Flea and tick populations have exploded across the United States and Canada. Drought conditions have allowed flea numbers to increase, while a mild winter in 2015 kept those pests alive for longer throughout 2016. Plus, a rise in global temperatures has elongated the lifecycle of ticks.
These global temperature trends and corresponding shifts in weather patterns will continue, so manufacturers of flea and tick products are innovating solutions that meet consumer demands while tackling the real dangers associated with flea and tick infestations.
“The flea control and heartworm preventatives market has been one of the most innovative areas in animal health, with a variety of new active ingredients and novel formulations,” said Senior Consultant Dr. Lynn Fondon in a new study from Brakke Consulting. “Sales of flea control products have quadrupled in size since the introduction of Program, the first of the new-generation products, in 1995, and the new generation of oral flea and tick products are transforming the landscape once again.”
So, what is the next generation?
According to Susan Goldstein of Earth Animal, after years of relying on toxic products, like the earliest nerve gas to the insecticides and pesticides prevalent today, consumer demand is shifting to natural, organic solutions.
This shift has been occurring in nearly every vertical in the pet industry, so it makes sense to be a growing part of flea and tick.
“There’s been a huge shift in consumers who are pet parents,” Goldstein said. “They’re very enlightened. They’re extremely on to side effects. They’re very open to organic approaches. It’s just amazing. The time has come. Everyone wants safety. Everyone wants organic. We need to be really careful of our animals’ immune systems. We need to be careful not to compromise them.”
Started in 1979, Earth Animal made herbal collars out of her natural food store, and from there, the company “embarked on a mission to do a cause-no-harm product line for dogs and cats, to really look to the earth for solutions,” according to Goldstein.
Goldstein and her husband, Dr. Bob Goldstein, run a veterinary practice in addition to formulating natural pet products. She said that in the practice, they’ve seen cancer become an epidemic.
“There are triggers that we can take control of,” she said. “One of them is to eliminate insecticides and pesticides. We should not be putting them on the bodies of dogs and cats.”
Earth Animal’s flea and tick line includes a powder and drops that are added to food, along with a shampoo and a spray.
The goal of the food additives is to change the odor of the dog’s blood to make it distasteful to fleas and ticks, as well as mosquitoes and black flies.
“I call it ‘vitamizing’ the blood,” Goldstein said.
The brand intends to expand their line into an organic flea collar and a spot-on by spring.
“There are more ticks in more places than ever before, and more tick-transmitted disease, too,” said Thomas Mather, a professor and director of TickEncounter Resource Center, in a release published by tweezer manufacturer Tick Ease. “It is critically important to educate and equip people to take appropriate tick bite preventative actions.”
Product innovation in this category becomes increasingly important as global temperatures rise. Ticks are spreading further and faster than ever before; the population in many parts of the United States is booming. With that population growth comes an increase in tick-borne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tick-borne diseases have tripled since 1995.
Reliable tools, like tweezers, still sell well because they’re effective and can help dog and owner avoid exposure to the pesticides that Goldstein discussed.
One such tool is the TickEase, which was designed to comply with the CDC’s guidelines on tick removal. It’s a dual-tipped tool with a tweezer end and a scoop end that works for both people and pets and on engorged ticks.
Knowledge is Essential
This category faces tremendous challenges with the increasing threats of flea and tick population explosions, along with disease prevalence. Educated consumers likely will shop for products based on disease prevalence in your geographic region.
However, one of the strongest techniques for selling flea and tick products is to be educated and prepared to share that information with your customers. The CDC website includes distribution patterns of specific ticks and the diseases they carry. Those tools can be incredibly effective sales aids.
In addition, a variety of products—from food additives to spot-on treatments and shampoos to flea collars—appeals to the widest range of consumers. Most consumers want to purchase the products they’re most familiar with, so the range allows for that comfort level.
Finally, while these products have been considered by some consumers to be a seasonal item—skipping the purchase and, thus, the application—in winter months, the longer-term effects of the increase in the flea and tick population should make this a year-round purchase.