possible food choices is one good method of assortment selection for retailers large and small. Manufacturers are normally
very open with information and training for current and prospective retailers. We suggest retailers have a good variety of
alternative-format foods available in their offering as demand
is increasing rapidly. We also encourage listening to customer
feedback and helping them decide what type of food is best for
their own pet’s particular needs. Choosing the right food can
be very intimidating for a pet parent when there are so many
HATCH-RIZZI: Really, it comes down to doing your homework on
the brands and choices that are out there. There are plenty of
manufacturers that fall into the premium category and other
foods that may not be premium but still use higher-quality ingredients.
Many retailers have set standards that many foods must
meet to be carried in their stores, and that really gains the
trust of their customers—they know that the brands carried at
their favorite neighborhood independent are going to be higher
quality than the other options available at big-box stores or in
grocery. Transparency from manufacturers is becoming more
important than ever. There are so many products for retailers to
become educated about that the more information that’s easily
available to help support retailers, the easier it is for them to
decide on the best selections for their stores.
What new advances in either the industry’s understanding
of dog and cat nutrition or on the manufacturing end are
impacting product development today?
HART: Most of the product development we see is based on delivering the highest level of nutrition with the least amount of processing and with as little impact to the environment as possible.
HATCH-RIZZI: Many manufacturers are making the shift toward
the evolutionary diet philosophy for both cats and dogs. Cats
are true carnivores, which means they should be fed a diet that
is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The industry has
responded with many products that have been recently introduced that are now grain free, where meat is the first ingredient, which is optimal in both cat and dog food.
how do you see the category evolving over the next five
HART: We see a continued rapid increase in demand for alternative-format foods as customers continue to research and discover the benefits of those minimally processed options. We
also see continued demand in transparency from manufacturers as well as ethical and responsible sourcing of all ingredients.
HATCH-RIZZI: There has been a big shift toward sustainability, and pet parents and retailers alike want to see products
that are made with sustainable, humanely raised, non-GMO
and organic ingredients. Manufacturers will need to provide
more and more transparency about the sourcing and quality
of the ingredients they are using. We get inquiries daily from
customers who want more information about our organic
sourcing and what the “free-range” and “pasture-raised” terms
we use really mean. ~
It’s a Retail Life
Recipe for Success
Lori Johnson, owner of Healthy Tails, which has two stores
in Reno, Nev., discusses the process of curating a healthful
selection of dog and cat nutrition products at her stores.
Pet Product News: What nutrition trends are your customers
currently responding to?
Lori Johnson: Dog and cat customers who come into our store
are looking more for raw food, limited-ingredient proteins
and grain-free foods. Customers are becoming more and more
aware of supplements and ingredients that would enhance their
pets’ lives and limit allergies, food intolerances and vet visits.
PPN: How do you evaluate the foods, treats, supplements and
other nutrition products that you put on your shelves?
Johnson: We evaluate foods and treats first for their
ingredients—looking at what type of protein is in the product
and the protein sources. Then we look at the other ingredients
and their health value—for example, the source of the amino
acids, vitamins, etc. For supplements, we look for those that are
as natural as possible. We carefully review the manufacturers of
all of our products—where they produce the food, whether they
use their own facilities or have someone private-label for them,
where they source their ingredients, their reputation, their
reviews and their compliance with laws.
PPN: Mass, big-box and grocery retailers are adding more
“premium” nutrition products to their shelves. What are you
doing to differentiate your product selection and stay competitive?
Johnson: We carry very high-end dog and cat food, treats
and supplements. In most cases, our products are not carried
in grocery or big-box stores. The majority of our customers
are not price shopping. They are looking for a food that
would give their pet the longest active life possible. We don’t
sell products; we sell customer service. We listen to each
customer’s issues and help them decide what food is best
for their pet by explaining the food we carry, including dry,
canned, dehydrated, freeze-dried and raw food, and then go
over our various supplements.
PPN: What do you offer your employees in terms of pet nutrition
training and education? How do you work to improve customer
Johnson: At this time, most of our employees have taken
courses put on by our various suppliers. Our suppliers’ reps
have also come and given specific classes on their products.
Our managers, assistant managers and all retail staff that have
worked six months or more are enrolled in a Pet Nutrition
Certificate Course put on by DNM University. It is about 20
hours of online classes with quizzes and a final. It is an in-depth course on dog and cat nutrition. I have taken it and have
made it mandatory for all staff who have worked more than
six months and all management. The employees get a monetary
reward when they get their certificate.
I am currently enrolled in a raw food nutrition course, and
after I complete it, I will ask the top-level managers to also take
it. These courses will continue to help our company evaluate the
new foods that are coming out and help us decide what our store
may need to add to take care of our customers’ needs.
PPN: How do you see the category evolving over the next five
Johnson: I see dog and cat food becoming more organic and
natural—and the industry adding better regulations to adhere
to higher standards—edging dog and cat food to be made more
and more of human-grade ingredients that are as organic as