By Eric Stenson
Sea-based products have become more popular among many people for their advantages in heart health and joint benefits. As more owners are looking for all-natural options for themselves, this can extend to their increasingly humanized companion animals as well.
Seafood presents a very high level of protein, according to PetCareRX.com, with fish meal coming in at a value of around 92 out of 100. The Omega-3s in fish oil also hold great nutritional benefits, particularly involving immune systems and skin and coats. Sea-based products feature prominently in the supplement world. In Clover of Boulder, Colorado, makes Connectin, a hip and joint formula that comes in varieties for dogs, cats and horses, and that features chondroitin derived from perna perna mussels. Glow for dogs and Sleek for cats are skin-and-coat formulas that have fish oil derived from menhaden fish, according to Allie Sparrow, In Clover’s director of business growth.
“All of our products are thoughtfully made in-house,” she said. “We look for ingredients that work synergistically with the pet’s system.”
In Clover started in 1996 with the Connectin product, so the company has been in the sea-based product business from the very beginning, Sparrow indicated. As far as how retailers might want to advance their presence in this market, she suggests emphasizing two S’s—sourcing and sustainability.
“People like to hear a story about how things are formed,” she said. “Point out the natural side of it—natural, organic, sustainable ingredients.”
The Power of Salmon
TropiClean of Wentzville, Missouri, makes a Hip & Joint Supplement and Skin & Coat Supplement with sea-derived natural ingredients. In addition to salmon oil, TropiClean also uses pollock oil and some non-sea ingredients, such as flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, canola oil and coconut oil, according to James Brandly, public relations manager.
“The main difference is our salmon oil,” he said. “It’s the freshest salmon oil in the industry, with the Omega-3s being kept in their most natural molecular form as it is found in the fish. Our supplements are made with ingredients that are easily digested and absorbed by the pet.”
In addition to a salmon oil supplement, Plato Pet Treats of Fresno, California, makes Strips, Small Bites and Thinkers Sticks derived from salmon, according to Nichole Nonini, marketing director. She points out that Plato uses only salmon that are wild-caught, sustainably fished out of Pacific waters; no farm-raised, no added GMOs.
“We know the health gains that natural fatty acids, Omega-3s and 6s add to our pets’ overall well-being,” she said. “We feel this is so important and that’s why we have multiple products that are centered around this power protein.”
Plato goes beyond salmon as well with its line of Hundur’s Crunch Jerky Fingers, Jerky Rolls and Jerky Minis, which are derived from wild-caught cod from clean Icelandic waters, she said.
“This is a single-ingredient treat, with no preservatives, full of natural nutrition,” she added.
In its products from the sea, My Perfect Pet of Poway, California, uses three primary sea-based ingredients: wild salmon, kelp and fish oil. Karen Neola, pack lead and co-founder, cites digestibility, sustainability and affordability as key motivating factors in the selection of these ingredients.
“Wild salmon is best known for its high concentration of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA), selenium and taurine, but is also rich in vitamins and minerals,” she said. “Sea kelp is a natural source of vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, D and E) and minerals (zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and calcium) plus antioxidants, phytonutrients, amino acids, Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Fish oil is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, as well as a variety of other essential nutrients.”
Neola feels that one of the things that sets My Perfect Pet apart is how high the company sets the bar for the salmon it uses.
“Our wild salmon filets are the same boneless, skinless filets that are sold to restaurants,” she said. “My Perfect Pet products are made the same way pet parents would prepare food at home, only on a much larger scale.”
Bravo of Manchester, Connecticut, makes Super Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement and Bonus Bites Salmon treats. The fish oil supplement uses mackerel, anchovy, sardine and herring that is ethically sourced from sustainable fishing grounds from the clean waters around Iceland, according to Bette Schubert, Bravo’s co-founder and senior vice president of sales. The freeze-dried Bonus Bites are made from 100 percent Atlantic-based salmon.
“Our treats are made from a single, clean source,” she said. “It is this simplicity that makes it a great option for dogs with special needs, such as allergies, because it only contains one ingredient.”
Sea to the Bowl
Of course, natural products from the sea consist of much more than just supplements and treats. Many are regular foods. Caru Pet Food of Vero Beach, Florida, makes food and treats, having recently added Turkey with Wild Salmon Stew for dogs to the company’s Daily Dish line, as well as offering Soft ‘n Chewy Tuna Recipe Baked Bites treats for cats, according to Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder.
“My wife, Pamela, and I are medical professionals who formerly ran a family health care facility, so we understand the nutritional advantages of seafood and adding them to a dog’s or cat’s diet,” he said. “Both salmon and tuna are rich in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that can help promote healthy skin and coats.”
Caru’s Daily Dish stews for dogs and Classic Stews for dogs and cats are cooked at an exclusive, low-temperature process that delivers all the taste, aroma and texture of homemade food, Pettyan said. Baked treats for dogs and cats are grain-, gluten- and GMO-ingredient free.
For retailers looking to increase their presence in this sector, Pettyan recommends exploring opportunities to promote and spread knowledge of these products.
“Try an end-cap to display a roundup of relevant products, which can be decorated with simple nautical props such as cork floats, seashells and netting,” he suggested. “Perhaps run a store-wide special tied in with National Seafood Month, which takes place in October.”
Castor & Pollux, a subsidiary of Merrick Pet Care in Amarillo, Texas, uses wild-caught salmon and whitefish in its sea-based natural pet foods, according to Lindsey Fash, marketing director for Castor & Pollux.
“Our Pristine seafood recipes are MSC certified, the leading organization that sets the standard for sustainable fishing practices,” Fash said. “That means our recipes include fish that have been responsibly caught by a certified sustainable fishery and may bear the blue MSC-certified ecolabel from the Marine Stewardship Council.”
From a distributor perspective, Antoine Seailles, market strategy manager of Pet Food Experts in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, feels that sea-based natural products are “not a huge segment.” However, he has seen some growth in supplements and foods among such brands as Orijen, Acana and Open Farm.
“It’s still very early on for people looking for more than just fish,” he said. “Salmon oil and krill oil do continue to grow, but not in leaps and bounds.”