Natural products that keep pets at their best wellness are driving growth in the flourishing healthcare category.
As with numerous categories in the pet industry, growth in healthcare product sales is being driven by the pet humanization trend. As more people take a closer look at the health and wellness products they use, many are turning the same critical eye on what they use to manage their pets’ well being too. Additionally, pet parents are taking a more proactive and holistic approach to healthcare, leading to growth in natural and organic product sales.
“Over the last five to 10 years, consumers have taken a much more conscious movement toward a healthier, more natural lifestyle for themselves, which has transcended to their pets,” says Travis Draeger, leader of business development at Oshkosh, Wash.-based Silver Star Brands, makers of PetAlive natural remedies. “This has been increasingly obvious in the pet food side of the industry but is now moving its way into healthcare.”
This conscious investment in their pet’s health not only impacts what kinds of products consumers are looking for, but has led to increased spending. Pet parents are going beyond seeking out solutions to specific ailments, adding more products that contribute to their pet’s comfort, longevity and overall well being to their shopping lists.
“In the pet healthcare industry, pet parents are treating their pets more and more like family,” says Blake Anderson, founder of Pet Parents, based in Ankeny, Iowa. “With that, they’re caring more and spending more on their well being and therefore you’re seeing a rise in products such as natural/organic consumables and specialized pet health goods like dog diapers, belly bands, anxiety wraps, pee pads, supplements, etc., which is one of our main focuses at Pet Parents.”
Mindi Brothers, director of marketing for Chesterfield, Mo.-based Manna Pro Products pet division—maker of Nutri-Vet brand supplements for dogs and cats—points out that Millennials, in particular, are driving growth in supplements and says that pet demographics and lifestyle changes are also impacting the popularity of specific types of supplements.
“The aging pet population is growing the hip and joint category, and the increase in small dogs and dogs spending more time indoors is driving increases in calming products,” she says.
Catering to Discerning Pet Owners
Much like with other consumables—especially food—pet parents are turning a critical eye on ingredient labels for healthcare products and seeking out natural alternatives to prescriptions or products that are perceived as harsher or potentially dangerous. Draeger notes that prescriptions are often expensive and might come with unwanted side effects, giving pet owners two reasons to look for and learn about other options.
“People are educating themselves down to an ingredient level, and that is showing in the growth of the natural products industry,” he says. “As the parent of their fur baby, they want only the best, especially when it comes to consumables.”
However, pet owners still want to know that the products will be effective, so they are looking for companies that can provide evidence to back up any health claims.
“Products that are backed by science and clinical studies are gaining popularity among pet owners,” says Sarah Batterson, director of marketing at H&C Animal Health, based in Parker, Colo. “Pet owners want to know they are spending their money on products that actually work.”
Chelsea Joyce, vice president of sales at Littleton, Colo.-based Pet Releaf, has seen growth in natural alternatives across all kinds of wellness products as pet parents invest in holistic and organic solutions. Pet Releaf offers a range of CBD hemp oil products in liquid, capsule, chewable and topical formats.
“Pet parents are educating themselves more and more on the negative effects of relying solely on traditional pharmaceuticals to help their companions with illness and injury,” Joyce says. “Pet Releaf CBD products give them an alternative that they are able to introduce to their pet’s health regimen without fear of them interfering with the medications their pet is currently on and not having to stress about any negative side effects.”
The trend isn’t limited to consumables, though. Susan Goldstein, co-founder at Earth Animal which is based in Westport, Conn., says more pet parents are turning to natural alternatives for topical flea and tick prevention products as well.
“There’s a perception that it’s okay to put insecticides and pesticides on the body of dogs and cats, and I don’t think that’s okay,” she says. “There’s a misconception that we need to use a chemical to get the job done. There’s some basic food supplements that work and there are herbs that get the job done very successfully.”
Earth Animal manufactures vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies for dogs and cats, and the company has its own retail store as well. Goldstein works to make the store’s stock of natural healthcare products as accessible to customers as possible, providing a sense of transparency and assurance that the products are completely safe.
“For my retailers, I suggest demos,” she says. “Open up the jar, put the pills out, let kids see the herbs. Provide that tactile experience. For flea and tick, we actually have a demo table and we have all our products in wooden bowls. Because we’re not selling chemicals, we don’t have to say beware, don’t touch.”
Merchandising the Healthcare Department
There are numerous opportunities for creative merchandising with healthcare products, especially since the category lends itself well to cross-merchandising.
“For instance, if a customer is coming in for a joint health product for their dog’s hip dysplasia, why not position it by a heated dog bed,” Draeger says. “You already know that customer’s dog is dealing with the specific ailment, why not provide them easy access to a like—but not necessarily competing—product. Sell them the entire feel better package.”
Since wellness and diet are inextricably linked, retailers should also look for ways to integrate healthcare products into their food selection.
“If a dog has allergies, you might want to recommend that they switch to a raw diet and also incorporate Pet Releaf CBD Hemp Oil,” Joyce says. “In this situation, the allergies could subside or lessen, and Pet Releaf can help relieve some of those symptoms that come along with allergies.”
In the healthcare aisle, it’s important to keep products organized to make it easy for customers to navigate. Draeger points out that providing too many options can quickly overwhelm consumers, especially if they’re new to the category or looking for an unfamiliar type of product. He suggests color coding shelves by type of product or organizing categories alphabetically to provide a logical system that makes it easy for customers to find what they need.
Although more and more consumers are proactively seeking out natural healthcare products, retailers also have an opportunity to inform those who may not be familiar with the benefits they can provide.
“Penetration of supplements is growing, but is still lower than in categories like food and treats,” Brothers says. “Secondary displays of supplements in high-traffic areas and at checkout can bring new customers into the category.”
With the plethora of options on the market, building a comprehensive but manageable selection of products can present a challenge for retailers. Retailers should focus on finding products that meet consumer expectations, and that they can confidently recommend.
“Retailers should look for manufacturers who put their product through rigorous clinical tests to make sure the product is actually effective,” Batterson says. “There are also many industry seals, such as the VOHC seal on dental products, that retailers can look for in order to make the right choices for their customers.”
Draeger recommends that retailers take a close look at companies’ manufacturing processes to stay well informed on the products in their store and gain insight into quality standards.
“There are the basic certifications to look for like cGMP, but ultimately what the retailers should be looking for is transparency,” he says. “The more the supplier can tell you about the manufacturing process, the better. If the supplier doesn’t know what goes into the crafting their products, then they don’t value the process, which may compromise the quality.”
Retailers could also develop a set of criteria that will ensure any new healthcare products or companies they are considering meet high quality standards and align with their own values. Goldstein suggests a variety of potential inquiries.
“Is the plant USDA-certified organic? Is it a non-GMO plant?” she says. “Where does the manufacturer source their ingredients? How sustainable is this company, how environmentally conscious, how does it treat workers, how charitable is it? What is the spiritual DNA of the manufacturer?”
From evaluating manufacturers to helping consumers identify the right products for their pet, retailers have a great deal of both responsibility and opportunity in the healthcare category.
“When I go to my store, I ask myself, ‘Am I retailer or a healer?” Goldstein says. “Retailers today have an opportunity to be healers.” PB