For humans, going to the spa once meant a few days of pampering, perhaps a luxurious mini vacation. Now people who seek these services are likely to visit a day spa for a few hours and get a massage to relieve aches and pains or a facial to alleviate skin issues.
That transformation has occurred in pet products too. What was once frivolous is now therapeutic, and consumers are looking at spa products as treatments. “If people are going to spend $10 or $20 on a pet shampoo, they need to know it will deliver some kind of tangible benefit,” says Lorna Paxton Ladd, founder and chief marketing officer of Ecowelldog Inc. “It certainly has to be more than just making the dog feel good. It has to help clear up itchy skin or make the coat shinier.”
There is still a need for paw-dicures and shampoos that make Sparky smell like flowers, but the trend has been to seek items that fill certain needs. People want spa products that solve a problem, says Bobbi Panter, owner and creator of Bobbi Panter Pet Products. Panter occasionally visits stores and chats with pet owners while they shop for shampoo. “I ask them, ‘What are you looking for?’ and they say, ‘My dog has dry skin,’” she says. “Itchy Dog shampoo is our best seller.” The company also makes shampoos that remove skunk smell, detangle fur, clean fur without water and perform other tasks.
In addition to shampoos, conditioners are also getting attention. Madra Mór Company launched four functional mud treatments earlier this year. “Canine dermatitis is a major concern,” says Jacqueline Hynes, president of the company. “The largest immune organ in the body is the skin and it’s the last to be fed, to receive nutrients.”
Hynes says non-foaming cleansing conditioners are popular in the human market, and now dogs can get the positive effects of exfoliation, nourishment and treatment. Madra Mór manufactures Mobility Mud for arthritic dogs, Flea Relief Mud, Soothing Mud and Shed Safely Mud. The muds contain omega oils, aloe vera, zinc and allantion, a natural compound used as a conditioner. “Many people maintain health with therapeutic mud baths, so it is not a new concept,” Hynes says.
Another longstanding concept is the label-reading trend. “Ingredients and ‘made in the USA’ are two extremely important factors,” says Eric Bittman, owner of Warren London, which makes dog spa and grooming products. He says pet owners who are reading these labels are especially interested in natural products. “Knowing which products are natural and what the main ingredients are is very helpful to the customer.”
For example, the Warren London Deep Cleaning Paw Fizz Tablets contain white tea tree oil, which is considered to be a natural antiseptic. The tablets can be added to a tub of warm water and used as a paw soak that helps to kill bacteria and yeast. Dogs can pick up germs on their walks, and the soak can prevent them from ingesting the harmful elements when they lick their paws.
Other experts agree the natural trend is still strong. “Over the last few years we have seen the natural and organic trend rise and grow in this industry,” says Ohad David, president of HAMPI Natural Pet Spa. “I think it’s great. I just see this trend continuing into the future.”
Among HAMPI’s newest products are Dead Sea Mineral Mud Cleanser, Dead Sea Mineral Mud Masque and Dead Sea Mineral Mud Treatment with geranium essential oil. The products are infused with minerals from the Dead Sea, which David says can help alleviate hot spots, dry skin and allergies. “The rich mineral mud has been used for centuries for baths and beauty treatments and is known worldwide for its health benefits,” says David. “Because it is mud, the dogs just enjoy it.”
Organic ingredients are certified by a third-party agency, but other ingredients or claims are not. Paxton Ladd points out that the term “natural” is not regulated, but some consumers remain unconcerned. “People just ask, ‘Is it natural?’ and as long as it’s natural, they’re fine,” she says. “It hasn’t gotten to the point where people say, ‘What percentage is all natural?’ Maybe that will happen.”
Paxton Ladd also notes that not all manufacturers list the products’ ingredients on the labels. “We have always had full-disclosure labels,” she says of Ecowelldog products. “I think in a couple of years you will have to have full disclosure labels.” Ecowelldog will soon launch two oral hygiene products, a water additive and a foam. They are all-natural herbal and botanical products to improve dogs’ dental health.
Panter notes that Bobbi Panter Pet Products do not contain salt, which she says some shampoo manufacturers use as a thickening agent. Salt can also cause dryness, she says, and some consumers read the labels and try to avoid products that contain salt. The company’s newest product is Sassy Cece conditioner.
Consumers can garner information from the usual sources, which range from their local pet experts to social media. Industry experts say what really helps drive sales is retail staff and groomers educating consumers about the products.
“Customers are researching on their own and coming to shop with information,” says Crystalyn Guzman, chief executive officer of Aroma Paws, which manufactures chemical-free grooming and lifestyle products for pets. “It is crucial that store owners understand the benefits of which ingredients are in the grooming and spa lines that they carry.”
Guzman says one important product characteristic is that it contains ingredients that are beneficial for specific breeds’ coat and skin issues. Aroma Paws Organic Deep Conditioning Treatment is designed to be especially helpful for breeds that are prone to dry, itchy, scaly skin. “It conditions and soothes so that the animal is more comfortable and can rest without a constant need to gnaw and scratch,” she says. New products from Aroma Paws include Cucumber Facial Scrub and New Sayings Candle Gifts for dog lovers.
Sampling is a good way to generate interest in a new product. Retailers can offer free smaller treatments such as a Pawticure using Aroma Paws Paw Conditioning Treatment to their customers, or, says Guzman, they could offer a free spritz and brushing with Deodorizing & Conditioning Coat Sprays.
Pet owners have long sought advice from groomers, so it doesn’t hurt to give groomers access to the newest products. Hynes says Mobility Mud was a hit among owners and handlers of canine athletes, so Madra Mór launched gallon size containers. Flea Relief Mud and Soothing Mud are infused with holistic ingredients that appeal to natural pet stores and boutiques. Now, says Hynes, groomers tell consumers that the muds help with matting.
Some consumers ask for advice from other staff members, so it’s a good idea to educate them too, says Panter. That is true especially for spa products, which have higher retail prices than other products. “Some people just buy on price, but if it is a big bottle with a cheap price a warning sign should go off,” she says. “You get what you pay for, but when stores train their staff it makes a world of difference.”
Some pet owners don’t really look at price, and they don’t even want products to solve a problem. There are times when a pet owner wants to paint the pup’s nails or try on a temporary tattoo. “They want products that communicate this emotional connection with their pet that satisfies their desire to pamper them,” says Brian Collier, creative marketing and public relations coordinator for Tropiclean.
These pet owners, Collier says, are not as concerned with features and benefits as they are about the emotional connection the product offers. For these consumers, there are other, fun products. Tropiclean relaunched its Spa line with a new look and new products. One new item is called For Him. “This is a shampoo and cologne combination that finally offers pet owners a masculine fragrance and solution for their male dogs,” says Collier. “Let’s be honest, not everyone wants their beloved Butch, Spike or Jake to smell like peaches, roses and flowers all the time.”
A Spa-Worthy Selection
Espree Animal Products (espree.com) new line of colorful, fun, design products is the Bark Art line. Groomers or consumers can use Bark Art’s safe, non-toxic, washable color on ears and tails with the blow pens, or use the blow pens with the stencil shapes to create temporary tattoos. The colors are quick, easy to use and wash out easily. Nail color is easy to apply, dries immediately and is easy to remove.
RELIQ Pet (reliqpet.com) has a new Mineral SPA Shampoo line. The tear-free shampoos are available in Lavender, Jasmine, Green Tea, Pomegranate and Rosemary varieties. The shampoos are available in 16.9-oz. bottles and a 1-gal. jug. The company uses a volcanic mineral, as well as nanotechnology to create a solution for cleaning pet’s skin and coat as well as follicle maintenance. RELIQ also has a new anti-microbial Odor Eliminator in a 10-oz. plus 4-oz. combo pack, in Lavender or Mint. Coming soon are the Advanced Ear solution and Advanced Skin solution.
Opie & Dixie’s (opieanddixie.com) new product is the 100-percent natural and vegan Snoutstik Nose Balm for Dogs. Snoutstik is available in Lavender, Pumpkin and Rosemary, and all three formulas contain Shea butter, jojoba oil and sweet almond oil, natural ingredients that are reportedly capable of preventing structural damage caused by UV radiation, as well as slowing down the photo-aging process. The cinnamic acid in Shea butter provides broad spectrum protection with an SPF of about 6, while both almond oil and jojoba oil offer an SPF of 4.
Pet Head (pethead.com) launches several dog products. White Party Shampoo with Argon Oil helps whiten and brighten coats. Knot Detangler helps rid of tangles. Dogs Luv It! Dry Shampoo provides a fast, easy and on-the-go clean with no water mess. Brush Your Teeth Wipes! have gentle cleansers and peppermint oil help alleviate doggie breath and tartar build-up. For cats, Fizzy Kitty Mousse Cat Cleaner is a no-rinse foam to keep kitty clean. Miracle De Shedding Shampoo reduces shedding by laying down the hair neatly and removing excess hair. Miracle De Shedding Rinse removes excess hair. Dry Clean Spray Shampoo! is sprayed into a dry coat, then towel or blow dried and brushed out for a clean coat. Pretty Kitty De Shedding wipes help keep shedding away. Knot Detangler keeps hair soft, shiny and tangle free.