The eco-friendly trend is no longer a trend; it’s an expectation. Now, rather than just environmentally-friendly claims on packaging, the eco-savvy consumers who led the initial eco-charge are now demanding environmentally-responsible sourcing and production methods–and pet industry manufacturers are taking note.
“We have been very excited to see companies using more environmentally-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing processes in the hard goods categories,” said Caitlyn Bolton, director of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition (PISC). “We have also seen a trend for companies across all categories to be more transparent in their sourcing and manufacturing processes, with a specific emphasis on the need for consumables to indicate where ingredients come from and provide certifications around sustainable sourcing, including sustainable seafood certifications, animal welfare standards and more.”
The Growth of Green
According to Larry Wright, president and CEO of The Green Pet Shop, there has been considerable growth in this segment.
“The eco or natural segment is the fastest growing segment within the pet industry,” Wright said. “We believe that this is not a fad and is a trend that will continue to realize growth at an accelerated rate as compared to most other segments.”
Wright believes the growth is accelerated b
“Consumers are becoming more educated and concerned about the environment,” he said. “Additionally, most civilized countries have prioritized global warming as an issue that must be addressed for the health and survival of the planet.”y consumers’ environmental concerns.
The Green Pet Shop is creating an eco-warming pad that will launch next winter and is looking into expanding the cooling pad line. In addition, The Green Pet Shop has created a line of eco-friendly bamboo products (Bamboo Training Pads and Bamboo Bowls for both dogs and cats) and is expanding into waste bags and wipes.
Rebecca Gadd, president of Gold Paw Series, said the eco-conscious consumer has grown more discerning.
“I’ve definitely seen an increase in the sophistication of customer’s expectations,” Gadd said. “It’s no longer sufficient to say something is simply eco-friendly. Customers want to know exactly how something is eco-friendly. There’s a newer sensitivity to sources of materials, the impacts of particular processes like the dying of fabric, and presence of potentially harmful chemicals in the finished product.”
“Our customers want to see products that are certified by third-party entities that it is safe for their pet and for the earth,” Gadd said. “We’ve had to step up our game in every step of production to ensure that we are meeting increasingly stringent standards–whether that’s using newer technologies for durable water-repellent treatments that are fluorocarbon-free or closed-cycle dying to reduce water pollution.”
Another eco-friendly example in hard goods is the new PAW5 interactive dog toy. The PAW5 uses a special FDA-compliant plastic and pigment for the Rock ‘N Bowl so the bowls are safe for food. The PAW5 Rock ‘N Bowl is made in the USA with a closed-loop, zero-waste manufacturing process to maintain the integrity of the product, avoid the possibility of phthalates, heavy metals and other variants entering the production process, and to minimize their environmental impact. When the Rock ‘N Bowl is produced, waste is re-granulated, re-melted and then re-used in PAW5 products only.
Likewise, in pet food, eco-conscious customers look for responsible ingredients, manufacturing and packaging.
“Customers today are concerned about where their pet food comes from and the impact its production has on planet earth,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “They want to ensure that their pet food comes from sustainable, renewable resources as well as that its production–including packaging and shipping–has a low carbon footprint. Caru Pet Food’s stews for dogs delivers on that front, as we are the only pet food in North America that uses Tetra Pak packaging. This packaging is made from sustainable, selectively harvested, regrown trees.”
Greening Your Store
In the store, consumers purposely seek out products marketed as eco-friendly or environmentally-responsible.
“To be honest, I think there’s a lot of environmental impact-based guilt attached to purchases and any time you can allay that guilt, you’ll have a happy customer who is proud to tell others about their purchase,” Gadd said. “I think as long as environmental impact is a concern on people’s minds—which is certainly the foreseeable future for a majority of Americans—then I think you have growth potential. Any new ways to address those concerns is an opportunity.”
When it comes to sales, though, the bottom line, according to Bolton, is that “there will need to be an even greater push toward transparency for all companies with consumers wanting to know where, how, and what products are made from.
“We would also like to see retailers incentivize environmental and social improvements by rewarding companies who are making efforts,” Bolton said. “From highlighting great companies to setting minimum standards that all products must meet in order to carry them in their stores, retailers can have a huge impact on the sustainable practices of companies in this industry.”