BY SANDY CHEBAT
Pet owners are becoming increasingly aware that even the best commercial foods might not be giving pets everything they need—knowledge that is fueling massive growth of the pet supplement
channel, according to Ken Wilks, director
of marketing and sales, pet division, for
W. F. Young Inc., maker of The Missing
Link products, in East Longmeadow, Mass.
“It’s … generating $550 million in revenue today and is expected … in the next
five years to hit three-quarters of a billion
dollars,” he said.
“Consumers are driving the trend toward acceptance of natural as the minimum standard as they learn about nutrition and health,” said Maria Ringo,
co-founder and director of health care for
Carna4 in Toronto.
Pet owners also are demanding products that mirror supplement trends for
“Health-conscious pet owners are
taking better care of their own health
through supplementation, and they look
to their own health regimens for ideas on
preventive care for their pet,” said Scott
Garmon, president of Garmon Corp. in
Digestive and joint supplements are
particularly popular right now, said Jeremy Fox, general manager of Fox Feed in
Canyon Country, Calif.
“Digestion is a big issue today, so
people come in wanting to fix the problem, and they ask for products that they
recognize [as beneficial] for themselves,”
NEW AND CUTTING EDGE
Consumers are drawn increasingly to
newer supplements that feature less-fa-miliar ingredients that are recognized in
the market for their “superfood” status or
superior functional benefits. Capitalizing
on the popularity of kelp as a superfood,
The Missing Link recently launched an
organic, kelp-based supplement line, Pet
Kelp Formula, which comes in Probiotic,
Joint & Bone, Skin & Coat, Well-Being and
Feline Well-Being varieties.
“Making it kelp-based allows us to
have a very limited ingredient panel, and
that’s allowed us to make a cost-effective
organic supplement,” Wilks said.
Just in time for National Pet Dental
Health Month, The Missing Link also is
launching its Once Daily Superfood Den-
tal Chew for dogs. The crunchy chews
feature ridges to reduce plaque and tartar
buildup and come in two supplemental
formulas. For small to medium dogs, the
chews contain omegas and glucosamine
to benefit hips, joints and teeth. For large
to extra-large dogs, they contain naturally
preserved omegas to benefit the pet’s skin,
coat and teeth, Wilks said.
Carna4’s new Carnaflora Grain-Free
Sprouted Seed Snacks contain probi-
otics, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins
and minerals, Ringo said, calling them
a superfood for dogs. The treats contain
chicken liver, the company’s Flora4 blend
of sprouted seeds, ground fava beans
and sweet potato, and are 100 percent
synthetic free and made from only whole
foods, she added.
Garmon Corp. recently launched
NaturVet Mushroom Max Advanced Im-
mune Support. Formulated for dogs older
than 12 weeks of age, the supplement con-
tains four functional mushrooms: maitake,
reishi, shiitake and turkey tail.
“Mushrooms are considered a su-
perfood, [so] a mushroom supplement
for pets was a natural fit,” Garmon said.
“These unique mushrooms have been
recognized for their health benefits for
many centuries by many different cul-
tures as a nutritional food source and as
a natural remedy.”
Bark Avenue Pet Supply in Mesa, Ariz.,
recently added medicinal mushrooms to
its natural pet supplement mix, and asso-
ciate Rick Resh said the store is “getting
some pretty good feedback and probably
should have had them awhile ago.”
Supplements that contain cannabidiol
(CBD) hemp oil also are trending, added
Resh. While they’re fairly new to the mar-
ket, more and more consumers are getting
wise to the benefits these products might
“That was the buzz at SuperZoo,” Resh
said. “It seemed there were many prod-
ucts, like those from Therabis and Pet Re-
leaf, coming out with CBD oil or elements
of CBD in the products.”
Supplements that offer a healthful
boost for older pets and those that have
an active lifestyle also are gaining trac-
tion, said Ara Bohchalian, president
and CEO of International Veterinary
Sciences in Anaheim, Calif.
“We continue to see a strong market for
the senior and active dog segments, as well
as additional scrutiny on ingredient sourcing and manufacturing,” said Bohchalian,
whose company plans to launch a new
line of calming supplements and a digestive supplement this year.
GUIDING THE WAY FOR CONSUMERS
Customer education regarding natural
supplements remains undeniably important, retailers and manufacturers reported.
“Selecting the proper pet supplement can sometimes be confusing and
often overwhelming,” Garmon said.
“Consumers rely on store employees
to provide product information and
Carna4’s Ringo also encourages re-
tailers to ensure staff members are well
trained to answer questions.
“If your staff provides a true solution to
the problem, that customer will be yours
for years,” she said.
Debbie Fazica, owner of Pet X Supply
& Tack in Howell, Mich., said that consumer education is her store’s specialty.
“Most of our clients are either well
versed in holistic health care or are new to
the concept, making it my job to educate
my staff and myself, as we are always
learning,” she said, adding that the store
holds events to help educate consumers.
Bohchalian also stressed the impor-
tance of knowledgeable store staff.
“For retailers to maximize sales, they
must better understand the distinctions
among supplements in the same category
and have conversations with the customer,” he said. “Merchandising and branding
can only go so far; the effectiveness of the
product and remedy are key and critical.”
Fox Feed merchandises supplements
together and, because the results of supplements can take time to appear or take
effect gradually, Fox recommends getting
out from the counter, into the aisle and
spending one-on-one time with customers to help them understand the products.
Stores should display natural supplements in a prominent area that is clearly
visible and easily accessible, Garmon said.
Ringo recommends highlighting the
section and changing it up monthly.
Offer samples or a guarantee to help
increase supplement sales, Fazica said.
The natural pet supplements category has grown from a niche segment to a significant
moneymaker—and health-conscious pet owners are driving the trend.