Natural Cat Litter
Natural cat litter has opportunities for growth as consumers look for new options.
As consumers continue to look for environmentally-friendly, chemical-free versions of products for themselves, they’re also seeking natural alternatives for their pets. While this trend has already gained a stronghold in food, treats, supplements and other health-related items, it’s just getting started for cat litter.
Manufacturers are making sure that the natural cat litters they’re developing provide benefits for everyone. These organic options provide consumers with a product that creates less dust, encourages litter box use and helps the environment while driving sales growth in a crucial category that provides repeat business.
Typically, natural cat litter is made from materials that provide an alternative from the environmental and health issues of clay and silica, relying instead on ingredients such as wheat, corn, wood, recycled paper and even coconut. These materials are in demand, as cat owners are beginning to seek out natural options that won’t harm their pets or the environment.
As all these new developments come to fruition, “the natural category requires awareness and education with consumers,” says Jean Broders, senior manager, Kent Pet Group, a subsidiary of Kent Corporation and creators of World’s Best Cat Litter, in Muscatine, Iowa.
Broders explains that it’s important for retailers to stay up to date on the innovations and changes that have occurred over the past year, as “some brands have left the category, and very small, niche brands have entered.”
Today’s cat owners are looking for a functional natural litter they can feel good about supporting and that their cats are happy to use, explains Janice Yamamoto, director of marketing for Next Gen Pet. She adds that many litters meet the top two needs, but falter on the third, citing how the Laguna Niguel, Calif.-based company’s litters feature a natural scent that encourages litter box use by giving felines the feeling that they’re outside.
Additionally, “the natural litter category contains a wide range of interesting materials that often provide sustainable benefits,” explains Josh Wiesenfeld, founder and CEO of Boxiecat. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company recently debuted Boxiecat Air, a new plant-based, renewable lightweight litter that forms tight, odor-locking clumps, scoops easily and doesn’t stick to the box, leaving it dry and clean throughout use.
Later this year, Cary, N.C.-based Galuku plans to launch an all-natural compressed coconut coir cat litter with a magic-swift scoop. Coconut coir—fiber from the husk of the coconut—is absorbent and features odor-eliminating qualities, and ends up as compostable waste.
Retailers should view natural cat litter as an opportunity to increase register rings, understanding that “they have a captive audience coming into their stores that are looking for natural, safe and healthy products in their homes, and are willing to pay for those benefits,” explains Broders.
Before anything, there’s a few things retailers need to keep in mind about these products. Some consumers may be under the impression that natural alternatives don’t work as well, leading to apprehension about switching litters. These concerns are easily alleviated by carrying natural litters that have odor-eliminating and antibacterial qualities, and clearly pointing those attributes out to cat owners.
Another problem stems from information revealed in a Simmons Spring 2017 Survey, which found that 80 percent of cat owners agreed that choosing natural/organic products was more important for them in cat foods rather than for cat litter, with 41 percent strongly agreeing.
To combat these, there’s a variety of selling tactics that can be employed. First and foremost among these is staff and customer education.
Wiesenfeld advises that all natural litter products should be evaluated based on performance and cat acceptance. From there, retailers can explain the array of health benefits these litters provide. Information can be found online, and most manufacturers are willing to work with their retailer partners in order to help sell these products.
For a more hands-on approach, retailers can start a storewide awareness campaign featuring their sales staff. Management can encourage their employees to test the natural little products with their own cats in order to provide testimonials to potential customers. This concept can be taken one step further by actually setting up a natural litter display, so customers get to match the experiences they’re hearing about with visuals.
After all, if a natural litter performs well, it can drive trust in retailer recommendations and lock in repeat sales.
Broders explains that retailers can also take advantage of cross-merchandising opportunities, such as recommending a natural litter to a consumer who is buying a premium cat food.
As this category begins to explode, it’s important to keep in mind that, “a small change can make a huge impact,” explains Kate Dean, Galuku’s executive vice president of sales and marketing for North America.
“I urge cat owners to try the natural alternatives available today. Once you find the one that works for you and your cat, that small change can make a huge difference to our environment.” PB