Pioneering Natural Health
Susan Weiss, CEO and founder of Ark Naturals Products for Pets, discusses the company’s two decades of innovating the pet health category.
Pet Business: Last year, Ark Naturals celebrated its 20th anniversary as a pioneer in the natural pet health, remedy and lifestyle products. How has this segment of the pet care business evolved during the past two decades?
Susan Weiss: In 1996, this category did not exist. The first show we did was the APPMA Show (now called Global Pet Expo). I remember standing in an aisle and talking to no one for three days. Following that show, we did the H.H. Backer Show, again standing in the aisle and talking to no one. We would stand in the middle of the aisle and try to woo retailers in. It went that way for the first few years. I will never forget the retailer who said to me, “No one wants natural. I tried it and threw the products away.”
Today, a pet store cannot even think about opening its doors without natural products. So, we’ve gone from “no one wants natural” to retailers claiming they only do natural. But it took at least 15 years for that to happen.
PB: National Pet Dental Health Month is coming up in February. As a company that offers a comprehensive lineup of oral care products for pets, what advice would you give to retailers for making the most of this annual event?
Weiss: One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is in merchandising. They need to move products around, featuring different categories in the most visible place in the store—especially when it’s National Pet Dental Health Month.
PB: Ark Naturals is well known for developing products to address common issues within the aging pet population. From your perspective, how important is it for retailers to cater to senior pets? How can they do so effectively?
Weiss: We have concrete evidence that pets are living longer, and that’s not an accident. Pet owners are really paying attention. Food companies are producing better foods. More and more pet people are limiting vaccinations.
Growing older is not the end of the line, but there are issues that have to be addressed, regardless of whether you are a two-legged mammal or a four-legged mammal. I always considered my company as a group of innovators. We think outside the box. We see the changing demographics and realize how important it is to address senior issues. But again, there is a learning curve. Retailers have to learn about these aging pets and their needs and merchandise, merchandise, merchandise.
PB: What are some of the newest and most exciting products from Ark Naturals? What are some of the key features of these products?
Weiss: I’m so proud of our Gray Muzzle Brushless Toothpaste. We’ve taken the best ingredients and created a brushless product that meets the needs of senior pets. It’s softer, so it works well with pets that have missing teeth, sore gums, etc. It contains limited ingredients, and it works.
PB: What does the future hold for Ark Naturals, as well as for natural pet health, remedy and lifestyle products in general?
Weiss: Our category will become more mainstream. Other people will enter the category and think they can make a quick buck. Discount stores will try to sell dental products that are cheaper and just as effective, but that is not happening.
Despite those obstacles, our goal will always be to maintain the integrity of our brand, our formulas and our relationships with our retailers and pet parents.