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A Booming Sales Category

Karen M. Alley//August 1, 2013//

A Booming Sales Category

Karen M. Alley //August 1, 2013//

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It seems only right that natural and organic products would be a growing category for the small pet market.

After all, people who have rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters recognize that these animals, while they’re pets, are a little more on the wild side than our domesticated cats and dogs.

For many people, that translates to making their habitat within their cage mimic their natural habitat as much as possible. For retailers, that means an opportunity to market natural products, from accessories to bedding to food and snacks, to the 17 million households with small pets, according to CareFRESH Naturals.

Facts on Food

Many people often equate organic with food, and when it comes to small pets there are a number of organic and all-natural food products to offer consumers.

Oxbow Animal Health has offered its BeneTerra line of USDA Certified Organic food, hay and treats since 2008.

“More pet owners are committed to having their pet’s nutrition program mirror their own, so with that in mind we introduced the BeneTerra line to offer pet owners the ability to provide complete nutrition for their pets, while leaving the smallest environmental footprint possible,” Melissa Ross, marketing operations manager, said. “The BeneTerra line includes fortified food for guinea pigs and rabbits, as well as hay and barley biscuits.”

Vitakraft Sunseed has also launched a new line of all-natural treats that take advantage of people’s instinct to humanize their pets.

Using all natural ingredients, they have come up with a line of fun treats that include one that looks like gourmet or vegetable pizza, and a trail mix that comes in several different varieties.

There’s also a Sun Treat salad that offers a variety of ingredients, from rose hips to apple slices.

“Consumers like to be able to buy their pets something similar to what we eat, which makes these products fun,” Lisa Kniceley, inside sales representative, Vitakraft Sunseed, said.

Benefits in Bedding

The material put into cages of small pets is important for many reasons. It gives them a place to burrow to sleep, it provides a place to play and hide food and of course, it absorbs the waste the pet produces.

Because of the last reason, this bedding is changed very often, and customers will go through it bag after bag. Many of them are looking for options that are not only great for the pet, but are also environmentally friendly.

Vitakraft Sunseed has a relatively new line of Eco Bedding that covers all of the above, plus some. The product is made out of 100 percent recycled paper right in the company’s home state of Ohio.

The paper is a clean product because it goes through a process that neutralizes the ink that might be in the paper, as well as being vacuumed, making it free of dust and good for pet owners who might suffer from allergies.

The Eco Bedding comes in three colors, brown, blue and purple. It is innovative in the fact that it is made in an interlocking style that makes the product bouncy, making it more fun for the pets and somewhat interactive.

Vitakraft also has other offerings that appeal to the customer who is looking for all-natural options.

Their most popular product is the Fresh World bedding, which recycles paper from the Paper Gator project, a program that collects recycled paper from non-profits such as schools and churches and gives the organizations money in return, based on the weight of the paper.

“This product is a triple win,” Kniceley said. “The customer wins because they have a great product, the non-profits win with money for their organization and the environment wins from the recycling.”

Another option is the CareFRESH line of Natural Pet Bedding. Made from reclaimed, biodegradable wood pulp, it is safe for pets because it has no pine or cedar oils and it is super absorbent.

Customers will appreciate the fact that not only is the company not using up natural resources to make their product; they’re using what other companies can’t.

Pushing the Sales

The marketability of these products goes beyond the ability to get the animal as close to its natural habitat as possible.

When thinking about how to move these products, keep in mind the three Ps: Creating a healthier pet, planet and people.

Many of the manufacturers of all-natural or organic products for small pets are also very concerned about the environment and make sure their processes impact the environment as little as possible by using recycled materials when possible.

Make buying these products easier by not only having them all located next to each other, but also by having pre-made kits.

Vitakraft put together a kit, in partnership with Ware Manufacturing, that is a good way to get new small pet owners started with all-natural products. The cage is packed with a bag of Vitakraft’s food, a bag of Eco Bedding and a water bottle.

Retailers can also make up their own kits like this to introduce people to all natural product lines for small pets.

“Committing to an organic set is another way to stand out from the crown, as well as to show a commitment to providing options for small pets,” Ross said.