Slow It Down There, Doggie

Customers frequently seek solutions to problems with some idea of what they need, and purchase products they know will solve their problem.

The slow feeder category is different though because, more often than not, customers don’t know that a slow feeder could be the solution to their problem.

Customers come into the store looking for a solution to specific health concerns like gas or bloat, and behavioral problems like destructive chewing. These customers are probably unfamiliar with slow or interactive feeders. In fact, many customers aren’t yet aware that such products exist, so directing them to these products will help them discover new solutions to an old problem.

Bill McQuade, who along with his wife, operate three pet stores in Arkansas, said that few of their customers specifically seek slow feeders. Rather, they’re looking for solutions to problems like vomiting or gas, and he recommends slow feeding bowls as the solution.

Problem Solving

Customers whose dogs gulp their food or who have body types prone to bloat, seek solutions to help prevent their dogs from bloating, which can be deadly.

“Bloat is the second leading health risk in canines,” Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets, said. “Our goal was to create a solution that helps prevent bloat by slowing your dog down while eating, and easily attaches to the bowl customers already own.”

Loving Pets introduced the Gobble Stopper, which is an affordable option because it doesn’t require the customer to purchase a separate bowl. Instead, it works with their existing ceramic, stainless or plastic dish. The “canopy” bone design of the Gobble Stopper creates an obstacle during meals, effectively slowing the pace of consumption by up to five times, according to the company.

Another solution is the Flying Saucer from Advance Pet Products. The stainless steel bowl is designed with a raised element in the center, which creates a channel around the rim from which the dog eats. Ravi Singh, of  Advance Pet Products, said this product was developed for puppies. However, these types of obstacles encourage dogs to eat slowly, minimizing the health risks associated with eating too quickly.

Jason Vap, founder of petprojekt, offers the Bloat Blocker, which works on his own dog.

“There’s a great selection of slow feeding products out there on the market,” he said. “Our product, the Bloat Blocker, helps prevent bloat by utilizing the patent pending suction cup that allows it to adhere to any type of dog bowl, whether it’s ceramic, stainless steel or even plastic.”

It forces the dog to eat around it, which causes the animal to slow down in either drinking or eating.

“Since the original prototype, it’s greatly helped my Doberman slow his eating down by more than half the time,” Vap said.

Vap is correct when he says there are many types of these products available.

The Company of Animals offers the Green Dog Slow Feeder, which turns a dog’s meal into a challenging game. All a customer has to do is scatter the desired amount of food across the Green and watch the dog work to push the food out between the many blades of grass.

Behavior Issues

Further, customers seek solutions to behavioral problems like destructive chewing and obsessive compulsive behaviors. McQuade says that in his stores, he suggests slow feeders to customers who are struggling with these issues. For instance, the Gobble Stopper is recommended for multiple pet households where food stealing or food aggression issues may arise as a result of varying paces of eating.

Aikiou developed their interactive feeding products to address behavioral issues. The company’s products are designed to capitalize on a dog’s natural instincts.

“Each and every bowl we make is applied directly to the natural behavior of the animal,” Alexandre Tremblay, president of Aikiou, said. “Most [customers] look at it because they have a behavioral problem or a dog that is just bored.”

The Aikiou bowl adds an activity to the dog’s day that helps keep their mind occupied.

Because this category is unfamiliar to many consumers, there is tremendous room for growth. According to Tremblay, this category is destined to grow as consumers gain that much-needed education.

“It’s hard to say where this category will go,” he said. “It’s a need. It’s our responsibility to get dogs the products they need in their life to survive mentally or physically. This category is going to grow, and it’s going to grow pretty fast when people start to realize that we need to supply animals with the products they need to express their natural instincts.”

What’s Next?

Additional or expanded product offerings will help drive that growth. Singh, of Advance Pet Products, says his company plans to adjust its line by making a heavier dish and offering more options than the current 26- and 58-ounce sizes. He says they want to accommodate larger dogs in their future slow feeder offerings.

Education is the key to successful slow feeder sales, meaning sales staff should be prepared to direct customers who are facing health or behavioral problems to this category.

“A few [customers] ask about them,but usually it is an educational sale,” McQuade said.

This is where correctly merchandising the product to grab the attention of a customer can play a critical part. Consider end caps with educational signage and unique product placement.

“I certainly suggest that these types of items really need to be located near bowls, feeders and feeding supplies,” Vap said. “Many retailers have a specialty section, which causes great confusion to the end customer, whereas they might not be aware that there are products out there to help with this issue.”

Innova Introduces Nature’s Table

Natura Pet Products‘ Innova line of dog and cat food recently introduced its new Nature’s Table Grain Free Dog and Cat Foods and Treats during an invite-only, farm-to-table dinner in New York City, which featured the same farm-grown ingredients found in its product line.

Nature’s Table brings the farm to a pet’s bowl, using real, wholesome ingredients such as sweet blueberries, seasonal pumpkin and fresh carrots. Ingredients that are grown and raised with care, from places they know, by trusted partners, like handpicked apples from Evans Fruit Orchards, in Washington State.


Like all Innova products, Nature’s Table does not contain any chicken by-product meal, fillers, wheat, corn, soy, or artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. Animal protein is always the first ingredient, helping to maintain lean muscle mass. The products are grain and white potato free, with no gluten added.

During the event, attendees were able to feast on a menu prepared by chef Kerry Heffernan and inspired by the fresh ingredients you would find in the new Nature’s Table line of products. The four course meal, included entrees like smoked chicken breast with lentil and root vegetable ragout and rosemary custard, carpaccio bison with cranberry agrodolce and sunflower chive oil and pumpkin brulee with sweet whipped cottage cheese and Mexican cinnamon.

Dog owners can choose from five nutritious dry recipes and two treat recipes:

  • Grain Free Farm-Raised Chicken & Savory Turkey Recipe Adult Dog Food
  • Grain Free Cold Water Salmon & Wild Herring Recipe Adult Dog Food
  • Grain Free Ranch-Raised Beef & Red Lentils Recipe Adult Dog Food
  • Grain Free Adult Dog Food with Ranch-Raised Bison & Green Lentils
  • Grain Free Adult Dog Food with Pasture-Raised Venison & Split Peas
  • Grain Free Farm-Raised Chicken Recipe Dog Treats
  • Grain Free Ranch-Raised Beef & Garden Peas Recipe Dog Treats



Cat owners will have two nutritious dry recipes and one treat recipe to choose from:

  • Grain Free Farm-Raised Chicken & Tender Turkey Recipe Adult Cat Food
  • Grain Free Cold Water Salmon & Peas Recipe Adult Cat Food
  • Grain Free Cold Water Salmon & Savory Chicken Recipe Cat Treats


The company will have their new product line on display at the Global Pet Expo.

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The 138th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show took place at Madison Square Garden Feb. 10-11, where Sky, a Wire Fox Terrier captured the Best in Show title.

But, before that there were many other dogs both in the ring and behind the scenes that captured the hearts of judges and spectators.

Here is a look at some of them.



Keeping Those Teeth Pearly White

February is pet dental month. And, while there may be discounts on related products and services for pet owners to take advantage of during this time frame, it’s also an excellent opportunity for retailers to educate customers that dental hygiene is something that should be practiced year-round, resulting in perennial sales.

The range of dental care products now available reflects great innovation in this category. It’s no longer about ordinary toothbrushes and pastes. Brushes have gone electric and being sold along with other aids such as doggie dental floss, water additives and doggie tongue scrapers. There are even products such as the SilverTails line from the Quaker Pet Group that targets dental care specifically for senior pets.

Orapup is the first canine tongue cleaner geared to beat bad dog breath without the daily use of a toothbrush.

The tongue applicator has ultra-soft, pointed bristles designed to reach deep into the uneven crevices of a dog’s tongue and loosen stinky bacteria. The cleaning paste, which is applied to the applicator, contains all-natural enzymes and anti-plaque properties that fortify against gum disease and reduce tartar.

“There’s no forcing the dog to participate and thus no stress involved in making this a daily task,” Katy Laine Kenealy, spokesperson for the company, said.

Since launching the Doggie DentalAID dental floss for dogs in 2012, the manufacturing company SER Enterprises, based in California, has expanded from online retailing into selected pet stores and is looking at overseas markets, too.

“We are selling a lot to groomers, who use the product as part of their grooming service and then offer it to customers as a take-home product for home dental care,” Rafles Warnars, one of the founding partners, said.

Dental Cleanse for Dogs, a water additive manufactured by Natural Chemistry contains no artificial sweeteners such as Sorbitol and Xylitol, nor any artificial colorants and dyes.

“Its safe for dogs of all ages,” Jeff Fowler, senior sales manager for the company, said. “It’s odorless and tasteless and as been very well received by pet specialty retailers who are working to educate their customers about how to eliminate the bacteria causing bad breath and gingivitis in their dog’s mouth.  When used daily, it not only helps to fights plaque and tarter, but works to maintain teeth whiteness, too.”

Keep Them Educated

Dr. Dave Dugan, oral surgeon and founder of Zututh battery-operated toothbrushes for dogs, agreed about the retailers’ role in education.

“Education is key and retailers play an important role in informing pet owners about the dangers associated with poor dental hygiene,” he said. “Veterinarian studies have proven that poor dental health, and periodontal disease can lead to a variety of painful and harmful diseases.

“While it may take a while for a dog to get used to having its teeth brushed, the long-term benefits significantly outweigh any potential short-term discomfort. It’s not hurting them; it’s just a new sensation that requires some getting used to, just like teaching a toddler to brush their teeth.”

To this end, the company produced a video tutorial on their website to offer useful instruction.

Misty Schneider, owner of Pet Kingdom Where Pets Rules in Algona, Iowa, said pet dental care is something promoted primarily by the veterinarians in her area.

“We do sell various products and it’s definitely a category that has promotional opportunities during February and beyond,” she said. “It’s certainly something to consider for the future. And with so much information available online [such as video tutorials], it would be easy to direct customers for more in-depth information.”

New Options

Ark Naturals just released a large sized bone in their Breath-less Brushless Toothpaste range. The product, which has earned three awards, is now available in four sizes.

“The product is extruded and not injection molded,” Susan Weiss, the company’s founder, said. “Extruded products are easier to digest and, with this type of manufacturing process, there is less chance of products breaking off in pieces.”

The outside of the chew has breath-freshening ingredients such as chlorophyll, cinnamon, vanilla and clove. The design of the chew has as “scrub” effect on teeth and gums. And on the inside, Ark Naturals’ patented toothpaste center provides three bacteriostats to inhibit the growth of plaque-forming bacteria, as well as to assist with bad breath and tartar and plaque build-up.

According to Steve Shweky, president of Fetch …for Pets!, trends in pet dental hygiene are following the latest trends in human oral care and says that the range now available now includes a variety of products aimed at making oral care convenient.

“Our top sellers from our Arm and Hammer Canine Oral Care line include: the Dental Rinse for adult dogs, the Advanced Care Fresh Breath and Whitening Toothpaste, the Toothbrush and Finger Toothbrush Set and the Advanced Care Dental Mints,” he said.

SynergyLabs, manufacturers of animal health and veterinary care products headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has an extensive portfolio of brands and products, which include a large selection of dental products.

“Our top selling product is the Dental Fresh Original Formula which is available in a variety of sizes from 4 ounces through to 32 ounces,” Carlos Zamora, marketing coordinator for Synergy Labs, said. “The range includes focused dental care such the Advanced Whitening Formula, Advanced Plaque and Tartar and also a Puppy Formula.”

Like Warnars, Zamora also said a lot of their products are sold to groomers for salon use. The smaller sizes are in turn sold to pet owners for take home applications in between grooming appointments.

Apart from promoting February as pet dental month, Shweky also believes that it’s important to utilize both social media and traditional ad campaigns in the promotion of products because campaigns have great reach and also offer their own unique benefits.

“Social media is great because it allows you to interact with the customer instantly and really opens up a dialogue,” Shweky said. “It’s also inexpensive. On the other hand, traditional ad campaigns are important because they provide a more permanent form of advertising. They also disseminate very quickly and produce short-term results with greater tangibility.”

Solving Common Puppy Problems

Puppy owners want products to help get their puppy off to the right start, such as solutions-based products, like items for chewing, potty training and safety.

Many puppy owners are also first-time dog owners who require guidance in choosing the right mix of products.

Jason Hart, director of marketing at PetSafe, sees the pet industry’s mega-trends affecting the puppy products category.

“The trends driving development in the puppy arena are the same as what is driving innovation across dog products, which is a combination of shifting towards smaller dogs, indoor dogs and the continued humanization of pets,” he said.

In addition to staple products like food dishes and collars being manufactured from sustainable materials, the toy category is benefiting from the shifting trend toward natural or holistic products. Because many pet owners are concerned about their puppy ingesting parts of toys, nontoxic puppy products are becoming increasingly popular.

Sarah Fuller, owner of NoPo Paws in Portland, Ore., sees similar trends in her store.

“I am seeing trends toward more natural puppy products, which follows the growth of the natural pet product industry overall,” she said. “I’m seeing lots of new toys from recycled or sustainable materials. Boiled wool is a hot one right now and is fantastic for puppies as it’s not as easily destroyed as many cotton toys.

“My customers are often searching for products to keep their puppies out of trouble but that are also safe. They want a toy that will keep their puppy entertained but they also want to know it’s not full of chemicals that ultimately will harm him or her. I like to recommend products like West Paw Design Zogoflex toys. The toys are incredibly durable, come with a replacement guarantee and are certified non-toxic.”

Additionally, activity toys perform well in the puppy category because owners want to keep their puppies busy, instead of chewing on household items like the sofa. Plus, puppy owners seek out products to assist in training and socialization.

“I also receive a lot of requests, especially in the rainy climate we live in, for toys that will assist in the training process and help expend energy when the weather prevents several daily walks,” Fuller said. “Fortunately, we have seen tons of new product development in terms of ‘puzzle’ toys for dogs. Nina Ottoson and Kyjen make fantastic puzzle toys. I often recommend these types of products for indoor brain exercise  and as a part of a training program that includes daily walks and training sessions.”

The shift toward natural products reaches into puppy grooming as well.

“Pets are part of the family and pet parents are investing further in their pet,” Steven Shweky from Fetch…for pets! said. “More and more, they want to provide a healthy start in life to the newest member of their family. Therefore, they are looking to natural products. As a result, there has been an increase in demand for natural and organic products.”

He cites the Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care line, which features two products designed with puppies in mind, the 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner and the Tearless Shampoo, both of which are gentle products with no parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances or sulfates.

Likewise, Carlos Zamora, marketing coordinator at SynergyLabs, noted the same trend.

“It seems that organic and natural puppy shampoos are on the rise due to increased demand in the last year,” he said. “Now, natural products like Richard’s Organics by SynergyLabs have become a lot more competitive.”

Further, according to Zamora, puppy formulations, products with ingredients designed specifically for puppies,  are popular among puppy owners.

“When we manufacture puppy products we just don’t replicate the same ingredients from those of a dog product,” Zamora said. “All puppy product ingredients are well researched in order to maximize its results. For example, there are some ingredients that will dry a puppy’s delicate skin or cause irritation.”

Education Is Key

Shweky said retailers should, “educate customers on the significance of using gentle products that are specifically formulated for puppies.”

Because many puppy owners are first-time dog owners, this education can spell the difference between making a sale and a confused costumer leaving the store.

“Be your own product advocate,” Zamora said. “Pet parents prefer to know you’ve tried a product first before you sell it.”

Within the store, merchandize puppy products together to help new owners navigate product choices.

“Within toys, I recommend creating a puppy section which would include all puppy-related toys,” Hart said. “This makes is easier for consumers to shop and ensures they get the right product for their pet. Retailers should also keep in mind that puppy owners in many cases will be first time dog owners and may be nervous about what to buy.  It can be very helpful to provide educational signage to help guide puppy owners in their purchase.”

He also said retailers need to understand their consumer by finding out information about the kind of puppy they’ve added to their family, their living arrangements, for instance, if they have a yard, and the puppy’s schedule.

“The more they understand the consumer, the better they can provide strong solutions,” he said.

Because the puppy category is saturated, success requires retailers to offer on-trend products, while guiding puppy owners to choose the right mix of items.

Pro-Pet Recalls Dog, Cat Foods

Pro-Pet LLC, of St. Marys, Ohio, voluntarily recalled a limited number of dry dog and cat foods for possible Salmonella contamination.

A single field test indicated products manufactured during a two day period, on a single production line may have the potential for Salmonella contamination. Only products made during this time frame are being recalled. There have been no reports of illness related to this product to date.

These products were distributed through select retailers, distributors and on-line consumer purchases in: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

No other products/lot numbers are affected by this recall.

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

Customers should immediately discontinue use of any impacted product and contact Pro-Pet at 1-888-765-4190 for disposition.

For more information on the recall, customers can contact the customer service line for Pro-Pet at 1-888-765-4190. Customer service representatives will be available Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.



Harmful Super Bowl Foods for Pets

Who doesn’t love the Super Bowl? It’s practically a national holiday. And, this year with it being in our backyard here in New Jersey, it is even more exciting.

But, with all the good food, loud screams when your team scores, or loud unprintable words being said your team doesn’t, there are plenty of opportunities for a pet to get stressed or sick.

Food is likely the biggest challenge, because as many times as you tell your little cousin not to give the dog any treats from the table, you know they are bound to slip them at least a tortilla chip. That is the least of your worries, however.

Popular appetizers like salsa and guacamole, which typically contain onions and can be toxic to dogs, are a major concern. So is caffeine in soda, or the bones from Buffalo wings. Alcohol is another major worry, so keep your bottles of Goose Island’s 312, or glasses of Penguin Merlot, out of your dogs reach.

To combat the loud noises, and general excitement of a crowd of unfamiliar people roaming about your house during your party, try using a calming product for your pup.

One product readily available at a local retailer that can help this is the ThunderShirt. Or, try a homeopathic spray, like the ones offered by Rescue Remedy.


P.S. — Go Broncos!!





Puppy, Clydesdale Become Super Bowl Stars

Get ready for the collective, “awwww” you are going to hear as you share this video with your co-workers, friends and family.

Once again Budweiser has capitalized on their famous Clydesdales, this time co-staring them with an adorable puppy for this year’s Super Bowl commercial.

Take a look ~


Zuke’s Joins Nestlé Purina PetCare

Zuke’s Performance Pet Nutrition, was acquired by  Nestlé Purina PetCare, the company said. 

“I’m personally so pleased that Zuke’s is now a part of the Nestlé Purina family,”  Patrick Meiering, founder of Zuke’s, said. “Their understanding of Zuke’s core mission of fostering an active and healthy lifestyle for pets and pet parents alike, their commitment to keeping Zuke’s and its employees in Durango as an independent operation, and their ability to help grow the Zuke’s brand in the pet specialty marketplace were important factors in partnering with Nestlé Purina.”

According to a press release issued by the dog and cat treat company, “Zuke’s, and its employees, will continue to be operated as an independent company based in beautiful Durango. Zuke’s will continue creating and producing outdoors-inspired, safe, and healthy dog and cat treats in the same facilities, in the same way, right here in the USA.”

“I joined the Zuke’s team in 2010 with the goal of growing the Zuke’s brand while staying true to its authentic roots and history,” John Hart, president of Zuke’s, said. “We achieved that goal and are excited to continue and accelerate that growth in pet specialty with our new partnership.”


Flea and Tick Control Becomes Year-Round Problem

Continuously changing climatic conditions throughout the United States combined with the rising popularity of pet travel, are making veterinarians no longer consider seasonal treatments for fleas and ticks an effective way of controlling infestations.

Instead, many veterinary professionals, along with pet industry manufacturers, are suggesting that year-round treatment prevention is a much more practical and medically sound approach to controlling the problem.

With so many generic flea and tick medications available over the counter alongside a plethora of both holistic and chemical collars, sprays, shampoos, plus home and garden treatment merchandise, retailers have an unique opportunity to create their own in-store prevention centers and do brisk business 12 months a year.

Last year Bayer Healthcare launched their line of Seresto flea and tick collars for cats and dogs designed to offer eight months of protection, the first product to offer such long-term efficacy.

“Through August 2013, over 250,000 dogs and cats have been protected with the only eight-month premium flea and tick preventative that exists in the U.S. market, and feedback received and level of satisfaction from veterinarians and pet owners has been very positive and consistent,” Dave Van Brunt, vice president of marketing for the companion animal business unit, Bayer HealthCare Animal Health, said.

With so many flea and tick treatments available to pet retailers, the onus has been thrust upon them to really understand what they are selling. This is especially important, since the category is consistency growing and merging at a fast rate.

For example, last year the Perrigo Company acquired Velcera in a deal that took PetArmor flea and tick products under their gigantic umbrella which also includes the extensive range of products from Sergeants Pet Care, a company they acquired in late 2012.

Another range now looking for shelf visibility comes from Absorbine known in the marketplace for its equine products. The company recently introduced a line of flea and tick products for dogs.

The UltraShield EX is a spray-on that offers 17 days of waterproof protection, along with a built-in sunscreen, and coat conditioning ingredients.

Jeff Fowler, national sales manager for Natural Chemistry, said when dealing with the flea and tick issue, consumers sometimes assume natural products are not effective, or take too long to work.

“Our USA-made formulas for shampoos, bedding and yard sprays have been proven to provide residual killing and repelling of fleas, ticks, and also black flies and mosquitoes and begin working immediately,” he said. “Treat the pet as needed based upon activities. For example, if you are going for a walk and your pet has an issue with fleas and ticks, you would use before leaving home.

“The added advantage of natural botanical ingredients that work synergistically with one another to provide effective, natural protection and are safe to use around children as well, is parents do not have to worry about their family being exposed to any harmful chemicals. All products have a pleasant cinnamon, clove and vanilla scent.”

Richard’s Organics First Defense Premise Treatment manufactured by SynergyLabs says that a single application offers protection of the home against fleas for a full year. According to the product details, it’s made from “environmentally boric acid, and dehydrates and kills fleas at larvae stage ending an infestation within a week or so.”

Carlos Zamora, marketing coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company, explained that all the products in the line, such as the shampoos and bedding sprays work in conjunction with one another and that the shampoo is safe for puppies as young as eight weeks of age and over.

When it comes to ticks, a growing sector of this market also deals with their removal from both pets and people, and has received a lot of press in recent months with the noticeable increase in Lyme disease nationwide.

Since launching the Tick Key 5 years ago, Donna LaFountain has seen business boom in conjunction with the year-round increase in the tick problem.

“It’s being viewed as a must-have safety item for both people who work in the field or with animals whether its search and rescue dogs or farm animals, or people who simply enjoy the outdoors,” LaFountain said.

This high-strength anodized aluminum key is available in seven bright colors.

Another product gaining nationwide recognized is Tick-SR.

The product, sold in towelettes for single applications or in bottles, works by dissolving the “glue” that bonds the tick to the host as well as impeding the blood flow to the area cutting off the tick’s meal.

It also helps disinfect the wound to further prevent infection.

Toppers Enhance the Dog Food Experience

When consumers are looking to increase the palatability of their dog’s food, or they’re seeking out healthy ways to enhance the nutrition of store-bought kibble, guide them toward dog food toppers.

In many cases, dog food toppers provide an excellent add-on with dog food sales, and are driven by two key consumer needs.

First, consumers seek out nutritious additives for commercially-prepared kibble. Those pet owners who want to supplement their dog’s kibble, look for toppers that add the nutrients that they think might be missing from their dog’s current food. This can include additional protein, probiotics and, more recently, superfoods.

The second type of consumer is looking for a simple flavor enhancer. Picky dogs grow bored of the same diet, so dog food toppers can be an affordable way for a pet owner to entice the dog to eat.

In addition, dogs who are eating a bland prescription diet, or who have a loss of appetite during a medical treatment like chemotherapy need to be enticed to eat. Dog food toppers can provide that incentive.

On the horizon, is also the rising trend of consumers wanting to be more involved in the making of their pet’s food. Toppers can provide an easy way for them to do that.

It’s something Lucy Postins, founder and CEO of The Honest Kitchen, has spotted among her customers.

“We’ve found that so many customers want the experience of making something ‘homemade’ for their beloved pets,” she said. “So offering products that can be mixed with a kibble is both fun for the owner and functional for the pet because they’re getting a palatable meal with whole food ingredients, a higher moisture content, which helps aid in digestion, and in the case of Pro Bloom, added probiotics and enzymes.”

Innovative products like Pro Bloom, a shelf-stable instant goat’s milk with digestive enzymes and probiotics that provides general immune support at the gut level, illustrates the direction of the market. Traditionally, the category consisted of canned food and niche flavor enhancers, but is expanding.

Growing Market

As Anthony Bennie, co-founder of Clear Conscience Pet pointed out, few customers serve their dogs a diet of only canned food. Rather, he said, they combine the canned food with a commercially-prepared kibble.

While canned foods still lead sales, the category is exploding with options.

“Currently, some of the different types of toppers in the market include gravy options, as well as toppers with unique textures and meats,” Chanda Leary-Coutu, communications manager forWellness, said. “Wellness 95% can recipes are made with 95 percent pure meat, and are a delicious complement to our dry kibble. The recipes can be added as a topper or mixed in with our Wellness dry food.”

According to Rebecca Tomala, a marketing representative for Spring Naturals, their canned stews provide flavor and nutrition enhancements.

“All of our stews are formulated to provide a nutritionally complete diet for your pet, but they can also be used as a topper over kibble for a special treat,” she said. “As consumers become more conscious as to what they are eating, they will continue to carry over this inclination over to what they are feeding their best friends. Pet industry trends will continue to support consumer’s desires for nutritious and delicious food, food enhancers and treats.”

Beyond the can, products like Clear Conscience Pet’s SuperGravy provide both enhancements, nutrition and palatability, that consumers look for in a topper.

“Our approach is different from other manufactures,” Bennie said. “We’re creating the gravy mix that doesn’t require the consumer to purchase water from us.”

Instead, the pet owner adds water, preferably warm water, to stir up the gravy, which is a concentrated mix of dry ingredients, including superfoods.

“We’re trying to encourage or foster hydration of the food, which makes it much more flavorable and at the same time enhances nutrition,” he said.

While not a primary driver yet, demand for superfoods is growing, as well as impacting the products that manufacturers are looking to develop.

Tomala believes this is due to the megatrend of people treating pets as family and, thus, wanting to feed their pets the same quality food that they eat.

“Superfoods have seen a drastic increase in popularity at our local health food stores, but also in our independent pet food stores,” she said. “Some pet food companies are embracing this demand and striving to include only include the healthiest, domestically-sourced ingredients in their line. The Spring Naturals line contains superfood ingredients like quinoa, blueberries, cranberries and carrots to offer a fresh approach to pet nutrition.”

Sales success in dog food toppers is driven by placement.

This category does not have a high level of consumer awareness, so Bennie recommends endcaps near dry dog food displays.

According to Postins, “Our products are usually merchandised as part of a distinct ‘alternative’ or ‘homemade’ category, a grouping of next-generation products, which focus on whole food, and minimally-processed ingredients.”

She finds this technique to be effective.

“When stores merchandise similar products in a unified display like this, it has a tremendous impact on sales,” Postins said. “We have also had great success with stores creating displays … and then using signage to educate the consumer on the benefits.”

Following the Human Health Trend

Developments in remedies and supplements for dogs track trends in human health.

As consumers explore the role these products play in treating chronic illness and supporting a healthy immune system, they seek out similar products for their pets.

Understanding these products requires a baseline understanding of the distinction between them.

“A supplement is an ingredient that is added to the human diet or pet diet because something is missing in the daily nutrition,” Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals, said. “For example, if your  food does not provide enough of, say, Vitamin C or Vitamin D, you would take a supplement to make up for ingredients missing. A remedy product is one that solves a problem, joint, dental, ear, eye cleaner, etc. A natural flea and tick product, a dental product, an herbal calming product, an ear cleaner are not supplements, they are remedy products.”

The goal for a dog owner is to find the specific product, or complement of products, to solve a specific problem. Manufacturers accomplish this by addressing those exact needs in their product mix.

“Pet Naturals of Vermont carries a full line of condition-specific supplements for dogs and cats,” Sara Phillips, strategic brand manager at Pet Naturals, said.

These condition-specific solutions deliver products based on consumers’ needs.

“Unlike ‘functional treats’ that may have a small amount of an added ingredient, such as fish oil or glucosamine, our products contain therapeutic levels of ingredients that are designed to work together for the desired effect,” she said.

Trends include probiotics, specialized ingredients, food and treat integration, anti-aging and aesthetics, like skin and eyes, for instance. In addition, many products on the market attempt to address multiple needs in a single formulation.

Nupro is one such supplement. Offered as a powder, the single supplement is designed to address a multitude of wellness needs by making up for nutrients that may be missing from a dog’s diet.

“My products are very simple,” Janis Gianforte of Nupro, which has manufactured its line for nearly 25 years, said. “The simpler it is, the better it works. These ingredients have been around forever. Every ingredient has a reason for being in there. Raw enzymes and amino acids that it would’ve gotten in the wild, flaxseed, kelp, bee pollen, all things they would normally have.”

She said by adding a supplement to a dog’s diet, owners can help optimize their pet’s total health.

Not all remedies come in pill or powder form.

For example, one remedy for anxiety is the Thundershirt. Likewise, pet owners who want to treat minor cuts, scrapes or abrasions at home seek out remedies like the bandages manufactured by PawFlex.

Jennifer DiGrazia,  CEO of PawFlex Inc. cautions retailers to understand that they are carrying these products as a customer service.

“They may not sell out as fast as dog food, treats or toys, but they are in demand,” she said. “When there is a need for them, time is of the essence, and knowing that the customer can just run over to their local pet store in their time of need is priceless. Customers appreciate stores that carry items they need, not just items that are strictly a quick turnaround for the store.”

According to Oscar Tenorio, product line manager at PureLife 4 Pets, remedies and supplements are a homerun, if retailers do it right.

“It can be a great source of income for the retailer, especially because when a pet owner sees an improvement in their pet’s health because of buying one of these products, they’re going to continue to buy that product again and again,” he said.

In addition to carrying the items they need, consumers expect retailers to be knowledgeable about the remedies and supplements stocked on their shelves.

“Retailers also need to know a little about the product if they are going to stock it,” DiGrazia said.

Tenorio at PureLife agrees, and he says their organization has developed a reputation for training. He suggests retailers attend special sessions offered by manufacturers at trade shows to learn as much as possible.

“Retailers do need some level of education,” he said. “We offer that education to the retailers. We have a customized program for each retailer, depending on their size, the amount of business that they want to have regarding supplements or natural products. The training is simply knowing why the products are there, why they exist and the function, the purpose and the benefit they will bring to the pet owner.”

Retailers who want to capitalize on remedies and supplements should watch trends in human health because those trends will spike in pet health. Merchandize remedies and supplements in their own sections, end caps work well, by issue or condition, and be prepared to educate consumers on the ingredients and formulations of the products you carry.

There is a time and space investment to stocking remedies and supplements, but once pet owners see improved health in their dogs, these products become in-demand repeat buys.

Functional, Fashionable and Fun

Dog clothing is a very broad topic that attracts a wide range of customers for a variety of different reasons.

For some, it’s purely cosmetic. They want to dress their dog in a costume for a special occasion, like a Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or a birthday. For others, it’s about functionality, style or necessity. And some, just do it for fun.

The good news about this for retailers is that clothing is an accessory that can be sold year round as long as retailers keep up with the trends going on in the world.

“When a movie comes out like Man of Steel this year, it certainly affects the sales,” Erin Breig, top dog at Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique, said. “Superman pet costumes is one of our top sellers. Even the celebrations, such as the Wizard of Oz celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and we have seen a lot of interest in the Wizard of Oz costumes.”

While Halloween is obviously the top time to sell pet costumes, it’s not the only time. Breig said she has seen high sales during Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras and birthdays.

“We came out with 100 new styles this year,” Breig said. “That includes accessories, costumes and licensed goods. The one thing that does make us stand out is that we carry the top licenses. We are also one of the only places you will see a full line of mix and match accessories for pets.”

Accessories have become extremely popular during any parade and celebration, such as St. Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras and is a great time to boost sales at a pet store.

Also, retailers need to be prepared for cultural events that happen that you couldn’t plan for.

“With Halloween, something can happen and all of a sudden everyone wants to dress up for it,” Breig said. “We might know a movie is coming out and we plan for it, but there is a lot you can’t plan for. One example is Miley Cyrus at the VMAs going crazy. We couldn’t plan for that. We know people will dress up like her now, and while we don’t have the licensed products for it we may see that a blonde wig is selling really well.

“Also, last year when there were comments about big bird in the Republican party and all of that, all of a sudden that costume, which we don’t carry, we saw selling at some of our retailers. It’s really about what’s going on in the world and the movies we plan for.”


Legitimutt looks toward the fashion runways from around the world when they design their collections, such as their warm plaids, sporty techno fabrics and even some luxe items like ultra suede, Boucle and Alpaca.

“Legitimutt’s supple leather collars and leashes come in an array of bright colors as well as we have a new embossed collection of chic Croc leather collars and leashes in red, black and navy,” Brian Long from Legitimutt said. “I think one of the main things that sets us apart from the rest of the pack is that we are 100 percent Made in America. All of our merchandise is designed and manufactured in Florida. We use fine fabrics and finishes and we strive to always create sophisticated merchandise that is never kitchy.”

Melissa Corrigan, fashion pet divisional manager for Ethical Pet Products, said the recent trend in dog clothing follows human fashion, bright colors, plaids, patterns and stripes.

“The human trend is interpreted in appropriately for pet and must include functional aspects such as waterproof fabric and warm linings,” Corrigan said. “Sweaters are a key category for pets, they are warm and easy to fit a wide range of dog sizes.”

Corrigan also said the trend in pet fashion is moving to a more basic and functional look that appeal to both small and larger dog owners. It is important to have apparel that the owner can relate to and looks similar to the type of clothing they themselves might wear.

Also, pet clothing has another extremely important feature.

“Pajama’s are an important category,” Corrigan said. “They provide warmth and comfort and for dogs that sleep with their owners, it prevents fur and dirt from getting on the bed.”
For example, PetRageous Designs, founded by Gretchen George, offers a variety of pajamas, including thermal ones. In addition, they offer nonskid socks.

Food Follows Human Trends

Dog food is continuously evolving. There is always something new that is trending, and it can be a lot to keep up with.

Every brand of food has something different to offer the market, which is good because consumers are always looking for something unique, and tailored to their pet’s specific needs.

Many look for certain specifications such as, amount of protein, whether or not it’s grain free, the level of antioxidants or what type of food trial it has been though. Whatever the case, it’s important to keep on top of the trends to not only make sure customers are getting exactly what they want and need, but also so you can be knowledgeable about the latest products available.

In general, pet food trends tend to follow the same ones that human food trends take. One of the biggest right now is being more health conscious.

“As a society, we are becoming more health conscious; this is also reflected in what we are feeding our pets,” Brad Armistead, vice president of marketing for DOGSWELL, said. “Pet parents are trading up to natural and healthy food and treats for their pet family members.

“Additionally, grain-free food and treats are also gaining momentum as pet parents adopt diets for their pets that are more aligned with ones that they would naturally eat. We see this evolving into low glycemic diets for pets. According to the Glycemic Research Institute, not only do low glycemic diets align with the natural diets of cats and dogs, but avoiding high glycemic foods can also help control weight and reduce the risk of many diseases.”

DOGSWELL has come out with a line of food for dogs called LiveFree. It’s an ultra low glycemic food to align with a dog’s natural diet which prevents spikes in blood sugar levels, supports slower digestion and sustains a dog’s energy.

“A glycemic rating under 55 is considered low and LifeFree’s dry food recipes range from 9-11 while our canned food ranges from 3.5-3.6,” Armistead said. “We have put the glycemic index rating for each LiveFree product on every bag and can so that consumers can easily locate them.”

Holly Sher, the president of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company, said consumers are recognizing that nutrition-packed superfoods recommended for their own diets are just as beneficial for their four-legged friends.

“Ingredients like spinach, kale and probiotics, rising in popularity at human farmers markets, are also trending in the pet food aisles,” Sher said. “Retailers are looking to offer their customers high-quality foods, as well as brands that feature easy to read package/label designs that immediately identify key nutritional benefits for the consumer.”

Evanger’s added USA farm-fresh spinach and kale to its Super Premium line of Canned Dog Foods.

“With high amounts of fiber, calcium, protein and Vitamins A, C and K, no other vegetable source can match these leafy-green wonders,” Sher said. “Spinach and kale have many antioxidant properties that guard against inflammatory diseases, cancer and some cardiovascular problems. Kale in particular is also helpful in detoxifying the liver, as kale juice has antibacterial properties.”

Giving Them Options

As manufacturers come out with these new products, it has become even more important to make sure their packaging explains clearly what the product is offering and hits on all the main points, but without it becoming overwhelming for the consumer.

“Consumers are often confused by the barrage of different brands and SKUs filling pet store shelves, each claiming to be better than the others for a variety of ‘marketing’ reasons, not based on good nutritional science,” Ron Jackson, assistant to the president of Hi-Tek Rations, said. “Our products cover a wide range of needs and provide consumers with value-oriented solutions to their nutritional quests as well as super premium foods formulated for consumers where budget is not an option.”

Hi-Tek has a new line of food, the Leonard Powell Signature Series Dog Foods.

“The new family of super premium foods includes three distinct groupings of product including Exotics, Classics and baked formulas,” Jackson said. “The Exotic line includes Open Prairie Formula With Bison, a Grain Free food in which bison is the first ingredient served in a mix that includes apples, carrots, tomato pomace, blueberries and pre- and probiotics and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids including DHA.” Bryan Nieman, the brand director of Fromm, said all Fromm Four-Star entrees are prepared in small batches ensuring consistent quality and superior taste.

Because of this, Neiman said the products have been very well received.

“Our customers are excited to have another unique recipe that’s not only highly palatable but addresses pets that may have certain dietary intolerances such as chicken, grains and potato,” Neiman said. “They’re also enamored with the bold pink Polynesian packaging that features a hibiscus flower pattern while maintaining our iconic Four-Star branded look.”

Looking toward the future, Fromm will continue to find creative ways for formulating new and interesting recipes for dogs and cats.

“We are able to meet the needs of customers, respond to trends within the pet industry and create a line that is complimentary, interchangeable and nutritionally complete for pets,” Neiman said. “We are always cooking up new recipes and are looking forward to announcing our newest additions in 2014.”

Launched in 2003, Fromm Four-Star Nutritonals was the first gourmet variety-driven pet food on the market.

“Our artisan recipes are not only unique but deliver variety and choice for both dogs and cats,” Nieman said. “Each interchangeable recipe uses the highest inclusions of meat, fruits and vegetables.”


Marie Moody, president and founder of Stella & Chewy’s, said many people own dogs who have allergies. This helped lead to the  creation of their new flavors, of Phenomenally Pheasant, Rabbit and Venice.

“All of our exotics are single protein and the meat themselves are anti biotic free and hormone free,” Moody said. “It’s also highly palatable, dogs seem to love it. And in general people are really open to trying these new exotic flavors because they are looking for both variety but also we have a lot of people that have dogs that have allergies.

“These new exotic proteins are ‘hypo allergenic’  in the sense that they don’t seem to be exasperating allergies and they have been really helpful for dogs that can’t have chicken, or some are allergic to beef. With the Rabbit, Venicine and Pheasent, they are not flavored with proteins that are in some of the more conventional pet foods so they are less likely to cause pet allergies.”

Boosting Sales

Precise Pet Products Executive Vice President Kirk Young said that independent stores should be doing more community based events marketing, utilizing pet food as the main sponsor of events.

“Retailers now have to give a reason for consumers to stop and come in to the stores, something fun, compelling that attracts the consumer,” Young said. “If you try to promote on price or couponing, it may work short term but again, big box wins in those types of competitions.”

Precise is found only in pet stores.

“I think it is imperative that independent pet stores stock shelves with brands only found in independent pet stores now more than ever,” Young said. “The smoke and mirror pitch that having brands everywhere brings in customers is false. Consumers are shopping for the best deal, and big box will always win the price wars.”

Publisher to Be Honored at Global Pet Expo

Connie Wilson, the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Modern Dog and Modern Cat, will be the 2014 recipient of Global Pet Expo’s annual “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contributions to the Pet Industry Award.”

“Connie’s true passion for pets and their well being comes through in all that she’s accomplished,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of APPA, said. “Her magazines and websites are just another way for her to share in the love we have for our pets to be active and enthusiastic group of people, which is the true essence of this award. We congratulate her on her contribution to the industry and the pet-loving population.”

Wilson will accept the award March 13 in Orlando, Fla. at the Purina Media Reception during the Global Pet Expo, presented by the American Pet Products Association and Pet Industry Distributors Association.

This media exclusive event is held in conjunction with Global Pet Expo, the pet industry’s largest annual tradeshow, taking place March 12-14, at the Orange County Convention Center.


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