As retailers evaluate products, it can be easy to lose sight of what is truly important to long-term business success and instead focus too much on price or get up in the sales pitch.
Rather, pause for a moment and ask yourself — whether you are a single store or a large retail chain — what you want the result to be when a pet parent makes a purchase.
From my perspective, I think a retailer wants the following results, which can apply to nearly any product category, especially those that are ingested like food, treats and supplements. See if you agree:
You want the pet to positively respond to the product based on the reason it is being purchased. You want the product to meet or exceed the customer’s expectations.
You want the customer to return to your store and buy the product again, creating repeat business rather than just a one-time sale.
You want to build trust through positive interaction with the customer, which leads to customer loyalty and improves odds they will think of your store when they need additional items for their pet.
You want the customer to spread the word about their positive experience in your store, whether through an online review, a social media post or simply telling a friend. This word of mouth helps to create new customers and builds your business through trust, credibility and customer service, all of which create customer loyalty.
If you agree, let’s think next about what might be some considerations that aren’t quite so obvious and often not prioritized highly enough when evaluating products.
While price will always be a driving factor in the purchase decision today’s informed pet parents also demand to know what goes into the products, where they come from and how they were produced. You can help bridge the trust gap by recognizing the value of third-party certifications and prioritizing shelf space for brands that have gone the extra mile to obtain a recognized, independent quality certification seal or mark. Third-party certifications can help to increase consumer confidence, lend credibility to label claims and ultimately help drive sales through trust born out of transparency.
Simply stated, third-party certification is a quality control process provided by an independent organization that does not have financial interest in the manufacturer. The organization reviews a company’s manufacturing processes and/or products against its established evaluation standards to ensure compliance with those standards. Once certified, the company may display the certifier’s seal or mark on their packaging and promote it in its marketing materials.
What does this really mean? One word: consistency. Knowing the goal is to have the pet positively respond to the product, consistency in production processes is paramount to achieving consistent quality in the products that are produced. Inconsistency in product quality also means inconsistency in the response from the animal.
Know the Certifications
In pet food and supplements, the following certifications carry the most weight with consumers: USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project, Marine Stewardship Council, US Hemp Authority (hemp supplements only) and the NASC Quality Seal (all supplements).
Using the National Animal Supplement Council as an example of how a third-party certification should work, members cannot simply join and then use the Quality Seal. To display the NASC Quality Seal a member company must pass a rigorous third-party audit and maintain ongoing compliance with NASC’s written requirements, which include stringent labeling compliance; documented quality control for production processes meeting current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs); real-time product monitoring and adverse event reporting; random product testing to ensure label claim is being met; and audit recertification every other year.
I often hear manufacturers say, “We follow good manufacturing practice standards,” or “Our facility is registered with FDA.” This is meaningless if the company can’t specifically name the standards they follow, such as 21 CFR Part 507 for animal food, 21 CFR Part 111 for human dietary supplements or 21 CFR Part 117 for human food. An FDA registration can be accomplished online in about 10 minutes.
Manufacturers should know the quality standards it follows, and also be willing to share how long it has been in business, whether products are formulated by a qualified professional with expertise in pet products, whether products are independently tested by a reputable analytical lab and whether there is a veterinarian on staff who can answer technical product questions.
In summary, verification of quality in production processes and operating from a paradigm of “trust but verify” means consistency, which means the probability of a positive response from the animal, helping to ensure the four critical objectives of the retailer noted above are realized.
Bill Bookout, MBA, is president, board chairman, and a founding member of the National Animal Supplement Council, and a leading expert on regulatory issues surrounding health and nutritional supplements for dogs, cats, and horses. The NASC is the world’s leading trade association representing manufacturers and suppliers of these types of products; for 20 years, the NASC’s successful leadership and advocacy actions have helped to shape and secure the future of the industry and ensure quality supplement products remain available to all stakeholders.