Humans increasingly look to health boosters like vitamins and minerals, probiotics, encapsulated nutrients, natural extracts, powders and ointments to augment their immune systems, fortify their nutrition and feel better.
Considering their penchant for wellness products, it’s only natural, then, that bird owners are seeking supplements by the score for their winged companions in an effort to promote longer, healthier lifespans.
Everyday Feed Isn’t Enough
“As advanced as many of today’s diets are, it is still important to consider additional supplementation in the diets of pet birds,” said Mike Rizzuti, regional sales manager for Bowling Green, Ohio-based Vitakraft Sunseed, makers of signature supplements like Sunseed Sun Drops Daily Liquid Vitamins, Quiko powdered multivitamin, and Quiko Classic Egg Food Daily Supplement. “This can be done through liquid or powdered multivitamins or dietary enrichment products, such as egg food which is highly palatable and easy to feed.”
Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist with Mansfield, Massachusetts-headquartered Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, says that, while many companion birds consume a higher volume of formulated diets, such as pellets or extruded morsels, bird owners still like to use supplements to ensure optimal nutrition and in some cases, as a wellness type supplement to prevent poor health.
“Current trends in bird care include feeding fresh fruits and vegetables, or ‘chop,’ a mixture of chopped greens, vegetables and cooked grains as a type of enrichment food,” Allen said. “ These types of food often provide the perfect way for parrot owners to administer powder supplements.”
However, Allen added that, in the case of some species, especially finches, canaries, and lovebirds, “typical diets are still predominately seed, which still lack some important and critical nutrients that these little guys require—namely, vitamin A, essential amino acids and especially calcium.”
No need to fear, faithful retailer: Manufacturers offer plenty of supplement products that fit the bill and address diet deficiencies and other issues.
In powder form, there’s plenty to choose from, including Pretty Bird’s Natural Gold Supplement, which combines a special blend of micronutrients and amino acids along with enzymes and probiotics; Zoo Med’s Avian Plus Vitamins, available in calcium-based powder form and packed with amino acid power minus any food fillers; Avi-Era Bird Vitamins, which mixes with water or food to fuel birds with 13 essential vitamins; Missing Link Ultimate Avian, formulated to improve plumage as well as overall health; Miracle Care Vionate vitamin mineral powder, supplying 21 crucial vitamins and minerals; and NBD’s Avi-Culture 2 live probiotic powder to aid the digestive tract and improve immunity.
Hagen recently herded one of its top-selling powders into the HARI brand, relabeling it Prime Vitamin, Mineral and Amino Acid Supplement, which combines essential nutrients with probiotics and calcium gluconate, a nutrient delivery agent (unlike other powder-based vitamin supplements that use sugar). Hagen has also rebranded another popular item: HARI Clay-Cal, a clay product that combines the detoxifying benefits of montmorillonite clay and charcoal with calcium for mineral supplementation.
Other SKUs to Consider
An ample array of dissolvable, liquid and spray-on supplements abound, too. eCotrition’s Vita-Sol, which can be added to water or seed, is loaded with multivitamins, and the brand’s Skin & Plumage supplement fosters healthier, more colorful feathers; Oasis Vita-Drops has a high-potency multivitamin formula with extra vitamin C; and 8 in 1 Ultra Care Mite & Lice Spray is an essential remedy for pesky bird bugs.
“Adding either a cuttlebone or a man-made mineral block are other tried-and-true ways of helping to maintain calcium and mineral levels in pet birds,” Rizzuti added.
To cater to this need, retailers can select from a variety of products on the market, including flavored cuttlebones from Penn-Plax (berry or mango and banana) and F.M. Brown’s (mango or fruit); plain white cuttlebones by Wild Harvest, Living World, and Penn-Plax; Zoo Med’s Banquet Block line, available in fruit, vegetable, or mealworm flavors; Living World’s Beak Block line, shaped in apple, pear or orange; and Prevue Pet’s Mineral Block line, shaped in corn or pumpkin.
Customizing for Clientele
Avian supplements aren’t exactly a sexy subset among retail offerings. But you can attract a lot more attention to this space with the right merchandising mindset.
Allen recommends placing supplements near the cash register “so that it’s easy for an employee to recommend a supplement based on what the customer is purchasing.”
“Otherwise, retailers can miss out on an easy opportunity to not only increase a sale but to offer good, sound bird care advice to a customer,” she said.
Rizzuti suggests merchandising supplements in the food/diets section, but with caution.
“Every effort should be made to educate the employee and consumer on the safe and proper use of these products,” he said. “Just as with human supplements, the misuse of these items can be more detrimental than not using them at all.”
Proven tactics also worth considering are bundling deals (offering a discount when purchasing a daily diet along with egg food, for instance), including one or more supplement products in bird cage starter kits, and hosting a free workshop during which you can educate patrons on the perks and proper use of supplements while performing a demonstration using birds in the store.