How do you get pet owners interested in
wellness-based products like supplements if
they’re not already on board?
“Supplements are step one to introducing pet parents to a healthier lifestyle, including raw diets.
Our biggest supplement push is for raw-based supplements such as raw goat milk, raw kefir or raw
fermented fish stock. Once they see how well those supplements are working, it opens the door to a
conversation about a raw diet. Before that, though, talking about raw food is kind of like talking about
politics. People get touchy. But starting out with a raw supplement is like dating. You introduce them to
the concept gradually.”—RYAN OAKS, general managerof Mini-Critters in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“My entire store is full of wellness-based products. We
are set up very much like a health and natural foods
store for people—only for animals. This kind of store
is often heavily referral based. Having an extremely
knowledgeable and helpful staff is essential to explaining products and their usage. If there’s only a small
section of ‘alternative products,’ it doesn’t really convey
the commitment to that philosophy.”—LORIN GROW,
owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif.
“Video or PowerPoint lunch-and-learns. Short elevator pitch
highlights help, too. Keep it to three to five highlights, but be
prepared to go deeper if needed. Detailed sheets of products
are also a great tool.”—AMANDA REILLY, co-founder of Reilly’s
Hemp Co. in Burlington, Vt.
HOW SUPPLEMENTS CAN HELP
While the supplements category is growing, manufacturers and pet specialty retailers agree that continued growth is contingent upon education. It’s important that pet owners understand why supplementation is necessary and how it can help.
“Dry food is a convenience product that is beneficial to pet parents because it’s easy,” said Ryan Oaks, general manager of
Mini-Critters in Sioux Falls, S.D. “That’s not always something that pet parents want to hear or that is easy for them to grapple
with, so education is key. Pet parents must come to understand that their pets need something more than just some kibble.”
Ara Bohchalian, CEO of Anaheim, Calif.-based Animal Nutrition, maker of the International Veterinary Sciences (IVS)
“Dog and cat supplement [sales] continue to be based on the pet consumers’ education and understanding that even
a high-quality food is simply not enough,” Bohchalian said. “The bioavailability in supplements helps increase overall health,
activity and longevity in pets as they do in humans. Pets are, thankfully, not only living longer, but with a higher quality of life,
thanks to supplements with high-quality ingredients combined with a proper balanced diet as the cornerstone of a healthy
Samantha Henson, a certified clinical pet nutritionist and merchandising manager for Premier Pet Supply, which has
stores in Michigan, said that they host an in-store wellness seminar on the first Thursday of every month and, recently,
the store covered supplements. Henson said it’s a lot easier for her to educate 30 dog and cat owners at once on wellness
topics than to try and ensure each individual hears it when they stop in the store to pick something up. Pet owners come to
seminars ready and willing to learn.
“I’ll do a short presentation, and then open it up to questions,” Henson said. “This is a hot topic as pet parents want to get
their dogs and cats off medications, such as steroids, and find more natural solutions to the problems they’re dealing with. It’s
a free event, and we always include samples and raffles for other giveaways.”
Of course, education begins with the store employees. Before they can educate customers, they must understand how
to help them. Chuck Francis, president of Tempe, Ariz.-based Finish Line Pets, maker of the Vet Worthy brand, said that, most
often, pet owners come in looking for a solution to a problem. That’s how the conversation about supplements can begin. But
it helps for store employees to have some good background knowledge. This can even help promote prevention.
“Learn all of the different breeds of dogs and cats and understand the types of problems that those breeds most
commonly have as they get older,” Francis said. “For example, large-breed dogs are likely to have more joint issues; thus, an
associate might recommend a joint supplement long before the pet parent even sees any problems.”
GET PET OWNERS’ ATTENTION
In order for supplement displays to be effective, pet
specialty retailers need to ensure that these products
grab the consumer’s eye, industry participants
However, there’s no question that supplement displays can pose a challenge, as floor space is incredibly
valuable in a pet store, said Chuck Francis, president
of Tempe, Ariz.-based Finish Line Pets, maker of the
Vet Worthy brand.
“We have found that cross-merchandising these
types of products in gravity feed-type displays, next
to similar food, seems to work best,” Francis added.
“It hangs on the rack, so it doesn’t take up a lot of
floor space, and it’s an easy add-on sale for store
Samantha Henson, a certified clinical pet nutri-
tionist and merchandising manager for Premier Pet
Supply, which has stores in Michigan, said that they’ve
had the most success by placing supplements in an
area that customers must pass through in order to get
to other products they’re seeking.
“For instance, cat owners looking for treats must
pass by the supplements first,” Henson said. “Let’s
face it, most pet parents don’t come in looking for a
supplement unless they’ve already heard about them,
so we do our best to find ways to introduce them to
the idea early on.”
DOGS AND CATS
New products in the supplement
category are constantly being added
as consumer interest grows. Finish Line
Pets, maker of the Vet Worthy brand in
Tempe, Ariz., has introduced Vita-Freez,
a new delivery system of frozen
vitamins and supplements for dogs. The
product contains 30 individually packaged supplements on six blister cards
with all the active ingredients in liquid
form. The pet owner takes the product
home and freezes it. They can then pop
out a frozen “treat” one at a time, said
president Chuck Francis.
International Veterinary Sciences
(IVS), a division of Animal Nutrition in
Anaheim, Calif., has introduced Comfort
Time Natural Source Calmative Supplements for Dogs and Cats. This chewable
product is all natural and specially
formulated for calming high-energy or
anxious pets during separation, travel
by car or air, thunderstorms, fireworks,
trips to the veterinarian or other
stressful experiences, said CEO Ara