Naturally Clean

As consumers continue to go green, pet retailers should strive to cultivate a selection of high-quality natural cleaning products to stand out from the crowd.




Most days, it’s easy to love our pets. They’re cuddly, fun and eager to please. But on days when they leave behind messes and odors, it’s a little harder. That’s why it’s important for pet parents to have great products on hand to help sanitize, freshen and clean.


Unfortunately, many traditional cleaning products use harsh chemicals like chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents and other toxins that are bad for your family, pets and the environment. In response, many modern pet owners are going green to clean.


“Pet parents today are inherently more in tune with their surroundings and concerned with how lifestyle choices affect their fur family,” explains Pete Stirling, chief operating officer for Skout’s Honor. “Searching for quality eco-friendly products is just one more way to maximize the quality of life for them and their loved ones.”


While there is no one set definition of green cleaning products, it typically refers to products that use non-toxic ingredients, minimize waste and employ renewable resources.


“Since the term has no legal definition, a big part of using the ‘green’ or ‘natural’ claims is meeting the expectations of the pet parent who purchases the product. This means avoiding petroleum-based ingredients,” explains Stirling. 


Skout’s Honor is one of many California-based manufacturers that follow the guidelines set by the California Green Chemistry initiative to find innovative ways to produce safer products.


The statewide initiative led to a number of green breakthroughs, including Skout’s Honor’s signature line of BioKore products. The main BioKore ingredient simultaneously lifts stains away like a surfactant and breaks them down like a solvent for powerful clean without harmful substances. These enzyme-free formulas require no pre-treating, no special storage or handling and never expire. Plus, all four BioKore cleaners are bio-degradable and bio-renewable, which is great news for pet parents and the environment alike.


“The durability, versatility and strength of the new green cleaners is awesome and we are glad to be on the forefront of introducing this technology to pet specialty,” adds Stirling.


While an increasing number of pet owners are willing to switch to more eco-friendly products, they aren’t willing to forgo quality. They still want the assurance that cleaning products can remove tough spots and odors—including pet urine—from their homes, even if they use natural ingredients.


“The challenge for consumers who want green cleaning products is the uncertainty of whether or not they will be as effective,” says Ted Morgan, director of marketing for Washington-based Biokleen. “That’s why efficacy is central to all Biokleen’s formulations. And, proudly, our hard work has paid off. In independent tests, Biokleen performs as well, if not better, than most conventional products.”


This commitment to efficacy is probably why Biokleen’s Bac-Out Stain + Odor Remover has been a top performing natural cleaner for the past eight years. The unique formula blends together enzyme-producing cultures, citrus extract and plant-based surfactants to get rid of everyday disasters—from child and pet accidents to wine spills—and make sure they don’t return.


In addition to efficacy, consumers are also looking for products that are easy to use, regardless of the ingredients. 


“[Pet parents] want safe products that really do work,” explains Julie Holmes, brand manager and vice president of operations and finance at Unique Natural Products. “They also want it to be easy. We see our ready-to-use products moving faster than the concentrates. Convenience is more important than value.”


The Colorado-based company offers a complete line of safe, non-toxic pet stain- and odor-removing products. Simply spray the ready-to-use products on any home surface—including carpets—and let the remover work its magic. The unique formula employs a blend of naturally occurring, non-pathogenic bacteria (like those found in yogurt) to digest stain- and odor-causing contaminants found in pet waste. 


Tailored Solutions

When it comes to cleaning, one size doesn’t always fit all, though. That is why many manufacturers are developing green products to fit different pet owners’ unique needs.


“It used to be a general pet stain and odor product would do everything,” says Matthew G. Jonas, CEO of Fizzion. “Today, we are developing specific formulas for pet parents whose loved ones have urine issues,  developing laundry and pet bed deodorizer products and addressing the litter box problem.”


Best known for their award-winning Pet Stain and Odor Remover, Fizzion uses CO2 technology to eradicate urine, vomit, feces and blood. The formula is based on the classic club soda technique for carpets and is safe for pets and people alike. The remover is especially great for pets with urine problems, since animals tend to relieve themselves in the same spot repeatedly if odors aren’t completely eliminated.


There’s no doubt that it’s tough to compete as an independent brick-and-mortar store in the digital age. That is why it’s crucial for pet retailers to hop on the green bandwagon.


“The most important reason [to offer green cleaning products] is that consumers are searching for these products and if you don’t have them on your shelf, they will be looking for them somewhere else—most likely online,” explains Jonas.


Offering natural pet clean-up products is also a smart strategy for independent retailers who are trying to compete with and stand out from big box stores. 


“Going and knowing green is a great way to differentiate from mass retail, which currently carries most of the standard products found on specialty shelves,” says Stirling. “We are at a crossroads, where most of the inventory found on a specialty clean-up shelf can now be found at major stores. Retailers need to set themselves apart.”


Just one green clean-up brand on the shelves isn’t going to cut it either, according to experts. Variety, it seems, is key to making the most of the category.


“Never get too reliant on a single brand in a category; look to offer a variety of products to satisfy your shoppers. Competition is great for the category and your bottom line,” says Jonas.


“Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just because there is a product that you’ve always used doesn’t mean it is the best product available. Times and technology change rapidly,” adds Stirling. 


Promoting the Category

Special displays of green cleaning products can help communicate the unique offerings to customers who might not otherwise consider the options. Signage should clearly convey the benefits of green products, including safety, environmental impact and effectiveness. Retailers can also offer small samples of products for pet parents to try out at home for an even bigger impact.


The most effective marketing tool, though, is the staff themselves. Retailers should take the time to educate their store associates about green cleaning products—how they work, the ingredient list and what types of stains or odors they’re best for. 


“By knowing how the products work best for each situation, retailers can steer their customers to choose the products that will solve their problems,” says Holmes. “Then the customer will keep coming back to the store because they trust the store and the employees that work there.”


Overall, industry experts agree that the green trend is here to stay for pet cleaning products. So it’s important for retailers to invest the time and resources now to become customers’ go-to provider for years to come.


“The green product category is growing rapidly. We will eventually see a shift in the customer’s values and expectations that tips the scales towards green and natural products,” says Stirling. “A retailer who adopts these products and starts to build their green-leaning customer base now will find themselves out front while others struggle to adapt.”  


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