Heal the Pet, Educate the Parent
Extraordinary innovation is leading first-aid-supply manufacturers to create healing products to maximize comfort and ensure pet health.
The priority of pet parents is ensuring the happiness, health and safety of their animals, but every creature will experience an injury during its life. As sellers of pet first-aid supplies, retailers must remember that consumers will invest in high-quality supplies to aid their animals’ recovery, but look to staff to provide fast, educated recommendations regarding the most effective solutions.
As Millennial consumers approach middle age, which affords greater spending power, they will seek healing methods from manufacturers who have a trustworthy legacy. The trend of favoring established brands will continue to grow as these shoppers favor established companies, according to Jim Kelly, CEO of Bag Balm Brand, the 115-year-old ointment company that launched its Bag Balm Pet at this year’s SuperZoo trade show in Las Vegas.
“Millennials are an important audience of new customers for Bag Balm, and we are experiencing a lot of interest among this group for its ‘retro’ appeal and great efficacy for a wide range of skincare uses,” he says. “Bag Balm has the same four simple ingredients...so if you use Bag Balm, you’re using the original, authentic formula. Authenticity is important to Millennials, so that’s another factor in their interest.”
Over time, consumers have uncovered an array of uses for effective products from manufacturers whose success is proven through longevity. Despite the reputation of Bag Balm as an effective skincare product that appears on popular beauty blogs, Kelly is proud of its humble healing origins.
“Dairy farmers saw its effect on their livestock, and began to use it on their farm dogs to help their paws and other dry skin conditions,” he says. “So it has always been a product that has its roots in treating animals.”
While Millennials are known for spoiling their pets, the humanization of animals has become a cross-generational phenomenon. With 30 years’ experience, All Four Paws president and owner Linda Markfield empathizes with these pet parents, as her Comfy Cone was created as a solution to provide comfort to her beloved dog Samson.
“People consider pets their children. Whether empty nesters, or people who decided not to or can’t have children, they want quality products for their pets,” she says. “I started doing pet products because I needed them for Samson. It was hard with the plastic cone. Samson was very uncomfortable in the plastic and he needed something better.”
Though designing a quality first-aid product is integral to success, recognizing opportunities to enhance merchandise with new features will leave a lasting impression on consumers. Markfield continues to improve upon her popular designs as soon as she notices issues that have not yet been addressed in her own line, or any others in the market.
“I don’t copy products, so anything I create is unique,” she explains. “Everything new will be geared toward helping pets feel safer. We are showing new sizes for the Comfy Cone and Comfy Wrap. I keep adding things to address the cons that customers bring to my attention.”
Many pet parents are not formally educated in veterinary science, therefore they rely on medical professionals for product recommendations. Melvin Kok, CEO and president of Suitical International B.V., believes that to gain consumer trust, retailers should consider partnerships with veterinarians.
“[Retailers] should also be aware of the growth of the first-aid and wound-management category in pet stores,” he says. “Not so many veterinarians are stocking products. Pet stores should co-op with vets to make comfortable products like ours available for the pets.”
A manufacturer of wound-protection products, such as the Recovery Suit and Dry Cooling Vest, Kok believes retailers must take a genuine interest in first aid by thinking beyond the initial stages of wound care. “Ointments and salves have a lot better effect when used underneath our suit and sleeves,” he explains. “It prevents the pets from licking it off. Customer service levels will then only increase by actively thinking about helping customers out with their pet’s issues.”
Though first aid is an important issue that pet parents should plan for, it is most often addressed only when a problem occurs. Retailers can increase first-aid product awareness among consumers by remaining educated and sharing this knowledge with pet parents, according to Protégé Biomedical, LLC co-founder and president Susan Wuollett.
“We’re happy to provide marketing support and education to our retailers as needed,” she says. “Pet first aid is growing in popularity. Our first-aid kits are becoming especially popular as a gift with purchase of a new pet. It’s a great practice to send new pet owners home with a first-aid kit when they get a new pet.”
The manufacturer of ClotIt, a mineral-based, human-grade coagulant, Wuollett believes that the natural-goods segment of pet products will continue to expand, but before they buy, consumers want solid evidence that supplies are safe.
“We often eat a tiny bit at trade shows to show our customers that it is safe to ingest, and it tastes so gross,” she says. “After [pets] see how awful it tastes, it often deters. However, you will still get the animal that licks it off, and pet owners can have peace of mind knowing that it is safe to ingest.”
Manufacturers within the natural first-aid supplies segment agree this area of the market will continue to grow. Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist at Innovacyn, reveals the best qualities of the company’s Vetericyn wound- and skin-care products are linked to ingredients that are not included in their formulas.
“Because Vetericyn products do not contain antibiotics, they cannot be overused and the animal will never build up a resistance...[alcohol has] been shown to damage cells and healthy tissue involved in wound repair,” she explains. “As for steroids, studies have shown [they] may reduce the natural inflammatory response used to prepare the wound bed for recovery.”
Though many pet parents are educated regarding the products they buy for their animals, the need for first-aid solutions arises quickly, therefore consumers will consult veterinarians and knowledgeable retailers to find the most effective supplies from trusted manufacturers.