The healthcare and supplement categories continue to grow in sales and popularity for both humans and pets, and cat healthcare products are no exception. Pet parents are becoming more knowledgeable and concerned about the importance of being proactive when it comes to the health of their feline friends. Like any other pet in a loving home, cats are considered a part of the family. More and more customers are seeking out ways to treat them as such, leading to an increased demand for quality, effective healthcare and supplement products that help cats live the longest, healthiest and happiest lives possible.
“If you are a pet owner, you understand your cat is like having a child, and their needs must be met,” says Julianna Carella, founder and CEO of Treatibles. “It is not something you can overlook, because it is an animal. As their caregiver, you take on the responsibility of their overall wellbeing. Sometimes you have to supplement your cat’s diet if they are not getting what they need from food sources or due to allergies and underlying health concerns.”
An Increasingly Important Investment
No pet parent wants their pet to get sick, but the situation is made even worse by the haunting feeling that something might have been done to prevent certain ailments and illnesses. Amanda Howland, CCO and co-founder at ElleVet Sciences, says that supplements are a way for pet owners to feel like they are proactively helping their cat feel their best.
“During the pandemic, people have been home and paying more attention to the daily habits of their cats and are more aware of their overall health and wellbeing,” Howland says. “This has in turn caused cat parents to seek out products such as daily supplements and remedies that are safe for cats. An overall uptick in pet health awareness has been observed across all species of pets, which is a great thing!”
As more people seek effective solutions to maintain their own health and wellness, many cat owners are looking to do the same for their pets. According to Jeanne Jacobs, leader of business development at PetAlive, it boils down to the fact that just like the products they purchase for themselves, cat parents want to provide safe, natural, effective solutions with fewer side-effects and at a lower price than pharmaceuticals or prescription medications.
“Pet supplements provide and boost essential ingredients in your pet’s diet that are often hard to provide,” she explains. “Supplements can help improve the cat’s quality of life and are often used to repair or treat conditions in the body. There are many supplements that can greatly benefit an animal’s health.”
Another benefit of these products is the ability to use them at home. Cats are notoriously not fans of traveling and visits to the vet, so plenty of pet parents are opting for supplements and healthcare remedies that they can distribute themselves in the comfort of their own home to avoid any added stress.
“The trend for at-home health care and wellness options has surged when it comes to managing cats’ health issues with their ears, skin and mouth,” says Debra Decker, director of marketing at Pet King Brands. “Pet parents have also become more educated about products that do not impose additional stress and are effective without antibiotics or harsh ingredients.”
Decker adds that this is one of the reasons for the popularity of ZYMOX Enzymatic Ear and Skin and Oratene Brushless Oral Care products, which are “recommended by veterinarians, easy to use at home, don’t impose undue stress to the cat and are effective without antibiotics or harsh ingredients.”
Additionally, it’s well known that cats are prone to stress and anxiety, along with gastrointestinal and urinary tract issues. This is another area that healthcare supplements have proven effective in, and there are a variety of options that specifically target these issues. For example, hemp and CBD have become go-to ingredients for calming and stress relief in dogs and cats alike, causing this category to continue to boom.
Knowing Your Audience
One aspect that is essential to successful sales in this category is remembering who the buyer is and what they are looking for. Pets are susceptible to a variety of health issues, so retailers should not be taking a one-size-fits-all approach as customers will be looking for products specific to their unique values and concerns regarding their pets.
“When building a dietary supplements product assortment, the retailer should be looking at the top categories of products in the marketplace and be well represented in these categories,” suggests Jacobs. “The retailer should also be listening to their customers to address common complaints, issues or concerns that cat parents are having with their pets. Do your customers have a higher population of pet parents with aging pets? Or do they see more pet owners with kittens?”
Retailers should not underestimate the level of education and research cat owners are equipped with. When it comes to the health of their pets, consumers are making educated decisions and won’t just trust and purchase the first product that catches their eye. They often know what they are looking for, so successful retailers will make sure that customers have a wealth of scientifically-backed, safe, proven-effective products to choose from.
“We know that cats cannot go out and buy the product themselves,” says Carella. “So, it is up to the brand to do their research and speak to veterinarians and cat owners.
“Pet parents need to know why it would be a great product,” she continues. “People are looking for more than fancy packaging. Those who are looking for cat supplements are looking at labels. They will know if the brand is not serious when the ingredients and the product quality do not measure up with the sales mission. Pet owners are very discerning.”
Howland emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the unique healthcare needs of cats, noting the importance of avoiding too much overlap in supplements for dogs and cats, since some products that are healthy for dogs can actually be detrimental, and even fatal, if given to cats. Ultimately, she says, cat owners need to see science and data to back up the assertion that a product is safe for their pet and will successfully enhance their overall wellbeing. For example, she points to ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products for cats.
“ElleVet cat products have been through a long term safety study and that is a game changer for products that give relief from joint discomfort, stress, itching or neuro support,” she says. “Our product is the only one proven to work in clinical trials and it has great palatability so this makes it an essential for pet parents looking for safe, effective and palatable relief for their pet.”
Jacobs echoes this sentiment, stating the importance of quality and assortment and urging retailers to only stock their shelves with products and brands that they are confident in, knowledgeable about, and can vouch for in order to be customers’ first destination when they decide to shop for healthcare and supplement products. Pet parents want retailers and brands that they can trust.
“When vetting new suppliers or manufacturers in the dietary supplements or alternative medicine category, safety and quality should be top of mind,” says Jacobs. “How long has the company been in business? Are the products manufactured in the U.S.? Are they manufacturing in FDA-registered facilities? Are they cGMP compliant? Are their products 3rd party tested? Do they have an adverse event reporting process? Have they had any adverse events? Do they have any clinical studies to support their claims?”
Decker offers that in addition to staying stocked with products that target common cat health issues that come highly recommended and are of the utmost quality, retailers should also prioritize ease-of-use.
“When considering products to sell, it’s very important to pet parents that products are made in the U.S. with trusted ingredients that are recommended by veterinarians,” she says. “They also demand products that are easy-to-use because a product will only have a good chance of helping if it’s not complicated and doesn’t require too much time to use.”
Capitalizing On Quality
Once retailers have ensured that they’re selling the very best cat healthcare products and supplements and are armed with the necessary knowledge to speak to the fact that their offerings meet pet parents’ standards, the focus can shift to how best to move them off of the shelves.
“One way to spotlight products for cats, especially for cat health, is to have them all in a cat aisle to make it easier for customers to find,” Jacobs suggests. “Cat owners like to know that the products they purchase for their cat are specifically for cat health and are safe. Also, separating the cat products can help increase sales. Cat aisle or cat-only displays along with educational material on cat health and safety is a good way to bring attention to cats and their parents.”
While in-store setup and promotion is important, the digital space can also be advantageous for brands and retailers when used strategically and consistently. Carella stresses the impact of social media and the opportunities it provides to gain traffic and create a conversation around products in this space. To actively drive sales, though, it takes more than just posting some photos on a bunch of accounts.
“Brands need to find a median that works best for them and be consistent,” she says. “If a brand knows that Facebook does well for them, then they should spend more time growing their audience on this platform. They can then transition to new sharing platforms once they’ve grown one efficiently. With that said, it must be authentic. People are seeing ads every day. To stand out as a brand, it’s important to create marketing content that truly connects on a deeper level. Brands that truly stand behind what they sell excel in the pet sector, even among veteran brands. In addition, do not be afraid to invest in ads and be in it for the long haul. Ads can generate traffic and sales conversions. Keep in mind, it may not happen the first time you run an ad campaign.”
Howland refers back to the appetite for education amongst pet owners. She finds that being able to back up any marketing technique with a foundation of “accurate and relevant information” is essential, and suggests that professionals in this category take advantage of trade shows to reach a large audience, and webinars both to provide information about their own products and use as a resource for themselves.
Carella and Jacobs agree that while increasing digital traffic and presence is important, it never hurts to keep things fun. Carella offers the example of social media live events with Q&As, giveaways, and seasonal themed events like a virtual cat costume party for Halloween to grab the attention of cat lovers everywhere. Jacobs suggests promotions such as family and pet friends events, photo contests and product giveaways. PB