22 Pet Product News International
BY RICHARD ROWLANDS
Private label products—brands produced by manu- facturers to be sold under the name of a supplier or retailer—have come a long way in recent years.
Today’s private label products have evolved from their
generic roots and now represent an opportunity for pet
specialty retailers to stand out from the competition, increase consumer loyalty and take on the traditional big-name brands with their own lines of exclusive products.
Millennial consumers are a driving force behind the
recent success of private label products, largely because
they are less brand conscious than older generations
have been and make their purchasing decisions based
not only on the perceived quality of a product, but also
on its price.
With millennials now spending approximately $600
billion each year in the U.S., retailers are shifting their
focus to target this key demographic.
So what impact has the private label trend had on the
pet industry? According to the 2016 Private Label Yearbook from the Private Label Manufacturers Association
(PLMA), private brands are performing well.
The report combines annual sales for more than 700
product categories in major retail outlets throughout
the U.S., including supermarkets, drug stores and mass
PLMA’s analysis of sales data for 2015 places private
label pet care products at No. 17 in a list of the top 20
private label categories by dollar volume sold at drug
stores. The figures show a dollar volume of $78.3 million— 44. 4 percent of the $176.2 million category total.
Private label pet food was also a top performer over
the same period, placing at No. 19 in a list of the top
20 private label categories by dollar volume in all outlets combined. Private label dollar volume for pet food
reached $1.7 billion—an 11. 8 percent share of the $14.3
billion total for the category.
PLMA’s statistics show that private label pet products command a significant portion of overall sales for
major retail outlets. And with the trend set to continue, an increasing number of independent pet specialty
chains are taking note.
To find out more about the private label trend, Pet
Product News spoke to three pet specialty retailers that
offer their own private label product ranges.
PET SUPPLIES PLUS
Pet Supplies Plus is the fourth-largest pet retailer in the
U.S., with 375 stores. The company, which has head-
quarters in Livonia, Mich., offers a wide range of pri-
vate label products across all departments in its stores.
These include everything from dog food to cat toys and
Private label products play an integral role in the
ethos of the company.
“We measure success not only through sales, but
through happy neighbors and pets,” said Erika Klein,
Pet Supplies Plus’ private label manager. “We have a lot
of those, so private label plays a big role in our measured
Pet Supplies Plus is committed to the research and
development of its private brand, working with manu-
facturers in the U. S. and abroad to carefully design prod-
ucts that differentiate the stores from their competitors
and delight customers, Klein said. Emphasis is placed
on safety and quality, at a price point that makes sense
for the consumer.
When promoting its private label products, Pet Sup-
plies Plus “considers our field employees our biggest
assets,” Klein added.
This straightforward approach centers around edu-
cating staff on the range, and encouraging them to share
the benefits of the products with customers.
Pet Supplies Plus’ private label products have been
well received by consumers, according to the company.
Bestselling items include everyday basics such as PS+
tennis balls and rawhide chews for dogs. High-quality
puppy pads that feature absorption properties found
in human-grade sanitation products are also a popular
purchase, Klein noted.
WOOF GANG BAKERY
Woof Gang Bakery has 81 stores, and it is the 11th largest
pet retailer in U.S., with headquarters in Orlando, Fla.
The company’s private label brand was launched
in spring 2014 to increase margins on some of the most
popular items in-store.
“The goal was to take everyday items that sell in
our stores and add the Woof Gang Bakery name, which
would elevate the products and make them exclusive,”
said CEO Paul Allen. “We focus on items like bully
sticks, antlers, and additional bones and chews. Our
pink treat bags were a redesign of a product we were
The private label program has been a central part of
Woof Gang Bakery stores since its launch. The products
are promoted with unique merchandising concepts that
are reflected in every store. These concerns are among
the company’s key marketing materials, and stand for
the quality and value that customers can expect from
Woof Gang Bakery stores, Allen said.
The company’s private label range is the end result
of a thorough research process that took into account
factors such as branding, quality, variety and analysis
of the products already popular with customers, Allen
To promote its private brand, Woof Gang Bakery has
invested in sample treat bags, which are distributed to
local businesses and apartment complexes, encouraging people to visit their local store. In addition, all Woof
Gang Bakery locations give out “free treats for a year”
to the first 20 dogs at a store grand opening.
Healthy Spot is a growing chain of specialty pet stores
in Southern California. The company currently has 10
stores, with another one set to open later this year.
Healthy Spot offers several lines of private label
products, including healthful chew treats, eco-friendly
pet bedding, eco-friendly pet waste bags, as well as fun
items such as toy glow balls and pet apparel.
The products play a small but important role in the
overall success of the business.
“Private label helps us close the gap where there may
be a lack of innovation,” said Mark Boonnark, co-found-
er of Healthy Spot. “It also helps us provide additional
fun ways to interact with our customer base, as there is a
trust and demand for products under our brand.”
The company sees private label as an opportunity to
differentiate itself from the competition by creating in-
novative new products that match customer demands
and preferences. Boonnark identifies the research and
development phase of creating private label products as
in keeping with the company’s core values.
“With our mission to inspire healthy pet lifestyles,
we pride ourselves in sourcing the highest-quality products with brands that share the same ethics and business
values,” he said. “This is no different from our private
label strategy. If we are putting our name on it, you can
trust that integrity will be first and foremost and that the
bar for quality standards will be set very high.”
Healthy Spot is developing new private label lines
to release in the coming months. Currently, the most
popular private label products in store are the baked
and triple-washed bully sticks, designed to eliminate
unwanted odor, Boonnark said.
How three pet specialty retailers have
integrated private label programs into
their retail strategies.
ENDCAP INSIDE THE BOX
Distinctly Himalayan of Rhinebeck, N.Y., offers
its holiday Dharma Dog Karma Cat counter shipper. The display’s bold red and white is eye-catching, and the design illustrates what kind of holi-day-themed cat toys are in the box. Minimal text
highlights what makes the products special—the
fact that the company uses Himalayan wool, which
is high in lanolin content.
The back of the box stands 13 inches high, and the
box itself is 5 inches high, 7 inches wide and 10 inches deep. It holds 80 toys, including 40 assorted holi-day-color 1.5-inch balls and 40 assorted candy canes.
MORE TO LOVE
Sun Seed Inc.
Sunseed Ani-maLovens line
of treats for
mal pet owners have really shown
us their love for our Sunseed Ani-
maLovens treats,” said Julie Fain,
digital marketing and communica-
tions coordinator for the Bowling
Green, Ohio-based company. “The
packaging for the line has been up-
dated, but the treats themselves are
the same great formulas made with
real, whole ingredients. We know
our new flavor, Happy Hearts with
Strawberry & Banana, will be a big
hit as well.”
The treats are formulated for pet
rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and ham-
sters. The Happy Hearts and Straw-
berry & Banana flavor replaces Ani-
maLovens Teddy Bakes.
Woof Gang Bakery’s private label brand was
launched in spring 2014 to increase margins
on some of the most popular items in-store.