SETTING FOOD APART TO SELL
Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh, separates pet food first
by category, and then by manufacturer.
“My freeze-dried foods are next to my
freezer, and cans are merchandised with
kibble according to manufacturer,” she
said. “Freeze-dried treats, when new, are
merchandised with their food manufactur-
er. However, this is just in the introductory
stage; they move into the treat section
after a few months.”
Brand-blocking can make a visual
“From a manufacturer’s perspective, I
like to see foods separated by manufac-
turer,” said Tracey Hatch Rizzi, co-founder
and vice president of Radagast Pet Food
in Portland, Ore. “Manufacturers typically
design their brands to look great when all
of their SKUs are merchandised together.”
Two Bostons, which has stores in
Illinois, displays all dry food by brand
with complementary cans included, said
co-owner AdreAnne Tesene.
“All freeze-dried and dehydrated
foods are located on shelving closest to
the freezers,” she added. “This is a great
way to show the hierarchy of foods: raw,
freeze dried or dehydrated, cans, and then
Due to the combination of the aging
human population and the popularity of
owning small dogs, Ann Hudson, vice
president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet
Brands, maker of Cloud Star and TikiPets
brands in St. Louis, suggests retailers
create a section for small-
“A small-dog section with a large
selection of wet diets would attract pet
parents to pet specialty; a retail strategy
that purposely takes small-dog owners
to a specific section in the store could
be immensely appealing,” Hudson said.
“Retailers are going to need to replace the
business lost as the large-dog population
decreases. While they can’t make that up
At West Lebanon Feed & Supply in
West Lebanon, N.H., owner Curt Jacques
said that dog and cat food cans are
displayed separately on 22-inch-deep
shelving, which is anchored to the wall.
“We are in the midst of designing a
self-service display rack that will automat-
ically dispense the cans and create a more
unified, easier-to-shop system,” he said.
“One of the biggest issues is the small
print on cans that consumers are unable
to read. Our system will be customized by
the product with labels and POP signage,
making it easier for our customers to
read, shop and compare with competing
Jacques recommends grouping dry
food by brand rather than by type, based
on customer loyalty.
“By offering a wider range of choices
within [consumers’ preferred] brands,
they are less apt to make a change, but an
upsell is more likely to happen within the
brand they use,” he said.
The pet food market is enormous,
with a myriad of brands and subcatego-ries, so displaying food to maximize sales
takes a bit of resourcefulness.
In the case of frozen food, it is
preferable to have a glass door on the
freezer so that customers can get a visual,
particularly because often, freezers are
located in the back of the store, manufacturers noted.
If it is not possible to have a more
visible freezer, Hatch Rizzi suggests
displaying empty packaging of frozen
food on shelves, close to the register, or
on an endcap, directing customers to the
“This way, customers that wouldn’t
necessarily think to look at raw cat food
can see the container and engage the
employees about the product,” she said.
She also suggests using colorful,
informative signage for those freezers
without glass fronts, which will, ideally,
pique a customer’s curiosity.
Shelaske rearranges the front section
of her stores monthly, with a rotating
selection of impulse items at the register.
Jacques is also a strong believer in
keeping things fresh and new, which can
include changing out endcaps in pet food
aisles to feature new products or even
“It’s also a good practice to rotate
the brands within your section to refresh
the look,” he said. “Sure, customers will
wonder where their food went, but they
will also be aware of different foods. If
your store looks the same day in and day
out, your customers will get bored.”
Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing
manager at WellPet in Tewksbury, Mass.,
“Taking advantage of endcaps is
important, as they are prime real estate in
any pet food store,” she said, adding that
eye-catching signage is crucial, too.
WellPet recently designed a way
to stack and dispense canned Wellness
natural cat food in-aisle to make it more
“The cans are color coded to
correspond with new flavors, forms
and textures—like minced, sliced, pâté,
morsels and gravies—so the pet parent
can find the perfect pairing for their cat,”
Tesene employs a visual trick.
“The basic tips are to display the
larger bags to the right or below the
smaller items and work light to dark
colors the same way,” she said. “
Displaying light to dark or small to large automatically balances our customers’ visual field
and makes it easier for them to shop. If
there is room to display coordinating cans
or treats, that it a great way to increase
What are some consumer trends in pet food?
Savvy shoppers are well informed, thanks in part
to the internet, but they also ask questions when
shopping in stores for products.
Curt Jacques, owner of West Lebanon Feed &
Supply in West Lebanon, N.H., is a longtime proponent of educating his staff so that the knowledge
can filter down to the end consumer.
“We have a better chance of building a
loyal customer base with knowledgeable staffing
as compared to thinking that an educational
pamphlet or poster will help them make the right
choice,” he said. “Education is everything. It cre-
ates self-confidence within our staff, builds loyalty
with the customer and has a direct impact on our
Sharing knowledge is also part of the company
culture at Two Bostons, which has stores in Illinois.
“If you’re not willing to take the necessary
steps to educate your customers about nutrition,
then you can’t complain about them buying
online or at a competitor,” said co-owner AdreAnne
“The proliferation at shelf is truly overwhelming, and pet parents openly say that choosing a
dog food is like choosing shampoo—too many
options and not enough information,” said Ann
Hudson, vice president of marketing at
Whitebridge Pet Brands, maker of Cloud Star
and TikiPets brands in St. Louis.
She suggests using signage at the shelves,
having informed store associates and hosting
in-store events for pet owners.
“Retailers are still one of the most influential
sources of recommendation,” she added.