Retailers have an opportunity to build customer relationships and help pets live the healthiest lives possible by investing in the remedies and supplements category.
Just like for humans, a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise go a long way toward maintaining a pet’s health. But, especially as pets live longer, supplements can help customers’ pets enjoy optimal well-being.
Within the remedies and supplements category, human healthcare concerns and a growing senior pet population are driving trends in product development. The industry has seen pet owners become increasingly conscious of wellness concerns such as joint and digestive health, skin issues and antibiotic resistance.
“Apart from the direct pet health issues, the category is mostly driven by the generally increased health awareness in people, which drives all the changes on the grocery shelves,” says Harald Fisker, founder of Grizzly Pet Products. “That trickles right over to the pet store shelves, and consumers are constantly presented with more innovative and healthy pet products to entice their pet health consciousness.”
Susan Weiss, founder of Ark Naturals, has seen a drastic change in how consumers view the remedies and supplements category over the last two decades. As her company prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary, she says she has witnessed a much wider awareness of health supplements, as well as opportunities for further growth in the category.
“In 1996, when I first started this company, frankly, pet owners didn’t know what I was talking about,” Weiss says. “The two categories that were impossible for me were probiotics and omega-3 products. Twenty years later, probiotics are understood by almost everyone, and consumers have a really good idea of how to use them. Omega-3 products are more popular, but most consumers only know salmon oil. There is so much more to learn.”
Fisker, whose company’s products include salmon oil and treats derived from wild Alaskan salmon, also notes definitive growth in the natural, fish-based supplement segment. “We see the omega-3 segment continuing a strong growth pattern in the double digits for several years now,” says Fisker. “This is across all sizes for salmon, pollock and other fish oils, indicating that many new pet parents are joining the more natural ways of ensuring better health for their pets.”
Over-the-counter healthcare products in general have become much more popular, says Deborah Brown, vice president of Pet King Brands. By combining these products with a selection of nutritious pet foods, pet specialty retailers can provide their health-conscious customers with a convenient shopping experience.
“Having access to health products at the same store location where owners purchase their favorite pet food creates a pharmacy-like environment and one-stop shopping,” Brown says, adding that antibiotic alternatives in particular are growing in popularity. “The demand for these products has increased greatly due to how common these health issues are and the awareness of the risks associated with long-term or repeated use of antibiotics.”
For retailers looking to grow their customers’ interest in supplements, several manufacturers notes the clear connection between the category and high-quality pet foods. With any customer seeking out premium pet foods, retailers can easily segue to discussing the potential advantages of adding a supplement to a pet’s feeding routine.
“Pet owners have begun to take a closer look at what goes into their pet’s diet, leading many of them to purchase a breed, size, or age-specific option,” says Marilyn Chambliss McElroy, associate product manager at Nutramax Laboratories. “If they are already purchasing a premium pet food, they clearly want what is best for their pet and are more likely to look into adding a quality supplement to their daily routine.”
Especially in the remedies and supplements category, retailers must be confident in the brands and products they carry in their stores and be able to offer well-informed advice. When considering a new product for their shelves, Dr. Chris Bessent, founder of Herbsmith, advises retailers to ignore the hype and get the facts from manufacturers about the product’s basic ingredients. Retailers should also evaluate the trustworthiness and quality standards of the manufacturer to ensure its products live up to any claims made on the packaging.
“The manufacturer needs to provide unbiased facts about the ingredients in their products, [such as] how much glucosamine is available in each dose and what the cost of that dose is,” Bessent says. “That will allow the retailer to buy a good product at the best price.”
Brick-and-mortar retailers also have an opportunity to compete with e-commerce in this category by offering expertise that consumers cannot easily find or understand through online resources.
“Remedies and supplements are excellent vehicles to drive customer contact, as they need more insight and explanation than foods and litters,” Fisker says. “Retailers must use that opportunity to show off their knowledge and generate trust and loyalty.”