How Does Your Garden Grow?

Sales of cat grass and kitty gardens continue to grow as pet owners become increasingly interested in quality feline nutrition.


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Most cats are naturally drawn to any bit of greenery in their environment—an attraction that often leads to damaged, gnawed-on houseplants. Fortunately, the pet product market offers a number of solutions for cat owners looking to satisfy their kitty’s craving for greens without sacrificing their homes’ plants or gardens.


Cat grass and gardens are also a great way for retailers to add an unexpected bit of green—both in their aisles and to their bottom line.


“Most consumers accept their pets’ behavior of eating household plants and lawn grass as normal,” says Mark Teixeira, president of Bell Rock Growers, which offers several organic cat garden products. “However, what many people don’t realize is that this can be harmful to the animals, since household plants can be poisonous, and lawn grass is often treated with chemicals and fertilizers.”


Cat grass and kitty gardens are a great alternative. In addition to dissuading kitty from nibbling on less healthy options, allowing a cat its own patch of the outdoors inside can actually help keep it healthy. Cat grass can be a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which are important for good health. Grasses can also be a good source of fiber, which may help relieve cats of hairballs—a benefit for both the cats and their people, Teixeira points out.


Aimee Diskin, director of innovation and product development at Worldwise, agrees. “The general belief is that cat grass is a safe way to enrich a cat’s diet, eliminate hairballs and keep [cats] safe from toxic plants in the home,” she says.


The nutritional value of cat grass and gardens has been the biggest driver of growth in this category. While these products have been around for over two decades, the growing interest in pet nutrition among cat owners has led to an uptick in sales over the last few years. Pet owners are becoming more educated about the role nutrition plays in their pets’ lives; cat grass and kitty gardens fall easily within that greater trend.

 


Growing Sales
For most shoppers, the first purchase of cat grass or a garden product is an impulse buy—the price point for this category is typically such that these products have a relatively low barrier to entry. If cat owners haven’t seen living cat grass before, it also has a unique appeal—it is something different and fun, that also offers up real health benefits for their cat. And, once customers have discovered the category, stores have a built-in repeat purchase, says Diskin.


Of course, retailers need to choose the right mix of products for their cat-owning customers, which isn’t easy, since retailers have lots of options to choose from. There are a variety of live and grow-at-home medleys and blends, plus wheat grass, oat, rye, barley and catnip options available. Within the grow-at-home segment, there are bulk seeds; tear-open, just-add-water pouches; larger, reusable containers; and even window-mounted kits.


However, because cat owners often purchase these products on impulse, Teixeira says it is essential to understand they are like treats. “They should never be merchandised with cat supplies, but should instead be merchandised in the cat treat section, at cash wrap or off-shelf on clip strips,” he explains.

 


Caring for the Category
Teixeira says that live, pre-grown items should always be placed at the front of the store, and he recommends stocking them at least three feet off the floor to help ensure it receives light and to keep it from accidently coming into contact with floor-cleaning chemicals. For stores that opt to carry living product, proper care is essential.


“There is nothing worse than consumers going into stores to purchase fresh product, only to find it is dead from improper care or a lack of water,” says Teixeira. “This is the number-one complaint we get from consumers, and the stores that have learned how to properly care for and display the products are those that have the greatest long-term success with them.”


Diskin says she has seen stores set up mini stores-within-a-store, where they offer different varieties to the customer in the same space. She says in this setup, live plants serve to draw shoppers’ attention, and then the stores offer educational information to help those shoppers make a purchasing decision.


“Retailers should be offering both live, pre-grown cat grasses, as well as the self-grow kits, keeping in mind that consumers are looking for plants and seeds that are non-GMO and certified organic,” says Teixeira.

 

“Consumers have also shown that they much prefer a growing medium that is organic or all-natural, with no chemicals that could be harmful to pets.”


In order to convey these details, staff needs to know more than just how much water is needed to keep the plants healthy. So, finding suppliers that offer healthy live plants and seeds, and working with them to train staff on how to sell cat grass and kitty gardens, is essential to sales success.


Just like any other product with a story to tell, it is also a good idea to take advantage of supplier-provided educational information, for those shoppers who prefer to browse, or for when store employees aren’t immediately available.


Like treats, most of the products in this category take up a fairly small footprint—even with educational POS materials—so retailers may want to consider offering a small selection of living and grow-your-own kits in the front of the store, and then additional grow-your-own choices beside treats or near other cat nutrition items, such as food or supplements.


When done right, cat grass and kitty gardens can double as an easy add-on sale and as a regular, repeat purchase. “For retailers who have never explored this category of products, if they have a very strong cat consumable business, this will be incremental for them,” says Teixeira.


That said, there is always room for growth—and retailers that already carry these products should ensure they are caring for live plants properly, have a merchandising plan in place and have spent the time training associates on the products.


After all, it is when all these things come together that retailers can see the most growth—and green—in product sales and their bottom line.

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