FORMULAS TO ENTICE
Various food formats and novel offerings are increasingly popular with hobbyists, independent specialty retailers reported.
“The Fluval Bug Bites have been really popular for us,” said Jonas Sternberg, owner of Sierra Fish and Pets in Renton, Wash. “It
uses a mosquito black fly larvae basically. It’s probably one of our No. 1 sellers now.”
Fluval recently added two formulas to its Bug Bites line of insect-based protein foods, said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager
at the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass. The new formulations include Color Enhancing, Betta and Turtle diets, and the company has
also introduced expanded sizes in its Tropical formula.
“The inclusion of alternative protein sources is trending up in the aquatic nutrition market,” LeRose said. “Providing nutritionally
appropriate foods for all pets, whether they are companion animals, fish, dogs or cats, is vital to the health and well-being of the pet.
Aquarists are no different than other pet owners and will seek out the best possible nutrition solutions for their fish.”
New approaches to offering food and treats for fish are also trending, industry participants reported.
“We are expanding our Extras line of treats for fish,” said Dr. Timothy Hovanec, owner and president of Dr Tim’s Aquatics in
Moorpark, Calif. “The line is packaged in pepper grinders [to] make it easy to grind a little over the tank or bowl.”
The packaging is designed to help aquarists interact with their fish and prevent overfeeding, Hovanec added.
Foods formulated to help stimulate feeding are also coming to market. Hikari recently introduced Vibra-Bites, said Chris
Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif. The pellet food is designed to duplicate the look and movement of a frozen
bloodworm. The simulated wormlike texture is intended to stimulate a feeding response, Clevers added, and the product features a
DISTRIBUTION, SELECTION & MERCHANDISING
CHOOSING THE RIGHT MIX
Choosing the right mix of dietary offerings is important, according to aquatic specialty retailers,
as is placing foods in the right locations within the store.
“We have one full aisle for foods by brand, and then we do have some at the point of
purchase, such as Bug Bites,” said Jonas Sternberg, owner of Sierra Fish and Pets in Renton,
Wash. “We put our best-sellers up towards the top, and some of the slower sellers and the ones
we don’t recommend more as much towards the bottom. Then we try to coordinate it by color,
For independent aquatics retailers, frozen offerings and pelleted foods might offer the best
return on investment, according to industry participants.
“Use a few loss-leader items in highly visible areas to set the impression your prices are
as good as anyone else’s,” said Chris Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif.
“Offer a wide selection of frozen foods as a way to insulate your business. Concentrate on
offering pelleted foods because you have much less competition versus flakes, and be sure to
Providing a thoroughly vetted food selection can also help build repeat business.
“If retailers remain focused on offering the best foods they can find, foods that they have
used to verify they meet their quality and efficiency standards, they will find more happy
customers who return for more of their stellar advice,” Clevers said. “Consumers are more
worried about giving their fish the best food they can buy and are less interested in saving a
However, while offering a wide variety of quality and specialty fish diets can help drive sales,
some foods might not be easily available depending on a store’s suppliers and distributors.
“The problem I have with a lot of the specialty foods is that they’re not in distribution,”
said Steve Richmond, owner of Lovely Pets Aquarium Store in Quincy, Mass. “You have to have
several different accounts with different places. You have to make a commitment to the food.
I made the commitment to Reef Nutrition, and they have really good products. I have a small
refrigerator for their products that they gave to me. It’s very easy to commit to their products.
Every couple of weeks, I get a big order, and we’re all happy.”
this year, have a
“For retailers, the biggest change has been the surge in frozen
food sales, given these items are very difficult for online retailers
to handle. This gives brick-and-mortar retailers a leg up and a real
opportunity to get people back in the store more often.”—ChrIs
Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif.
“I don’t think our customers are going online for fish food.
They’re still coming into the store for it. It definitely helps
having foods bring customers back in the store frequently.
Our frozen foods are right by the door, so customers are
going to see them. Frozen foods definitely sell much better
for us. That’s for sure.”—steveNBayes, owner of Top Shelf
Aquatics in Winter Park, Fla.
“Offering fish foods is definitely a competitive advantage. We sell a lot of
frozen food, probably because of the convenience factor. Right now, the biggest competitor [local fish stores] face is from online [retailers]. I don’t know
if customers are buying fish food on the internet, though. Big-box stores have
a very basic variety. They’re going to be more competitive with the entry-level
hobbyists.”—steve rIChmoNd, owner of Lovely Pets Aquarium Store in
“This is where we can set ourselves apart
and maybe make a few extra pennies,
because [fish foods are] typically not
something that somebody will shop for
online. Typically we can usually make a little
bit more of a margin on fish food. When
customers are buying from a pet specialty
type store and specifically an aquatic store
… I think they’re more apt to trust our
recommendation rather than ... a star rating
online.”—JoNas sterNBerg, owner of
Sierra Fish and Pets in Renton, Wash.
how can fish foods offer a competitive
advantage to local fish stores?