product, [and] they want to have the reas-
surance that the product is going to work
in their scenario without consulting a vet.”
Amanda Morton, store manager of Bon
pet supply in Colorado springs, Colo., also
hears requests for “products to be made in
the U.s., have natural ingredients, fit a spe-
cific age, and fit a specific protein amount
or specific meat protein need.”
A huge trend is in diets for cats with
multiple issues, said Catherine Lenox,
DVM, a board-certified veterinary nutri-
tionist and scientific affairs manager for
royal Canin UsA in st. Charles, Mo.
“nearly one in every two pets has multiple health conditions,” Dr. Lenox said.
“The development of diets that help manage multiple conditions has been a great
tool for cats with combinations of health
conditions such as urinary disease and
obesity or chronic kidney disease and adverse food reactions.”
FOODS FOCUSED ON AGE
Cat food industry insiders report a signif-
icant increase in product offerings in the
past decade. Lenox attributes the hike “to
multiple factors, including pets living lon-
ger and needing more targeted diets, as
well as an increase in recognition of the
needs of cats.”
Following more than 25 years in the
industry, Kathy gross, director of clinical
nutrition for Hill’s pet nutrition in Topeka,
Kan., has seen “a growing popularity in
age-specific cat food.”
Last year, Hill’s pet nutrition unveiled
Hill’s science Diet Youthful Vitality Food.
specifically designed to fight the effects
of aging in cats 7 years and older, the diet
comes from more than 10 years of re-
search at Hill’s pet nutrition that “shows
that gene expression and activity are dif-
ferent in pets aged 7 and older compared
to their younger counterparts,” gross said.
On the other end of the spectrum, nature’s Variety introduced instinct Originals
dry and wet offerings for kittens. Created to provide high protein specifically for
growing kittens, the foods are made from
real, whole-food ingredients with cage-free chicken as the first ingredient, according to the company.
However, no matter how good the prod-
uct, the no. 1 indicator of successful sales
is a staff that understands and is excited
about the items they’re moving, industry
participants said. When they possess a
foundational belief in the products they
carry, they subsequently merchandise it
as a “focus of the inventory, rather than a
hidden, forgotten option in the back of the
store,” Werges said.
Others agreed, recommending that
retailers display specialty and functional
cat foods in a single aisle. This simplifies
the shopping process for very specific,
health-conscious pet owners, said Chanda
Leary-Coutu, director of consumer experi-
ence for Wellpet in Tewksbury, Mass.
Lorin grow, owner of Furry Face in redlands, Calif., features a specific cat section
that is categorized by food type.
To call extra attention to specific products, Bon pet supply will sometimes place
a sign near the food explaining why it’s
there, Morton said.
“Merchandising best practices include
featuring the proper display of cat food
with accompanying educational material
and using sections of your store to highlight different diet types,” Tracy said. she
also recommended featuring specific diets
on an endcap as a product of the month.
For stores carrying raw and freeze-dried specialty diets, the freezer makes a
great store centerpiece, Werges said.
“if supported by the store’s layout, sig-nage and associate education, [the freez-er] can draw curious customers,” she said.
in cat food, education is everything, according to both retailers and manufacturers. Most recommended conversation
with customers as the most effective way
to inform pet owners about specialty and
functional cat foods.
“Consumer education is very import-
ant to the industry as a whole,” Alford said.
“it gives people facts and information not
given by their vet. Talking to the customer
is key; have a conversation with probing
With “buzzwords like ‘natural,’ ‘whole’
and ‘organic’ cluttering the pet food aisles
and overwhelming consumers,” Werg-
es emphasized the importance of offer-
ing “resources that provide credible and
simple information pet parents are look-
The first step for retailers is to truly
understand what’s on their shelves, said
Leary-Coutu, adding that retailers should
consider offering on-site demonstrations
so cat owners can explore new recipes and
ask questions firsthand.
One way to ensure that staff members
are prepared to answer shoppers’ ques-
tions is to rely on manufacturer partners
for detailed information on products.
“Working directly with the manufacturer to help educate consumers and
store associates is paramount to correctly
marketing premium, natural pet food diets,” Tracy said.
Experts report that the more cat owners understand about the importance of
quality nutrition, the more likely they are
to consistently offer their pets the best
“Consumer education helps drive com-
pliance, and diets often cannot help a pet
unless the owners are compliant,” Lenox
said. “When owners have a better under-
standing of the overall plan and know why
a recommendation is made, there is a bet-
ter chance that compliance will happen.”
As part of its consumer education,
Furry Face keeps a model of a cat’s jaw
and diagrams of their physiology so staff
can “show and tell how [cats] eat, what
their teeth are shaped like, and why the
shape indicates what they’re meant to
eat, and how their physiology and diges-
tive system works to process what they
eat,” grow said. ~
helps drive compliance,
and diets often cannot
help a pet unless the
owners are compliant.”
—Catherine Lenox of
Royal Canin USA