STAGE TOPPERS WITH DIETS FOR SUCCESS
For many categories, retailers and manufacturers recommend
giving products their own section. However, with toppers, most
recommended keeping them with foods.
“Pair toppers near everyday wet or dry diets with signage indicating how toppers can be integrated into pets’ mealtime routines,”
said Chanda Leary-Coutu, director of consumer experience for
WellPet in Tewksbury, Mass.
At both Pet Food Warehouse Ltd. locations in Vermont, the staff
stock pet food toppers by food type.
“We have a section for cans and a section for dehydrated/freeze
dried,” said Stefanie Lash, training coordinator.
This placement helps “sow the seed for consumers that there
are easy ways to boost the taste and nutrition of their kibble,”
said Lucy Postins, founder and chief integrity officer of The Honest
Kitchen in San Diego.
Counter placement helps showcase food toppers and creates a
natural way to spark a conversation with customers to encourage
them to try something new, said Nichole Nonini, marketing director
for Plato Pet Treats in Fresno, Calif.
In addition to displays, industry participants said samples go a
long way to promote sales of natural pet food toppers.
“The biggest single thing we did to increase sales is to offer
samples of several different products to our clients,” said Karen
Conell, owner of The Bark Market LLC in Delavan, Wis. “Giving the
pet a taste while they are in the store is a home run every time.
Rarely does a dog refuse!”
Michael Levy, president and founder of Pet Food Express, a mul-
tistore chain in California, will break open bags and offer samples to
people who bring their dogs into the store. He also lets customers
know that they guarantee everything in the store, which develops
the trust factor and community.
Pet Food Warehouse also offers a guarantee.
“If a customer is interested in trying something or we feel that
a certain product would be a good fit, the customer has our 100
percent satisfaction guarantee in their back pocket,” Lash said. “If
they or their pet aren’t satisfied, we take it back for a full refund.”
High content of novel proteins lead the focus in natural food topper product
releases. Boo Boo’s Best in San Francisco launched Boosters! Food Toppers
for Dogs and Cats during the first quarter of the year. Featuring novel
proteins such as goat, kangaroo, alligator, rabbit, and pork and wild boar,
the dehydrated bites include antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, vitamins, minerals and fiber, and are made in the USA, according to company
Introducing its first “kibble plus” recipes, Tewksbury, Mass.-based WellPet offers Wellness Core RawRev, which combines high-protein, grain-free
kibble and 100 percent raw meat. It comes in three flavors: Original + 100%
Raw Turkey, Wild Game + 100% Raw Lamb and Small Breed + 100% Raw
Turkey. The line is formulated for use as a complete and balanced meal, or
to complement wet food as a crunchy, raw meal topper, according to the
For cats, WellPet introduced grain-free Wellness Core Simply Shreds,
each containing four high-quality ingredients or less and formulated to serve
as a protein-rich snack, side or topper, said Chanda Leary-Coutu, director of
Earlier this year, The Honest Kitchen in San Diego added a new variety
to its Proper Toppers line: the Grain-Free Beef Proper Toppers, which is a
limited-ingredient product formulated to help boost taste and nutrition in a
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis launched two items at SuperZoo
in Las Vegas in July. Tiki Dog Aloha Petites Morsels are 100 percent meat morsels made from USA-sourced chicken and New Zealand-sourced lamb, and
Tiki Dog Aloha Petites Bisque products have a meat-based gravy and chunks
of pork, beef, lamb and chicken.
Next month, Plato Pet Treats will add Small Batch Bone Broth in three
proteins: beef, lamb and pork. The Fresno, Calif.-based manufacturer slow
roasts the broth for 24 hours with whole, human-grade, locally farmed ingredients, said Nichole Nonini, marketing director.
CONSUMERS NEED TO KNOW WHY WITH TOPPERS
A key challenge in the natural food toppers segment is consumer confusion
about what the products are, said several industry participants. Jocelyn
Rosenthal, owner of Boo Boo’s Best in San Francisco, finds dog and cat owners are uncertain about the reasoning for adding a topper and the benefits
that go along with it.
Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet Brands in
St. Louis, agreed. She urged retailers to differentiate products for customers
and educate them on how toppers can be used.
“These are not treats that might be given throughout the day, but rather
part of the meal,” she said. “Toppers can be part of a healthy meal, if you
make the right choice.”
There’s no question that shoppers closely scrutinize labels, so it’s critical
for retailers to truly understand product benefits and communicate them
to customers. According to Nichole Nonini, marketing director for Plato
Pet Treats in Fresno, Calif., this creates trust, and consumers will ask more
questions and be open to more product recommendations.
Michael Levy, president and founder of Pet Food Express, a multistore
chain in California, has found that to be true in his stores. Because 98 percent
of the time customers think of toppers as food-palatability enhancers, he said
a conversation is necessary.
“The benefit is that by having these conversations, customers are
more bonded to the independent pet stores, and you’re creating more of
a reason for the customer to have trust in your pet store and come back
to your store,” he said. “It’s a way of building your business—not just
a larger ring, but greater loyalty—which is key to growth and survival
At The Bark Market LLC in Delavan, Wis., owner Karen Conell said the
store’s employees spend a lot of time educating clients.
“We sample out many products, we hand out literature and, most
importantly, we feed these products to our own pets,” she said. “We
continually teach people the basics of proper pet feeding and how a topper
KIN+KIND’S Argan Oil repairs dry and
damaged coats naturally with organic
and essential oils. In addition to being
veterinarian tested and approved, it is safe,
effective and environmentally sound, the
PURE TREATS offers PureBites Bacon Style Pork Jerky made
with one ingredient: 100 percent pure USA-sourced pork cartilage. The treats have the savory bacon taste dogs can’t resist.
The treats are ideal for dogs with health issues or pets that are
overweight, are diabetic, have allergies, have gastrointestinal
disorders, or are on a restricted diet (low carb, low sodium, low
calorie, no grain or raw).
PETPURT’S Rocky & VaBella Dog Treat is 100 percent natural
cheese derived from yak milk. No artificial flavors or preservatives are added. The act of gnawing on the longer-lasting
chew keeps the gums healthy and prevents tartar buildup and
plaque formation, the company reports. The chew contains an
active molecule called CLA—conjugated linoleic acid—which
is clinically proven to reduce fat in the body and reduce the
incidence of certain forms of cancer in dogs, the company