Pet owners today want to ensure their animals receive the proper nutrients they need to lead a happy and healthy life. For many, a complete nutrition plan not only includes diet, but also supplements, and industry insiders reported increased sales of natural pet supplements.
At Premier Pet Supply, a retailer with 13 locations in metro Detroit, owner Steve Shamou has observed significant growth in the natural pet supplements category in the past five years.
“The supplement aisle used to be quite simple,” Shamou said. “Now it has evolved, and we have found the need to carry multiple brands within a segment to meet the demand of our customers. Pet owners are much more proactive and educated about what they need or what they should be adding to their pets’ diet.”
Market trends are driving pet owners to become more conscientious of their pets’ health and diet, insiders noted.
“Last year, the average amount of money spent on vitamins for dogs was $87 and $47 for cats, while the same amount was spent on treats,” said Dr. Adam Cherry, CEO of Delray Beach, Fla.-based The Fit Organization, which manufactures the Pet Eyez brand. “Looking at the trends with food and kibble, many manufacturers are adding vitamins to the food because they know demand is increasing.”
The Fit Organization’s Pet Eyez Vitamin Treats are freeze-dried treats that work to eliminate tear stains and provide the necessary nutrients to maintain healthy eyes and vision, according to Cherry, who has worked as an eye doctor for 30-plus years. The products “are known to stop tear stains in as little as 30 days or less,” and are marketed as “canine vision defense” and “feline vision defense” supplements, he added.
Improving health outcomes through exercise as well as eating whole foods combined with supplements has become increasingly important for people and their pets over the past few decades, said Eb Mills, owner of Moonlight Natural Pet Store in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“People view their pets as an integral family member,” Mills said. “More pet owners are turning to supplements to aid remedies than in the past. The trend skews heavily towards reactive approaches aimed at mitigating health conditions like arthritis and anxiety, as opposed to proactive supplementation to try to prevent diseases.”
The pet health and wellness category has also developed a strong online presence in the past few years, which has led to better-educated pet owners, according to Shamou. Online blogs and social media platforms allow owners to explore pet supplement options beyond their vet’s recommendations, he noted.
“There are many new pet supplements with health benefits that have not been available to consumers in the past,” Shamou said. “Supplement products or remedies to common ailments that get talked about online can become popular because pet parents can see results from posts and pictures.”
Increased medical procedures, research and diagnosis of pet diseases have also translated into a positive approach to pet health care and natural supplements, Mills noted.
Addressing Common Ailments
Dog and cat owners may shop differently for supplements, depending on a pet’s individual ailment or need, insiders noted.
“We see pet owners looking to solve issues such as upset stomach, joint pain and anxiety,” Mills said. “As dogs can be a bit indiscriminate in eating items when let out to play, there is a tendency for dog owners to search for upset stomach supplements [more] than [owners of housebound cats]. There are supplements that remedy separation anxiety, which is an issue rarely seen in cats, as they are solitary animals, unlike dogs.”
Both cat and dog owners seek out supplements to mitigate joint pain. Joint supplements are especially important for pets that lead a more active lifestyle, said Janis Gianforte-Horner, president of Manalapan, N.J.-based Nutri-Pet Research, which manufactures Nupro Supplements.
Joint supplements are a necessity for dogs that participate in vigorous activities such as jogging, biking, and canine sports and competitions, Gianforte-Horner noted. She recommends the Nupro Joint Support All Natural Dog Supplement for active dogs, senior dogs, large-breed dogs and dogs that compete in intense activities.
“It is so important for pet owners to put their animal on a joint product and be proactive,” Gianforte-Horner said. “They cannot wait to start joint supplements when the pet is seven- or eight-years-old, because damage will already be done. Much like an active person who plays a lot of sports and heavily exercises, pets need proactive measures to prevent inflammation and damage down the road.”
Cat owners must also be proactive in finding supplements, especially when key nutrients are lacking from their pets’ diets, she added.
“It is a shame because cats tend to not show disease until they are much older,” Gianforte-Horner said. “If cat owners are feeding low-nutrient food and kibble and no supplements, then cats may show signs of sickness earlier. Cats may get diabetes or other common diseases that follow poor feeding habits and nutrition.”
Nupro Supplements contain health-food-quality ingredients that support a strong immune system, according to the company. They can be given to pets raw and include live enzymes and amino acids that complement a pet’s natural feeding routine. Nupro Joint Support is formulated with glucosamine and other components recommended for animals with joint conditions. The supplements are also offered as a gravy, which can be mixed with water to add as a topper or treat.
Like humans, dogs and cats can also suffer from dry eyes and cataracts, both of which cost thousands of dollars to remedy, Cherry said. The nutrients in Pet Eyez have proven to slow the formation of cataracts and provide ocular hydration, thus addressing or preventing a common condition called keratitis sicca, or dry eye syndrome, according to Cherry.
Pet Eyez launched its dog product in August 2022 and, at press time, planned to release its cat product in November.
“Essentially, the nutrients are the same with difference in the daily dosage and, because some cats are finicky, it may require breaking up and putting on top of food,” Cherry said.
Poor skin health, heart disease and digestive issues are unfortunately common in pets, but adding essential nutrient-dense add-ins, such as Yummers, can be crucial in preventing and combating health conditions, said Rebecca Frechette, co-founder of Yummers, a Del Mar, Calif.-based premium pet food and supplement manufacturer.
Yummers currently offers toppers that are meal mix-ins designed to enhance existing food with delicious, healthy ingredients, according to Frechette. The company’s line of mix-ins includes gourmet freeze-dried single-ingredient proteins and tender morsel options, along with functional toppers to calm pets and support digestion and skin and coat, joint, and heart health. The company’s most popular supplements for dogs and cats are the Skin & Coat Functional Mix-Ins and the Digestive Functional Mix-Ins, Frechette reported.
“Since dogs and cats are two different animals, they tend to have different health needs,” Frechette said. “Dogs tend to suffer with poor immune systems and skin and coat health, which is why we’ve created our Skin & Coat Mix-In and Digestive Mix-In for dogs. And cats tend to suffer more from sleep apnea, so calming products like our Calming Mix-In would work well to help with their irregular sleep patterns.”
Educating Retail Staff
Keeping Associates Informed
Pet owners are more focused on their pets’ nutrition, and while many are armed with more information than ever before thanks to the internet, many still need guidance when they walk into a store looking for supplements. An educated retail staff can ensure they get exactly what they need.
Premier Pet Supply, a retailer with 13 locations in metro Detroit, educates staff in a variety of ways, said owner Steve Shamou.
“First, we go into our aisles and compare what we stock,” he said. “We utilize online trainings provided by manufacturers and have an amazing company trainer on staff who helps with supplement training tremendously.”
Premier Pet Supply also incorporates training during staff bonding activities.
“A variety of supplements are also included in scavenger hunts at in-store parties to help staff become more familiarized with brands and benefits,” Shamou said.
Eb Mills, owner of Moonlight Natural Pet Store in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, recommended that retailers research supplement products before stocking them on store shelves. By researching different viewpoints, staff can discuss pros and cons of supplements so that customers can make an informed decision, he said.
“We use multiple holistic vet websites to learn about supplements and compare them to traditional medical websites,” Mills said. “This allows us to research ingredients to make sure we have a complete picture. As supplements do not go through the rigor of a [U.S. Food & Drug Administration] FDA approval, it is ensuring that you trust the company and manufacturing facility that produces the product.”
Manufacturer-provided education can help retailers fill in the gaps, industry insiders noted, especially when it comes to niche products. Eye supplements, for example, are a niche market, and most people do not know these types of products exist, said Dr. Adam Cherry, CEO of Delray Beach, Fla.-based The Fit Organization, which manufactures the Pet Eyez brand.
“Our team works with staff and provides training videos, in-store training, point-of-purchase print materials and promotional materials for giveaway,” Cherry said. “Educating the first line is critical in building a solid foundation for our brands and awareness.”
Kelly Hilzendager, owner of Treat Play Love, a retailer in Grand Forks, N.D., carries one brand per supplement category to reduce the number of options and make the shopping experience easier for pet owners. She also encourages her staff to try the products.
“Typically, customers ask us what we use on our pets and trust our recommendation,” Hilzendager said. “We try our best to educate customers on the benefits of supplements, but many pet owners are not as proactive as much as they should be.”