Naturally Well Groomed
Consumers are more interested than ever in purchasing natural grooming products to use at home on their pets.
Although dogs seem content to cover their fur with dirt, grass and slobber, humans are much more selective about what they put on their dogs’ coats. Consumers are more aware than ever of the ingredients in grooming products and often opt for natural and organic versions. Pet owners are seeking certain ingredients and avoiding others when they buy shampoos, conditioners and other natural grooming products.
“The all-natural trend we’ve seen over the past few years only continues to become more prevalent,” says Debbie Guardian, founder and president of Opie & Dixie, LLC in San Francisco. “Consumers are savvier about ingredients than ever and are apt to purchase 100-percent natural and organic products rather than products with chemicals or synthetics, regardless of the higher price point.”
Opie & Dixie’s newest product is Spotstik, a 100-percent natural, USDA-certified organic hot-spot healer. Guardian explains that dog owners often say their veterinarians prescribe steroids to treat hot spots, which are triggered by factors such as allergic reactions to food or plants, mite or flea bites, poor grooming, underlying ear or skin infections, or stress-related licking and scratching. Spotstik offers a natural, tidy remedy. The formula is designed to heal the open wounds and soothe the irritation and pain they cause.
Guardian says natural grooming products are no longer a luxury but are now a staple item. “My sense is that, as people become more and more cognizant of ingredients, products with chemicals and synthetics will likely slide off the radar,” she says.
People are seeking natural grooming products for themselves and for their pets, says Steven Shweky, president and CEO at Fetch...for Pets! in New York. The company recently launched the CHI For Dogs grooming system.
“CHI For Dogs was created as an extension of the trusted human hair care brand that pet parents use themselves and can now share with their pet,” says Shweky. “The salon-quality products are easy to use and allow pet owners to treat their dogs to a luxurious at-home grooming experience.” The line features more than 35 wet goods, styling products and tools such as brushes and clippers.
Shweky adds that pet owners are seeking more natural options for their pets across all product categories, including grooming. They want to make smart decisions for their pets, so they choose products that are safe, earth-friendly and free of harsh chemicals. While it is important that these products are natural, the most important feature is function. Consumers expect the products to result in the pet looking and smelling clean and fresh.
The real shift, he says, is cost. Natural products retail for higher prices, but consumers want a high-value product at a low cost. Some manufacturers are developing affordable options in the natural category. The space is becoming increasingly competitive as the giant brands make their way into the natural marketplace.
Another natural-related trend is that consumers want the products’ packaging to be sustainable. Fetch...For Pets! also offers Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care line in packaging made of recycled materials. “That weighs heavily into the consumer’s purchasing decision,” says Shweky.
Ingredients weigh heavily too, and people are reading labels. “The natural grooming category has been changing significantly over the past eight years with more emphasis on the ingredients of natural products,” says Peggy Smith, marketing/media manager for Longview, Texas-based Bio-Derm Laboratories, Inc., manufacturer of Bio-Groom products. “Bio-Groom took a huge step to address this concern by listing all the ingredients by their actual cosmetic name on the bottle. We believe more and more products will be pressed to do the same.”
Earlier this year, Bio-Groom launched Indulge sulfate-free shampoo with argan oil. The shampoo contains no artificial thickeners or fillers, and it is designed to hydrate and condition the coat. Argan oil contains vitamin E and natural plant healing components to soothe, nourish and revive. Bio-Groom also launched Indulge Daily Brushing Aid, a spray treatment that also contains argan oil. The spray penetrates hair shafts and hair follicles to help nourish the skin and coat. It is also non-sticky, non-greasy and non-irritating.
Smith says consumers will continue to seek responsible and effective grooming products. “Products will become more and more earth friendly. Harsh chemicals will be eliminated as consumers become more and more educated on what products contain,” she says.
Another on-trend ingredient is oregano oil. RopaPharm, a Netherlands-based company that has U.S. operations in Milan, Ill., and makes RopaVet products, offers Ropa Dog Extra Care shampoo. The shampoo contains natural essential oils, including oregano oil. Dan L. McDermott, CEO of RopaPharm U.S. LLC, says oregano oil has anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Those benefits can help dogs that have dry skin, itching and other discomforts.
“When I started working with oregano oil 12 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of market awareness,” says McDermott. “It has been used in Europe for years, and in other cultures. It think it’s one of those things that people know works.”
McDermott says consumers are interested in avoiding harmful ingredients in shampoos. “I think certainly there is larger awareness and acceptance of natural products,” he says. “They are looking for what is healthy for their families, and healthy for their pets.”
The still-strong humanization trend has made the space very competitive, says Rick Rockhill, executive vice president of Lucy Pet Products in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “There are great products already on the market,” he says. “It is a crowded playing field.”
What is changing are the demographics—specifically, the rise of the Millennials. “What’s important to know is Millennials now are only 27 percent of the population, but by 2018, they will eclipse Baby Boomers in spending power, and not just in pet,” says Rockhill. Millennials shop differently from other age groups. For example, he says, 76 percent of Millennials say they are more willing to make impulse pampering purchases for their pets than for themselves, while only 50 percent of Baby Boomers say the same.
These Millennial shoppers are looking for high-quality products that have fun packaging and even a good story—and Lucy Pet Products aims to hit on all three fronts. The company offers a line of shampoos and leave-in conditioning sprays, with formulas such as Berry Berry Smellicious, Blue Lightning and Surfin’ Jack. They are packaged in recyclable metal bottles with bold, bright graphic designs. The products fund The Lucy Pet Foundation, a 501(c) 3 that has a mission to reduce pet overpopulation and offers mobile spay/neuter services.
“All the products we develop are products with a cause,” says Rockhill. “It is not marketing fluff. We’re trying to be very genuine, which resonates best with Millennials.”
Something that resonates with retailers is repeat business. The leave-in conditioner is a between-bath product that the dog owner buys more frequently than shampoo for a full bath, a detail that can help retailers build more purchases in the grooming section. “You will get a higher rate of sale because consumers get it,” says Rockhill.
The future of the category is bright, says Shweky, from Fetch...for Pets! “This category will continue to grow with a higher quality expectation from consumers at a lower price,” he says. “We’ll see new products, new brands and new competition with innovative ways to make grooming a much easier at-home process that can help consumers save on groomer costs.”