Once upon a time, a cat owner went to her local store to look for a sustainable cat litter for her favorite feline, and her purchase was a pretty easy choice because it was such a niche market. That scenario has certainly changed as the selection of eco-friendly litters has expanded to include varieties made with products from wheat, corn, coconut husks, cassava and even green tea.
“When we look at the big picture, the natural/sustainable market is still small, but trends show that it is undoubtedly going to continue to steal share from the conventional litter segment,” said Luana Francischini, communications director of the newly branded Petfive Brands (formerly 7Pets), manufacturer of Garfield Cat Litter.
The company recently hired pet-centric Matrix Partners to help with the re-branding and make America’s favorite lasagna-eating orange tabby a litter household favorite, too.
“Garfield Cat Litter has reached the shelves of stores in 18 countries, and we are negotiating with several new regions,” Francischini said. “Monthly growth has increased continuously, with high repurchase rates, supporting our theory that once cat parents give our litter a try, they are highly satisfied and do not switch back.”
The Garfield litters include two that are biodegradable and flushable made from corn and cassava (a tropical root also known as yucca). They also have new packaging that will highlight the benefits of natural litter and educate consumers what to expect when it comes to natural products and how to select the goods they need, matching their environment and health-conscious lifestyle.
“Our litter is completely aligned with what millennial pet parents seek: a product that looks, feels, and is all natural/eco-friendly and, most importantly, harmless to pets and efficient for the parent,” Francischini said. “Having said that, we recognize that today most of our loyal customers and Facebook fans are baby boomers. However, acceptance of the Garfield brand amongst millennials is increasing, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if in a few years they represent the majority of our client base. Further supporting this is the fact that millennials are more comfortable about investing in premium products that are natural, sustainable and biodegradable.”
In line with the name change and rebrand, the company has also introduced a new plant-based litter product to be sold exclusively in pet specialty stores and targeting millennial cat owners. The litter, named Sustainably Yours, debuted last month at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando.
“Our research and development department was able to improve even more our plant-based formula, creating a higher level natural, sustainable, premium cat litter,” Francischini said.
A Green Tea Solution
Next Gen’s Green Tea Fresh cat litter was developed in Japan to be a comprehensively natural solution for every cat family and is still manufactured overseas.
“Green tea has a natural antioxidant called catechin which acts as an astringent, suppressing bacteria growth,” stated Janice Yamamoto, the company’s marketing director. “Bacteria growth is what leads to the unpleasant odor commonly associated with litter boxes. So by suppressing bacteria growth before it starts, green tea is able to act as a pleasant, natural scent for our litter and eliminate unpleasant litter box odor at the same time.”
She also confirmed that the Green Tea Fresh and the company’s other sustainable products, namely Cypress Fresh and Timber Fresh, appeal to a wide audience.
“Different demographics are drawn to our litter for different reasons,” Yamamoto explained. “I think millennials are concerned with ensuring their purchasing power is spent on products with the environment in mind. But we also have many customers in large cities and more ‘experienced’ demographics who are drawn to our litters because they are less than 90 percent the weight of clay and consequently much lighter to carry.”
Customer Wants and Needs
Village Pet Supply in Valley Village, California, an area that borders Studio City and West Hollywood and features a large number of residential apartments, reports that local customers are buying sustainable litters because they are lightweight and easier to transport and use.
“Our customers are from across both the millennial and baby boomers demographics,” said Sarah Katz, the store’s manager. “Apart from the lightness of the litter, they are purchasing products like The Green Tea Fresh because they care about their cats’ overall health. If they ingest any, they are ingesting nothing harmful like clay. The Green Tea is very popular because it has great odor control—it always smells fresh—and it doesn’t track very far out of the box,” she added.
According to Jean Broders, senior brand manager for World’s Best Cat Litter, the fact that the product is flushable is a strong selling point for the brand.
“Especially for apartment dwellers, flushability is a huge plus,” Broders said. “No more lugging heavy bags of waste—just scoop and flush! Our consumers also comment on just how long our litter lasts. Consumers go months and months without having to change the entire litter box. This is due to the odor control and clumpability. When these two things work together, our litter lasts a long, long time.”
Pioneer Pets features a non-GMO verified certification on its SmartCat ALL NATURAL Clumping Litter.
“We felt this was very important because a lot of customers were asking detailed questions about our grass litter and its origins,” said Shannon Supanich, marketing manager for the company. “Our litter is made from 100 percent USA-farmed grass, with no added chemicals or fragrances and will biodegrade after disposal as a renewable resource. Further, it’s very soft on paws and can be used for younger cats, too.”
The company also manufactures a high-sided litter box and a double-sided litter mat to trap litter outside the box.
“The products tend to sell each other,” Supanich said. “And we tend to market them together as ‘litter solutions’ to retailers.”
With the sustainable litter category becoming so competitive, manufacturers concur that on-going marketing is essential.
“‘Think About Your Cat, Not the Box’ is the title of our current marketing campaign,” Broders said. “This messaging can be found in print, digital, POS in-store materials and social. We also post a significant amount of consumer product reviews. We know consumers rely on other consumers for product referrals. We are proud to have such a great group of customers telling others about World’s Best Cat Litter.
“We also offer unique consumer promotions to draw attention to our brand and to reward our current consumers,” she continued. “Last year we ran a sweepstakes where the grand prize was a FIAT Spider Abarth. It was a huge success in gaining new customers and rewarding existing [customers]. We also run smaller in-store promotions wherein consumers can earn free items, based on purchases.”