits of a raw diet, including healthier skin and coat, stronger teeth and bones, and an overall improvement in health. But raw diets have traditionally been difficult to feed, and lacking in guidelines and nutritional analysis. These days, prepared foods in the dehydrated or frozen category are sweeping the industry for their ease of use and nutritional benefits. It’s important to let consumers know that raw is more accessible and easier to feed than ever.
Bravo’s Canine Cafe Grain & Gluten Free Dinners are raw meals that come in three different protein options. They are packaged in cans for easy feeding. Complete and balanced nutrition for dogs of all ages and breeds, Canine Cafe meals feature prime cuts of meat as 95 percent of the ingredients. There are no artificial preservatives, flavors, colors or grains of any kind in their foods.
Primal Pet Foods also has a long history in this category. According to the company’s website, all Primal Formulas contain fresh ground bone for calcium supplementation. This combination of ingredients offers optimum levels of the amino acids (protein), essential fatty acids, naturally-occurring enzymes, and vitamins and minerals that are necessary building blocks for your pet’s healthy biological functions. They also offer a full line of raw meaty bones for dogs and cats to have as part of their daily feeding or as a treat to enhance their tooth, gum and jaw health.
For those seeking alternative proteins, Sojos recently introduced their line of shelf-stable raw dog food called Sojos Wild. This high-protein, ultra-premium diet is made with freeze-dried, exotic meat or fish as the number one ingredient. Sojos Wild is available in free-range venison, wild boar or wild-caught Alaskan salmon varieties.
“2016 is an exciting year for us,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet. “We started the year off by welcoming Minneapolis-based raw pet food company, Sojos, to the WellPet family to expand the breadth of WellPet’s offerings, as well as to reach pet parents interested in the benefits of raw nutrition. Combining more than 100 years of pet nutrition experience, this acquisition brings a commitment of excellence to Sojos and WellPet’s consumers, both through our distribution facilities and quality of our products.”
Expect to see a variety of unique protein combinations throughout the industry in 2016.
“Our Totally Different! Duck, Mango, and Wild ocean-caught tuna fish are hand packed and consist of a hand-selected blend of unique proteins and superfoods to serve your cat the most healthy and palatable complete and balanced dinner,” said Chelsea Sher, co-founder of Against the Grain. “Mangoes are ‘The King of Fruits’ and are loaded with vitamins C and A and carotenoids, which help support a healthy immune system, kidney health and bladder health.”
Top it Off
Not every consumer will be ready to convert to fully raw diets. That’s where the new toppers trend comes in.
“Our brand new Proper Toppers product addresses the customization/mix-in trend,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “Proper Toppers are a dehydrated, crispy whole food solution that can be sprinkled or crumbled onto meals for added variety as well as to boost nutrition and palatability. They’re 90 percent meat plus dehydrated whole superfoods, vitamins and minerals. Proper Toppers are also nutritionally balanced and complete, so they can also be fed as the sole diet if desired (for example, for smaller breeds or when traveling). We’re launching two flavors to begin with (chicken and turkey) and plan to add some new recipes as well as a feline version, in the future.”
The Honest Kitchen also offers a line of epicurean pet food and new minimalist lines, as well as a variety of premium treats and supplements, including ProBloom, a dehydrated raw goat milk that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes that help settle sensitive stomachs.
Other notable raw supplements on the market include Ewegurt, a relatively new addition to the market that uses sheep’s milk to provide a nutrient rich powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols. Owners sprinkle it on a pet’s food to reap the benefits of this superfood and calming agent.
“I created this product out of a need to help my golden who suffers from anxiety that caused him to have seizures because his cortisol levels spike during stressful situations,” said Jennifer Erdman, founder and managing partner of Ewegurt, LLC. “Ewegurt has helped him be almost seizure free!”
Selling raw foods and treats successfully depends on educating the customer.
“As natural pet foods become a staple in many pets’ diets, it is important for retailers to know the benefits specialty lines can offer cats and dogs,” Leary-Coutu said. “Pet parents interested in making the switch to feeding their cats natural treats have high standards when it comes to ingredient quality and sourcing. It is important to provide consumers with clear and accurate information regarding their pet’s food so they are able to make a well-informed decision on what food or treats would work best for their pets.”