BY ERIC STENSON
Concerns over harsh chemicals and their potential side effects influence many decisions people make about products they select for treatment of various maladies, as well as for daily nutrition and health maintenance. Not surprisingly, this emphasis translates into how pet parents contend with the needs of their companion animals as well.
Jane M. Bond, co-owner with her sister Karen of Eco Dog in Los Angeles, started developing shampoos, conditioners and ear washes when they found there was a dearth of products that met their standards.
“We started in 2011,” Bond explained. “We had a business in LA, washing and grooming, and we did not find products that were ‘eco-smart’ enough for us. From there, people started asking if they could buy them from us, so that is how we started our product line.”
Environmental impact, combined with safety and efficacy, were major considerations for the sisters in their product development, Bond indicated. “We did not want any toxins, did not want to pollute ground water, we wanted to make sure it’s safe for the pet or the person bathing,” she said.
“We wanted ‘ecosmart’ formulas to deliver specific values. Peppermint, lemongrass, cedarwood and geranium oil—they deliver the value of repelling fleas and ticks. Ingredients are listed by the function. We wanted to make sure we tied the ingredient to the specific value, using nature’s raw materials to deliver value. We like to think of ourselves at the intersection of green and dog.”
While all-natural ingredients are pleasing to the pet and the pet parent, Bond echoed a key point inherent to all treatment products when her company selects ingredients.
“What’s the point of having it in there if it doesn’t do something?” she said. “Our products smell great, but they also have to work.”
Do Your Homework
When it comes to suggesting how retailers can enhance their presence in the natural-healing marketplace, Bond offers a simple mantra: do your homework.
“The most important thing is to read as much as you can about the ingredients,” she said. “Look at the truth underlying the ad copy. Consumers are really interested in making better decisions regarding what they use, and that is extending to their pets.”
Susan Goldstein, co-founder of Earth Animal in Westport, Connecticut, has been developing natural remedies for decades with her husband, Dr. Bob Goldstein, a holistic veterinarian. Her company features Daily Health Nuggets for dogs and cats, herbal flea and tick control, and a wide variety of herbal drops for such things as digestive assistance, immune support, urinary and kidney relief, allergy and skin relief, joint health, and mood support. She is especially concerned with flea and tick treatments that rely on toxic chemicals.
“Long-term use of drugs or using the body of a dog or cat for poisons for fleas and ticks, we think that’s unethical,” she said. “The earth provides animals with naturally occurring substances for organ health and flea and tick control. We go too easily into other routes.”
Dr. Bob Goldstein works with a natural herbalist from Vermont in the development of Earth Animal’s treatments, she explained.
“The supplements really make us tick,” she said. “We are dedicated to organic ways to treat diseases. We are so grateful to help pet families heal their animals.”
Susan Goldstein encourages retailers to evolve beyond just being sellers of products and to take an active role in the well-being of pets.
“Retailers have to do some soul searching,” she said. “Am I a retailer or am I a healer? The retailers who have the objective of converting their store into a healing proposition should keep studying vitamins. Demo products. Give a tactile experience.
“You will touch the powders,” she said. “The herbs are there to smell and touch. Every animal enters in an individual state of wellness or disease. Listen to the individual needs of that dog or cat. Invest in a little history. You’ve learned how to use the supplements; you have made major contributions to the health of that animal.”
Grizzly Pet Products of Woodinville, Washington, emphasizes salmon oil in the development of its supplements for Omega-3, hip and joint support, and antioxidant support.
“Most of our product line has only one or two ingredients,” said Chad J. Tillman, national sales manager. “Alaskan Wild Salmon, whether it’s oil, meat or meal, can provide an expansive array of nutritional benefits, including but not limited to, essential fatty acids; Omega-3s; EPA and DHA; natural A, D, E, B, K vitamins; and a very robust amino acid profile. The depth of these nutritional benefits allows us to use just a few ingredients in all of our products.”
Indeed, it’s all about the salmon for Grizzly, Tillman indicated.
“Grizzly Pet Products is the most comprehensive supplier of Alaskan wild salmon products for pets in the industry,” Tillman said. “A long history of providing market-leading products, limited ingredient profiles, long track record of reliability, and providing support directly to brick and mortar stores, has made us the distinctive, and for many the ‘go-to,’ brand in the marketplace.”
Tillman suggests that retailers look for certification in the brands that they carry.
“As a store, look for NASC certified supplements,” he said. “NASC-approved products are held to a much higher standard of quality and reliability. Supplements should reside in a designated section, or featured endcap, where lots of information and pointof-purchase materials are provided.”
The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is a non-profit trade organization whose members adhere to certain standards of quality in the production
of their products. According to the NASC’s website, the group’s goal is to “provide a unified, consistent voice for animal health and nutritional supplement companies, create responsible and nationally consistent labeling and advertising guidelines, and provide consistent quality and production process controls for the industry.”
According to Bill Bookout, president of the NASC, companies that display an NASC seal on their packaging must first qualify for membership in the organization. The process is comprised of several steps, including a direct interview with the president of the NASC and an examination of the company’s claims, which can usually be found online. The company must also sign a code of conduct agreement pledging that it will remain compliant with NASC requirements.
“To use the NASC seal, [the company has] to pass an independent quality audit, which is a physical on-site audit, either directly by [the NASC] or by a third party that we contract with that verifies [the company has] a written quality manual that meets our standards and that all of our other requirements are met,” Bookout said.
Bookout said retailers and consumers alike can have a “higher degree of faith, trust and confidence” in products displaying the NASC quality seal. And because membership is voluntary, it signals an extra step being taken to both reassure consumers and improve quality standards overall.
“Any NASC member company is contributing to a cause that is greater than their own individual self-interest,” Bookout said. “They’re making the industry better, setting the standards for the industry.”
NUPRO, which entered the pet industry in 1989 and is a member of the NASC, creates supplements for dogs, cats and ferrets. According to the company, its products are “scientifically balanced formulas rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and essential fatty acids,” providing nutrients that may be lost in cooked and processed pet foods.
One of three dog products available from NUPRO, the Original “Gold” Formula is an all-natural all-in-one supplement for canines of all breeds and all ages. The product contains no wheat, corn, fillers, grains, artificial sugars or preservatives, glutens or by-products.
NUPRO also offers one supplement each for cats and ferrets. The NUPRO Health Nuggets for Cats are designed to give a boost to the typical domesticated feline diet, while the NUPRO All-Natural Ferret Supplement is a “‘real’ meat and vegetable product designed to provide balanced levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes” to fortify processed diets.
Finding the Right Help
Chris Wright, owner of The Dog and Cat in Stowe, Vermont, carries a number of all-natural remedies, including products from Earth Animal and Homeopet.
“When nothing has worked, people figure that it can only help,” Wright said of all-natural remedies. “There are more products on the market now, and more communication among people. More holistic vets. If there is an increase, that’s where it’s from. Communication is more immediate. Holistic vets can point people in that direction.”
To Wright, motivation among customers in the natural healing market often comes down to cost.
“Prescription drugs, even taken correctly, can be a major issue, including pet medications,” he said. “Those products (natural remedies) can be tried because of an expensive vet visit. Customers want alternatives not just for product reasons, but also for cost reasons. You’re only as good as the products you’re administering. Every dog and cat is different.”
As a retailer, Wright understands his role as a counselor to pet parents.
“Steering through the weeds of all these different things is where the store comes in,” he said. “It’s got to be very difficult to put a product on the market. Overmedication can be inevitable. If they’re doing it with people, I’m sure it happens in the pet world, too. People can navigate toward less expensive, more hopeful remedies.”