Natural Development
September 30, 2012
The cat litter category has been transformed by an influx of a variety of natural products, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.



Gone are the days when cat owners had to rely on clay-based litters to deal with the unseemly side of pet ownership—waste management. Today’s litter category is full of a variety of all-natural clay alternatives—from wheat- to corn- to pine-based formulas—that can effectively meet the needs of cat owners while promising to be better for both the pet and the planet.

Still many industry observers say that the category has not even reached its peak. “It’s going to continue to be a growing segment, because pet owners want the best thing for their cats,” says Brent Karstens, president of Gentle Touch Pet Products, which manufacturers aspen pine litters. “And not only are these litters good for the cat, but they’re also the environment.”

With this in mind, here is a roundup of the latest and greatest developments in the natural litter category:


World’s Best Cat Litter
World’s Best Cat Litter, the only litter made of whole-kernel corn, recently upgraded its product packaging and introduced new bag sizes. The company did not change its unique formula, but now offers 14-lb. and 28-lb. bag sizes to drive more customer traffic into pet stores. All three World’s Best Cat Litter formulas—Clumping, Multiple Cat Clumping and Scented Multiple Cat Clumping—are now available in 7-, 14- and 28-lb. sizes.

The company’s updated packaging offers an even more premium look for stronger shelf appeal. The new World’s Best Cat Litter packaging maintains the brand’s signature appearance, with a more refined feel. The packaging also improves the functionality of the bags by offering improved standing and stacking abilities.

World’s Best Cat Litter has also launched a new website dedicated to offering cat-lovers a more engaging way to experience the brand’s promise of “Hassle-Free Cat Care.” The new site offers a dynamic experience featuring informative videos, veterinary tips, product overviews and new pages dedicated to providing users with real-life testimonials submitted by fans.


Swheat Scoop
Swheat Scoop has introduced a new packaging design for its natural wheat litter. The new packaging reflects the feedback that the company received from consumer focus groups and prominently calls out a new, improved formula that lasts twice as long, as well as product features such as fast-clumping and less tracking.

The company has also introduced a new Lightly Scented formula to its lineup, which also includes Unscented Clumping and Unscented Multi-Cat varieties.


Gentle Touch Pet Products
This year, Gentle Touch Pet Products launched a new packaging design for its organic and biodegradable aspen pine litter. The new packaging features an all-natural look and calls out features such as superior odor control, the absence of fragrance or chemicals, and no tracking and low dust. Gentle Touch Cat Litter and Small Animal Litter are both available in two sizes: a 15-lb. and 40-lb. bag. 


Next Gen International
Next Gen International has been in the market since 2005 with its Green Tea Leaves Cat Litter, which the company says has grown in popularity every year. Earlier this year, the company introduced its Forest Fresh litter, which is made from a unique cypress wood called hinoki. Hinoki wood is highly resistant to bacteria, which helps to control odors. Hinoki cat litter has been popular in Japan for a number of years, mainly because of its fresh scent and odor-controlling properties. 

Like all Next Gen cat litters Forest Fresh clumps, and is flushable and compostable. Next Gen litters are also lightweight but effective —one 5.5-lb. bag will last one cat four to six weeks.  In comparison, a four to six week supply of clay litter would probably weigh about 50-plus pounds. 


Simply Pine
Simply Pine Cat Litter was launched earlier this year, with the goal of offering significantly better pricing for a high-quality product. Since it was founded in January, the company has grown quickly, achieving national distribution in just eight months. Simply Pine is available through pet specialty distributors such as Phillips Feed (all divisions), Van Den Bosch in Michigan, RFG in Minnesota, Natural Pet Specialties in Colorado, Companion Pet in California, and Freedom Pet in Ontario, with additional distributors coming on board soon. The litter is available in 7-, 20- and 40-lb. bags.

The company is committed to “leveling the playing field” for pet specialty retailers by, among other things, offering special promotions at the various industry trade shows and distributor open houses. Simply Pine also offers a humane society program that subsidizes pricing through a delivery program with its distributors.


Equustock

Equustock, makers of the Unconditional Cat Litter and Guardian Angel Cat Litter brands, recently expanded its selection of natural litter SKUs. The company introduced Clumping Pine, Clumping Pine/Corn and Clumping Pine/Corn/Bamboo formulas to its lineup. The new clumping formulas include a 100-percent natural ingredient that offers a safe, more stable and less sticky clump and antimicrobial benefits.

Equustock’s biggest seller is Pine Cobble, a 100-percent natural premium pine litter that boasts a familiar texture for cats. The botanical bio-filter action of the cobble reduces ammonia while dehydrating solids and eliminating associated odors.  

While pine pellets are a solid seller, some consumers that purchase pellets will not stay on them long term because their cats have transition issues.  With litter box aversion being one of the main reasons for cat abandonment/euthanasia, providing a pine litter like Pine Cobble—with close to 100% acceptance rate—has proven beneficial.