By Kathy Hosler
Pets have long been considered part of the family, but now more than ever, owners are actually treating pets more like they are people—a trend called ‘humanization’. So it follows that as more and more people are turning to all-natural and organic products for themselves, they want the same for their beloved pets.
There are over 300 million pets in the United States, and all of them have grooming needs. Whether owners bring their pets to you to be groomed or they buy the products and do the grooming themselves, demand for all–natural products is rising. All–natural shampoos, styling products, treats, nutritional supplements, and foods are flooding the pet care industry. If you are not already carrying and using them, it’s time for you to look into this market.
“Trends are always changing, but natural products are here to stay,” says James Brandly, Marketing coordinator of Tropiclean Pet Products. “What started out as a trend quickly turned into a standard in the industry.”
Just what does it mean when a product is labeled all–natural, and what is the difference between all–natural and organic?
“Generally speaking, all–natural means that a product doesn’t contain synthetic additives of any kind and that all the ingredients are as close as possible to their natural state,” says Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals US Division.
“Natural products are often assumed to contain minimally processed formulas or ingredients and do not contain anything artificial,” says Steven Shweky, President and CEO of Fetch for Pets. “In the United States, however, neither the FDA nor the USDA has rules or regulations for products labeled natural.”
“Organic is the most heavily regulated claim in the USDA and FDA.” Mr. Shweky continues. “Only organic guarantees no toxic synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals or plants. Organic producers and processors are also subject to rigorous announced —and unannounced—certification inspections by third–party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a controlled manner.”
As consumers are becoming more educated about the products they use, many decide that ‘basic is better’. If they see ingredients such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Hexylene Glycol, Miranol, Panthenol, Cocamidopropyl Betanine, and Methylchloroisothiazolinone on the label, they may reject it. Even if they have no idea what any of these ingredients are or what they do, pet owners are very apprehensive of using products that contain ingredients they cannot identify on their little babies.
“Pet parents want to be able to pick up a bottle, turn it around and understand every ingredient in that bottle,” says Mr. Brandly. “Simple and common ingredients provide confidence in recognition and communicate a sense of transparency that we’re all looking for as today’s consumer. They want to know that what they’re using is safe and effective for them and their pets.”
“When they are shopping for all–natural shampoos or conditioners for their pets, owners want products created from ingredients that are as pure, unadulterated, and as ‘close to nature’ as possible,” shares Mr. Cobb. “Many are seeking hypoallergenic products in hopes of solving problems like soothing their pet’s itchy skin. They are extremely wary of mystery ingredients with chemical names.”
The skin is the largest organ of the body. Products that are applied to its surface can be absorbed and can produce positive or negative results. We groomers see pets with skin concerns every day. Whether they suffer from allergies, hot spots, flea bite dermatitis, or any number of skin issues—their owners want your help to resolve these problems. If you think an all–natural product would be best, explain to them how it could benefit their pet. And if that product is more expensive to use because of the high–quality ingredients in it, tell them that too.
The demand for all–natural products is ever growing, but are there any concerns about using them?
“One of the drawbacks is that many people don’t initially understand how they work,” Mr. Shweky says. “Because natural products don’t contain the chemicals that are found in most shampoos, consumers don’t realize that things like separation may happen or that the shampoo won’t have a lot of suds when you use it.”
Some pet care professionals are hesitant to try all–natural grooming products because they worry that they won’t perform as well as the products they are using now.
“I’d contend that if all–natural shampoos and conditioners are properly formulated, they work better than their conventional counterparts,” Mr. Cobb says. “Many grooming products are loaded with chemical surfactants and detergents that can be harsh on sensitive skin, trigger allergies, or leave coats limp and dry.”
Are all–natural products really more expensive to use? When groomers buy products such as shampoo, the purchase price is not the primary thing that you need to consider. What you really need to determine is the cost per application. That is the true expense of any product you use. The cost per application can help you decide if you should be charging more for that product or service.
“I wouldn’t categorize all–natural products costing more, but rather put the cost towards the solution,” says Mr. Brandly. “You’ll probably pay more for a product that calls out a solution you’re looking for. For example, your pet is suffering from allergies and is itching to the point of bodily harm, then you’ll most likely pay whatever the cost to find a product that will address the need of your pet.”
As pet parents continue to want products and services for their pets that are comparable to what they use themselves, all–natural products can become a very important part of your grooming business and your retail sales.
“We are living in a truly enlightened age,” shares Mr. Cobb. “I believe that all–natural grooming products will continue to be enthusiastically embraced by groomers and pet lovers in the coming years.” ✂