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.”
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.
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.”