July 1, 2014

For many retailers, bird powders and drops are an afterthought.

But, while it may not be the sexiest section of your store, an area that merchandises a healthy assortment of vitamin and medication products for caged birds can communicate a powerful message to customers seeking a one-stop solution for aviary health and nutrition.

After all, a seed-dominant diet can only go so far toward nourishing our fine-feathered friends. Many require vitamin and mineral supplements to boost their immune systems, combat stress and fight infections and illnesses. Smart retailers can fit the bill and nurture this niche need by stocking an assortment of related products, many of which are appropriate for multiple species of large and small exotic breeds alike.

Nutrients of Note

While the players, brands and packaging in this category haven’t changed much in recent years, pet owners today are more aware of the need for supplementation and first-aid home products, thanks to better guidance from veterinarians and retailers. Hence, not providing at least a minimal array of products in this space can be a lost sales and trust-building opportunity for retailers, said Dan Pratt, owner of Pratt’s Pets and Feed, based in Glendale, Ariz.

“This is not a large or fast-moving category, but it’s a good idea to offer solutions for basic [nutritional and medication] needs,” Pratt said. “Our stores feature a broader base of these products than most typical pet stores, but we also tend to sell general products that can be used for many species.”

Pratt said his biggest mover is Vita-Sol UltraVite multivitamin supplement for birds by eCOTRITION, an 8-in-1 high-potency product that’s easily added to water. He’s also getting increased consumer interest in Morningbird’s Thrive, a full spectrum liquid supplement blend of high-potency vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electrolytes and protein for sick and injured birds.

“The packaging on Thrive is actually pretty innovative—it’s now offered in a plastic pouch version with an embedded nozzle that you can easily hang,” said Pratt.

If retailers want to offer a nonliquid option, Zoo Med’s Avian Plus vitamin and mineral supplement for birds is a popular fine-milled powder mix that has a calcium base to boost healthy bone development and strong shells, a complete amino acid complex for improved plumage and protein digestion, and orange flavoring that appeals to birds.

A Niche for Natural

Mary Wyld, owner of Wyld’s Wingdom, a Norfolk, Va.-based wholesale pet supply distributor, said many bird owners today are looking beyond the usual suspect products for more holistic alternatives.

“A current and prominent trend is natural and herbal pet care products for companion birds,” said Wyld. “Customers are more informed of natural herbal remedies for themselves, and they’re seeking the same for their pets.”

One such SKU is Herbal Bird Rx by Avitech, which features alcohol-free herbal Avian-specific organic extracts available in formulas for relaxation/calming, arthritis, anti-inflammatory/immune-system stimulation, Candida and yeast suppression, liver detoxification and more.

Another is Bene-Bac Plus, a fructooligosaccharide and probiotic product that caters to numerous birds suffering from digestive ailments. This PetAg product contains seven species of naturally occurring live microorganisms that yield 20 million colony-forming units of lactic acid-producing bacteria per gram.

Rx Options

Although retailers need to choose bird over-the-counter medications carefully and sparingly (as many remedies specific to a particular illness need to be prescribed by a vet), there are at least four subcategories they should consider carrying: antibiotics, respiratory aids, diarrhea treatments and first-aid kits.

Bird Biotic from Thomas Laboratories is an example of an antibiotic worth stocking that offers an effective nonprescription dose of pharmaceutical-grade quality doxycycline for birds that’s designed to battle local and systemic infections.

Goodwinol’s VetRx Caged Bird, meanwhile, offers a time-tested formula, introduced in 1874, that helps provide temporary relief of upper respiratory illnesses provoked by allergies or congestion.

A diarrhea panacea carried by many pet stores is Lambert Kay Pet Pectillin Diarrhea Medication for Dogs, Cats and Birds, the ingredients of which includes kaolin and pectin, respectively, increase bulk and slow down the passage of waste, and protectively coat irritated gastrointestinal membranes.

And a handy utilitarian product packaged to get a shopper’s attention is VSI Pet Care Products’ Bird First Aid Kit, packed with styptic powder to stop bleeding, latex gloves, gauze bandages, scissors, locking forceps, iodine antiseptic swabs and many other emergency necessities.

Customer Relations

When considering selling medications and vitamins, it’s wise to consider the whole picture, said Sonia Wertz, sales manager for Lixit Corporation, a pet products manufacturer in Napa, Calif.

“Ask yourself, ‘What else will my customers need?,’” Wertz said. “Don’t send them to other departments or to the pharmacy for other supplies that may be required. You can maximize your sales by making one end cap or display that incorporates everything a bird owner will need for animal health, which makes things simpler for the customer. And you can expand your bird health department even further by adding bandages, first-aid kits, eye washes, syringes, DVDs and more—making it a true section and not just an afterthought.”

Pratt agrees.

“You don’t want this section to be lost in some corner where nobody will find it,” Pratt said. “You need to have it in a more visible space, perhaps adjacent to where you display cuttlebones and spray millet treats that are faster moving.”

It’s also important that employees be properly trained on when and how to recommend vitamin/medication products to patrons.

“Your staff has to be knowledgeable about the benefits and safe use of these products, and how to suggest them to uneducated customers, especially those who are first-time bird owners,” Pratt said.

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