Garden Variety

Cat grass gardens can help pet owners entertain and nourish their loved ones.


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For some consumers, going green means adding wheatgrass and other cereal grasses to their own and to their pets’ nutrition. That’s according to a survey commissioned by Bell Rock Growers, the San Marcos, Calif.-based supplier of cat grass gardens. The survey of 640 dog and cat owners in the U.S. found that 90 percent of respondents thought it was important to add green nutrition to their own diets, and 79 percent said they would like to add green nutrition to their pets’ diets.

Also according to the survey, young pet owners were especially interested in green nutrition. Eighty-four percent of respondents ages 18 to 44 said they would like to provide more green nutrition for their pets, versus 73 percent of the older adults in the survey. Treats are also an important part of the diet, as 65 percent of survey respondents said they would choose green treats over other treats for their pets. The good news for manufacturers and retailers: 25 percent of pet owners said they would pay more for these green treats.

Not all humans eat wheatgrass, and only 37 percent said they actually include green nutrition in their own diets. Consumers can find wheatgrass for themselves in grocery stores, and in smoothie shops and other health-oriented retailers, in juices or powdered form. Wheatgrass, as it turns out, does not contain gluten, but it does contain antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E.

For cats, green nutrition is not generally available in their kibble or canned food because cats are carnivores and their food consists mostly of meat. People who want to give their cats green foods buy cat grass gardens. Cereal grass not only contains nutrients, it offers an alternative to the grass that cats might ingest from houseplants or outside greenery. While some cats like to bite the grass and other greenery outdoors, those plants likely have pesticides and other harmful additives. Even potted plants can contain harmful chemicals, plus the pet owners would rather not let the cat damage these elements of their home décor.

For these reasons, the cat grass garden category is a strong performer for pet retailers. “We have seen continued growth in the cat grass category,” says Caleb Barber, marketing director of Bell Rock Growers. “We believe that this is on trend with the movement towards fresher and more natural food choices for pets. We also believe that more and more consumers are becoming aware of the benefits that live cereal grasses provide for their pets.”

Bell Rock Growers offers Pet Greens grasses and treats. Barber says the products answer consumers’ demand for fresh, natural grasses that are grown without pesticides or chemicals. The company offers wheatgrass, and recently added the House Blend of oat, rye and barley grasses. Consumers can choose Pet Greens Pet Grass Live, which are containers that have the grass already growing and the cat can enjoy right away, or Pet Greens Self Grow, which is a bag that contains the organic seeds and soil. The user adds water, and the grass grows in five to seven days.

Also from Bell Rock Growers, Pet Greens Semi Moist cat treats contain wheatgrass, as well as meat and cheese, and Pet Greens Crunchy Cat Treats contain chicken, salmon or turkey. “The category will continue to grow, as more and more pet owners become educated on the health benefits their animals can experience when they incorporate cat grass into their daily routine,” says Barber.

The growth of cat grass gardens reflects another trend among pet owners. “Our research shows that pet parents are looking for more natural treats and remedies for their cats,” says Lisa Davis-David, pet specialty product development manager for San Rafael, Calif.-based Worldwise, Inc. The company’s Petlinks brand offers the Nibble-Licious Kit that includes easy-to-grow seeds and soil in a recyclable container, and the five-ounce pack of Nibble-Licious seeds, which sprout in a few days.

Consumers purchase the pre-grown cat grass as an impulse buy near the registers, says Davis-David, and Worldwise is also seeing gains in grow-it-yourself cat grass kits and seed packs. “We believe this is part of the increasing trend for natural, organic products,” she says. “Pet parents want to know exactly what is going into the growing of the grass that their cats are eating, and the easiest way for them to do this is to grow it themselves.”
According to some experts, cat owners should let their cats begin to eat the grass when it grows to a height of about three or four inches. The grass wilts after a few weeks, so the human should pull out those shoots and plant more seeds. The cat owner should plant several pots a week or two apart, to give the cat a steady supply.

The desire for uninterrupted cat grass is not the only factor that encourages repeat business. Davis-David notes that it also helps that manufacturers are developing different products. “Growth is coming to specialty [retailers] as suppliers find new ways to incorporate cat grass into their products—for example, including a place to grow grass on a piece of cat furniture,” she says. “But it’s also coming to the category as demand increases for the more traditional cat grass kits and seeds.”

Consumers want grass that grows easily and reliably, says Davis-David. Another trend, she says, is that consumers, especially Millennials, are seeking organic products that are made without pesticides and chemicals.

Retailers say the category has potential for growth. “It could gain more popularity, once cat owners know if their cat loves to eat the fresh grass or catnip, then they become more likely to buy more often,” says Lisa Senafe, an owner of Bentley’s Corner Barkery, which has seven locations in the Chicago area.
She adds that cat products sometimes have slower sales growth than other items because cat owners are more cautious about buying new products for their feline pets. The key is to educate the consumer about the benefits of the product and have signage explaining it.

Senafe has noticed that people are more interested in the cat grass gardens that they grow at home. “Maybe because it’s more interactive for the owner and fun to see the cat enjoy the fresh grown grass,” she says. “I am not sure why but we do best with the grow-your-own cat grass kit rather than live cat grass to-go.”

 

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