Green Pet Products Go Mainstream
Manufacturers of eco-friendly pet products have gained a strong following with conscientious consumers, and retailers must also get on board to remain relevant.
While consumers have been using eco-friendly pet products in their homes for years, being green didn’t always translate into high efficacy or quality in the past.
Clearly, times have changed.
Companies whose products proved inadequate have been surpassed by veteran eco-friendly pet goods manufacturers and new players that bring innovative technology to retail shelves. What was once viewed as a fad, thought to be reserved for eccentric natural-living enthusiasts, has proved to be in demand by mainstream pet goods consumers who want safe, environmentally friendly products without compromising on effectiveness.
The pet cleanup and waste-management categories are two areas in which the importance of efficacy is particularly clear. If a product that is meant to clean up or dispose of pet waste fails to deliver on the manufacturer’s promise, the sanitary environment in which consumers live could be compromised.
As a provider of environmentally responsible Fresh News cat litter, which is made from recycled paper, BPV Environmental recognizes the challenges of selling green products that work and dispelling the myth that eco-friendly products are equated with ineffective formulas.
“We have learned that consumers are not happy with just an eco-friendly product, they also want that product to be effective and affordable,” says brand manager Nicole Spain. “Our Ammonia Locker Technology is a combination of proprietary ingredients, but what I can tell you is that part of that technology is the paper itself. Recycled paper is exceptionally absorbent, meaning the pellets are able to retain a lot of liquid while maintaining their pellet shape.”
BPV Environmental gets its supply of recyclable paper from its PaperGator program, which enables non-profit organizations to raise funds by collecting paper products and placing them in a special bin for their eventual use as Fresh News litter.
The environmental threats associated with improper waste management are not limited to the litter box, though. Pet owners who take their canine companions out for a walk face an important choice when deciding how to pick up what their dog leaves behind, and a growing number are opting to use products that are more earth friendly than plastic grocery bags.
“It’s when I first started to search online for where to buy ‘poop bags’ that I really began to understand the problem with using plastic bags to discard a natural byproduct,” says Paul Cannella, president and founder of The Original PoopBags. “I was horrified to read about the plastic in the oceans and streams, and that was back in 2003. That is when I questioned myself, ‘What about a biodegradable poop bag?’”
According to Cannella, the eco-friendly products that companies like The Original PoopBags have promoted for years have become popular among not only mainstream consumers, but legislators as well. For example, single-use grocery bag bans are being adopted across the country, showing manufacturers and consumers that progress is occurring in this sector.
“I think this legislation will help my business, and I’m more proud to see this finally come to fruition from a responsibility standpoint, than I am from a personal gain standpoint,” says Cannella.
While pet waste disposal may represent a key area for “green” product development, the combination of earth-friendliness and efficacy has become important in a variety of other pet care categories. For example, when it comes to pet toys, eco-conscious shoppers are seeking products that are only manufactured from sustainable materials that will not harm the environment, but also deliver durability and entertainment value for their four legged friends.
These were the goals that led Cycle Dog to develop product lines like Ecolast Rubber Toys and Fuzzies! Soft Toys. Founded by Lanette Fidrych on the premise of creating collars from her used bicycle inner tubes, it was a natural progression that Cycle Dog would expand into the dog toy category, given the growing consumer demand for natural play options.
“We had many requests for handmade soft toys over the years,” she says. “As we are a sewing factory, this was a natural progression for Cycle Dog. We use Ecofill 100 percent recycled filling made from plastic bottles. Our Fuzzies are a no-waste product, in that the material edges (after the toy is shaped) are used inside the toy instead of being thrown in the landfill.”
An expanding selection of green options can also be found among items designed to address common behavioral issues among pets, such as cat scratchers. This is a category in which Cat Claws Inc. has excelled. Brittany Windham, marketing specialist at Cat Claws Inc., notes that providing felines with scratching products made from natural materials is not only the eco-friendly choice, but also a much more affordable option than letting them satisfy their scratching instincts on a pet owner’s home furnishings.
“The Scratch ‘n Pad line is the most affordable way to save furniture,” she says. “Cats would rather scratch their catnip-infused scratcher than the couch, and it’s much less expensive to buy a scratcher than replace furniture.”
Replacing furniture that has been destroyed by a pet is not only a monetary consideration, but also an ecological issue. The waste produced when disposing of damaged furnishings consumes valuable resources, such as fuel for transport and space in a landfill—two important considerations for environmentally conscientious consumers.
The Bigger Picture
While providing effective products that are safer for pets, people and the environment are the main objective for eco-friendly manufacturers, this goal goes hand in hand with a broader sense of social responsibility that goes beyond simply being “green.” Pete Stirling, chief operating officer of Skout’s Honor, believes showing consumers that a manufacturer is doing the right thing not only throughout the production process, but also in regards to promoting a better life for pets overall, will translate into greater revenue generated through retailers.
“Fighting animal cruelty, sponsoring spay/neuter and adoption makes the world a better place,” he says. “It will make a greater impact at the retail counter. The dollar is powerful if you give people more power to do something with that purchase through conscious consumerism.”
With this in mind, Skout’s Honor offers the Skout’s Paw Pledge, a program through which the company sponsors a day’s worth of food for a shelter animal with every product it sells. For Stirling, the proof that marrying an all-natural approach with a clear message of social consciousness is the right approach can be seen in Skout’s Honor’s success.
“There is a shift occurring regarding what people are looking for on the shelf,” he says. “We went from six accounts last January to 5,000 doors this January, which is all that needs to be said to show that people are going to buy.”
Retailers can expect to see a growing number of informed consumers support the eco-friendly pet products market by purchasing goods that reflect their own values regarding protecting the environment and social responsibility. According to Sam Hahn, managing partner of Simply Fido, this will afford greater opportunities to pet stores.
“The wellbeing and health of pets and family are of greater importance than ever before, and having products that are aligned with these concerns will be not only good business, but also [offers] an important role that pet retailers could play in introducing better and healthy products,” he says.
Educated pet parents who are willing to conduct research, read and fully understand labels, and ask questions when discussing options with retailers are often a source of reliable product information for their peers, especially when considering the power of social media. Retailers should keep in mind that they want to position themselves as the trusted resource from which these informed consumers make eco-friendly product purchases, as referrals and recommendations are crucial among the growing pet-parent population.