Leading in Litter
Maintaining feline hygiene can be a challenge, but manufacturers have stepped up to create winning formulas that invite cats to step up to the litter box.
From food to proper grooming, consumers spend a lot of time and money to ensure the comfort of their pets. For cat lovers, this means choosing the correct litter to suit their feline friends. With this in mind, manufacturers are addressing consumer demands by changing the traditional litter model and creating products that afford comfort to animals, while effectively maintaining a hygienic indoor environment.
Of course, quality is always king when it comes to pet products, but that is especially true when you’re talking about waste management.
“When you’re thinking about cat litter, you want a product that is really going to hold onto the cat urine smell so that it doesn’t escape,” says Nicole Spain, brand manager of BPV Environmental. “Our process helps to build good pellets that will expand when wet, not break down…no scraping necessary when cleaning up.”
As cat-litter companies improve upon existing products and introduce solutions with innovative formulas, they are seeking to not only meet but also exceed consumer demands for greater efficiency and less mess—and retailers must keep up.
“Consumers have different wants and needs, so retailers need to offer a variety of products for them to choose from,” reveals Jean Broders, senior brand manager of Kent Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter. “The focus is really around performance. Consumers will not sacrifice performance in their litter. If they aren’t satisfied, they will be shopping around.”
As the number of cats in U.S. households increases, spending on supplies can also be expected to rise. With many options for consumers to spoil cats with treats and toys, they want to trust their precious dollars to manufacturers that understand quality litter shouldn’t absorb an entire household pet budget. Pet parents are going to look for clean, effective litters that are affordable, as noted by Rachelle Rabasi, director of marketing for OurPets.
“The history of cat litter can be broken up into three generations...the third generation of cat litter is natural grass litter like our Switchgrass Natural Cat Litter with BioChar,” says Rabisi. “Natural grass litter has all of the advantages of the previous generations of cat litter but it is also low cost, price stable...and has no need for chemicals during growth.”
Litter for All Lifestyles
Though retailers might struggle to justify carrying a variety of cat litters, Gina Zaro, marketing director for Precious Cat manufacturer Dr. Elsey’s Cat Products, knows that consumers are excited to finally see products that address specific feline waste-management concerns.
“Many senior cats have mobility issues,” she says. “It is difficult for them to navigate the litter box and this may cause inappropriate elimination issues. The senior litter is kept low in the box—about an inch—so it is easy for a cat to move around in the box. Also, they will not soil their genital area, so a decreased chance of urinary tract infections, which are more prevalent in older cats.” When caring for high-maintenance cats, pet parents want to remain attentive to their animals’ needs, but also work efficiently. Not only are consumers increasingly humanizing their pets according to the products they purchase, but they also want to maximize the quality of playtime with animals, which ideally does not include picking off or brushing out litter from cat fur.
“Depending on what is important to the cat owner (and cat), there are choices,” explains Leslie Ellis, consumer communication manager for Healthy Pet. “A recent review from a thrilled ökocat customer who uses the formula for long hair breeds says it very well: ‘This is the perfect litter for my two large Maine Coons, who have long, dense coats.’”
By becoming a resource for pet parents whose litter needs require more than standard products, retailers learn that specialty litters are quickly becoming the new standard.
Education & Empathy
In order to compete, retailers must remain diligent in educating employees regarding consumer needs. The best method to gaining insight into the most current product trends is to partner with manufacturers that are willing to teach store staff about the goods they sell.
“Healthy Pet offers an incentivized online training tool through Experticity (provided at no charge) that helps to educate retail associates on the features and benefits of our products,” says Ellis. “Working in partnership with our retailers, we also provide training kits and digital content that specialty stores can utilize on their own platforms to educate employees and consumers to drive sales.”
Manufacturers can also be a great educational resource for retailers in the areas of merchandising and marketing. For many manufacturers, staying at the top of a consumer’s mind by gaining a position in the front of the store is invaluable. According to Broders, working with retailers to outline the best approach to maximize sales space, manufacturers can serve as an asset to store management when planning the best sales strategies.
“We have very supportive retailers in the pet industry that have been very successful with World’s Best Cat Litter,” she says. “Those that support our national promotions, utilize our point-of-sale materials and partner with our sales team are the most successful and keep loyal customers going back into their stores to buy.”
As competition within the litter industry remains fierce and consumers choose between an array of options, offering variety and product knowledge will not always set retailers apart from competitors. Consumers often purchase goods manufactured by companies whose practices align with their personal beliefs, and many pet parents are now eco-conscientious when buying products. Protecting the planet to ensure its resiliency for future generations remains a concern of customers, and litter manufacturers are not taking these concerns lightly, says Spain.
“Other than becoming health conscious, we as a society have also become very aware of our effects on the environment,” she says. “We want to be sure that our products are not doing harm to the environment and if they are able to help in any way we truly see that as a bonus.”
Retailers can no longer afford to simply win over pet parents with friendly service and a smile. In addition to a caring, attentive staff, retailers must choose the best options to create a comprehensive selection of litters to meet the distinct needs of pet parents and employ knowledgeable sales associates who are well- versed regarding how these products benefit their toughest feline customers.