When it comes to fostering solid sales of functional and specialty diets,
pet retailers and manufacturers agree that information, education and
knowledge form the cornerstones to success.
The key to determining the correct recipe for any pet is to ask
questions, said Annabelle Immega, trade marketing manager for
Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.
“Talking to a pet parent to discover details such as age, breed and
activity level can help a retailer make an informed recommendation to
match the pet with the food that will best suit them,” she said.
When assisting customers in a food selection at Dolly’s Pet Shoppe
in Sandy, Ore., the age of the pet is the first consideration, said owner
“I generally go right to that question,” she said. “From there, I might
ask if the owner is aware of any food sensitivities that the dog might
An understanding of a dog’s dietary restrictions, as well as diets that
fit within those restrictions, is valuable when speaking with customers,
said Karen Neola, founder of My Perfect Pet Food in Poway, Calif.
“Many pet owners do not know where to start when searching for a
specialty diet to address their pet’s specific needs,” she said.
Educated employees can help pet owners find the right foods for
“We recommend that our retail partners and their employees
participate in our training module to educate themselves about our
products and their benefits,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder
of Caru Pet Food Co. in Vero Beach, Fla. “Doing so will provide the
knowledge needed to make the appropriate recommendations.”
It is also helpful to designate a section of the store to specialty diets,
where retailers can direct consumers to clearly labeled foods that will
address their pet’s specific needs, according to industry insiders.
“If a consumer is looking for products for a puppy, it’s much easier to
have an aisle dedicated to puppies, rather than having products placed
sporadically throughout the store,” Pettyan said.
However, creating aisles by function might not be ideal for every
store. At Odyssey Pets in Dallas, foods are displayed by brand rather
than function, said co-owner Sherry Redwine.
Dolly’s Pet Shoppe has a similar setup.
“Every brand has a section, and I generally put puppy foods to
the left, flowing to adult recipes, which definitely take up the biggest
window, and then on to senior formulations and weight loss,” DePaolo
said. “That’s my general display method.”
“Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in consumer desire for both
specialty diets and meal mixers. Consumers are becoming more aware
of how diet and, specifically, the ingredients in their pet’s food, can positively affect health and happiness and are seeking recipes that address
the needs of their pet. In addition, consumers are looking for new and
interesting ways to enhance their dog’s diet to prevent boredom and
increase variety.”—ANNABELLEIMMEGA, trademarketingmanager for
Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
“As we continue to learn more about the types of food that benefit our
pets, we’ve seen a shift away from grain-packed, carb-loaded diets.
Shoppers are turning to more wholesome diets full of fresh meat, fruits
and veggies. Also, a larger focus on the eating habits of our pets’ ances-
tors reveals that a raw diet is natural and beneficial to the health of our
pets.”—KAREN NEOLA, founder of My Perfect Pet Food in Poway, Calif.
How has demand for specialty diets changed or
grown over the past decade?
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