October Pet Insight

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Pet Insight October 2020

2020 Fastest Growing Pet Chains

Taking a closer look at how retailers’ informed decision-making and sustainable business practices have positioned them for year over year growth Inside Special Report: Fastest Growing Pet Chains Market Focus: Pacific Northwest Special Report: Mud Bay Retailer Viewpoint: Dog Toys Retailer Viewpoint: Live Foods

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Category Analysis: Training Treats Category Analysis: Supplements Category Analysis Premium Foods Q&A Interview: Chantal Saelen, Moderna

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HAPPENING NOW Fastest Growing Pet Chains

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or select pet specialty retailers this year has been an exercise in practicing grace under pressure. With Covid-19 causing disruptions across each region in the pet industry, pet retailers were challenged to adapt and pivot in the face of the unknown and for many, the tumult turned into an opportunity for select retailers to shine. Companies that had already positioned themselves with a strong e-commerce presence in place faced fewer obstacles than competitors who didn’t already offer pet owners the capability to shop online and have products delivered or picked up curbside. Retailers who focused on being dependable and supportive of pet parents by providing uninterrupted supply of products and keeping up with the surge in online shopping and deliveries thrived. Distracted companies that perceived change as an encroachment to how things have always been done, versus an opportunity to compete and thrive, have had a less empowering experience. Amidst the distractions and chaos, action-oriented retailers continued to open stores despite delays out of their control. These retailers prove that controlling response to, is more important than the obstacles that come up.

Store counts and year-end growth

Ren’s Pets will end 2020 with 32 stores with the most recent opening scheduled for October. “With new store openings, we typically don’t open late in the calendar year because of seasonality and weather but Covid-19 has pushed us a little bit this year,” said President Scott Arsenault. “We had planned to open seven stores pre-Covid-19— two got pushed because of Covid-19. Through August and September, we just finished opening three stores in 27 days which is a great accomplishment given Covid-19 impact. Through Covid-19, it has been definitely a real contraction of timelines but all partners including construction and the many product brands have worked so hard to help us accomplish this. Right now, we are headed up to Sudbury which is a good market in Northern Canada to open our final store in 2020.” Arsenault credits Ren’s Pets’ growth

to its loyal customer base. “That might be cliché, but we do have Ren’s Reward Program that’s very robust,” he said. “Eighty percent of our customers are Ren’s Rewards members, and we were really fortunate that they stayed loyal to us through this pandemic. It also helps that during the last four years the company has opened 22 stores many of which are still growing. “ Additionally, during Covid-19, Ren’s Pets pivoted its central distribution to 24/7 shifts to accommodate increased online demand and thousands of e-commerce orders. “The online business has been terrific. It was a combination—we already had a good base of customers, online picked up and Ren’s was poised really well for this new demand with our e-commerce platform. We re-platformed two years ago to Work Area which gives customers an overall great shopping experience including auto ship/subscription. One of the differentiators for Ren’s; our guarantee is order by 2 p.m., ship same day, which is direct from our warehouse so we can control the customer experience.” Professional products have played a key role as well because “We are the No. 1 provider of grooming products in Canada,” Arsenault said. “We’re kind of the PetEdge of Canada in the sense with grooming products. We have more than 6,000 professional groomers that buy from us, it’s a really healthy business that during Covid-19 also saw a significant increase in consumer purchases.” He continued, “Within the online environment we are not franchised and are corporately owned so there is no conflict with serving the customer. We truly embrace the omni-experience. We have the capabilities to be makers of our own destiny whether we want to sell at that store or online. Omnichannel is something Ren’s has been doing for several years. It’s not new to us, we were happy that we were fully prepared with a new platform to handle the rapidly changing business during Covid-19.” Pet Supplies Plus has 504 stores and projects ending the calendar year with 520. “Our franchise model with great systems, support and buying power

combined with a local owner experience has proven to be a winning combination,” explained CEO Chris Rowland. “We’re growing with new franchisees coming into the system, as well as existing owners opening new stores. We’re seeing growth both in store and online, through our pickup in store and same day delivery options” Woof Gang Bakery is currently operating 123 store locations and expects to open and operate 130 by Dec. 31, 2020. “This year and looking to 2021, our growth is attributed to our current franchise owners,” Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming CEO Paul Allen summarized. “Approximately 80 percent of our new stores, this year and in 2021, are additional locations opened by existing franchise owners. Our franchise owners realize the benefits of operating multiple Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming locations. Because our business model is built on service and being ‘Your neighborhood pet store,’ our stores are successful because we offer professional pet grooming and a personal customer experience, unique to individuals and their communities, that cannot be duplicated online.” Hollywood Feed began the year operating 104 stores with plans to open two more, rounding out the total store count to 106 by the end of 2020. “Our diligent focus is on maintaining as much normalcy for the customer as possible,” said Shawn McGhee, President of Hollywood Feed, LLC. “We have seen an accelerated shift to omni-commerce, both curbside and same-day delivery. But holding true to our values of always doing what’s right for our customers is what has given us the greatest growth.” Mud Bay kicked off 2020 with 53 stores and will have 60 total by the end of 2020. “Muddies, the employee owners of Mud Bay, have been the heroes of 2020,” said Al Puntillo, Chief Merchandising Officer of Mud Bay. “At our stores, our distribution center, and our home office Muddies have shown grace under pressure, incredible flexibility and have managed to stay focused on the needs of our customers and their pets through r Cont'd on Pg. 4

Pet Insight (ISSN 2164-9294), a monthly magazine, is published by Executive Insight Properties. Subscription rates $75 per year in the US, $100 Canada, all other countries $150. © 2020 Pet Insight. All rights reserved. No item or portion may be reproduced without written permission from the Publisher. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Pet Insight, P.O. Box 2067, Issaquah, WA 98027. PG 2 / PE T I N S I G H T



Fastest Growing Pet Chains r From Pg. 2 ground up,” Ng said. “Our website is a building relationships with pet parents pivoting point of information that is not and fostering loyalty to individual store this crazy time.” Pet Lovers Centre (PLC), headquar- standalone. It links information from locations for necessary services and tered in Malaysia, is currently at 142 lo- our corporate headquarters and all methods to care for their pets. Specific cations in five countries. Digitalization our stores so that we continue to build categories tend to stand out from the rest. For some retailers, conhas been one of the key contribsumables, either for reptile utors to PLC’s growth since the or furry pets, in particular, is company began digitalizing nearwhat draws heavy foot trafly 20 years ago in 2003. “At PLC fic to stores. Pet owners are we have been very fortunate,” making weekly trips, either said CEO and Executive Director through curbside delivery or David Whye Tye Ng. “Throughordering online, and are exout the years the benefits of pecting a consistent supply digitalization for us have been from retailers. more than just good processes and good visibility for the busiSuppliers Actively Conness. Digitalization has allowed tributing to Store Growth the majority of our office staff to “One of our favorite queswork from home and yet achieve tions from our retail parta level of productivity and businers is ‘Can you make someness continuity that is needed thing like this?’” said Green during these Covid-19 times.” Coast Pet President, COO and “A related contributor has been Co-Founder Mike Bateman. the early adoption of e-com“Our partners know to come merce,” he said. “We started to us if they see a gap in the e-commerce back in late 2003 market or a way a certain early 2004. Today, we underproduct can be improved. We stand home delivery and online have been getting this quesshopping much more than sometion quite a bit as stores beone new to this business. Even as gin to emerge from Covid-19. early as 2004 we knew we had to It has led to us creating some link product information at our very exciting and fun prodWoof Gang Bakery & Grooming expects to end 2020 with 130 store ucts that you will be seeing retail front to our website. The locations. / Photos courtesy of Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming launch on the market here more we integrated, the more effectively we could propagate data very soon. So what we are across all stores and the web. Since we our own Omnichannel O2O experience, seeing a lot of is stores that are growing have so many products, we had to work fulfilling the needs of our customers. are looking for things that are new and on a single point of entry to informa- When customers shop at PLC, they are different. Our independent partners tion so that we could have productivity. supposed to have the same wonderful have always been looking for things that During the early days, there were no experience both online and offline.” are not in Petco or PetSmart, but in ad“I would say that our branding and dition to that they are now wanting to solutions and we had to come up with early e-commerce adaptation had be launch partners in new products and our own.” “Those were the early days of om- buffered us from the perils of store they know to ask Green Coast Pet how ni-channel retail,” he continued. “The closures,” he added. “While many pet to make it happen with new items.” term ‘omni’ was not even known at that stores had their sales come to a comBrick and mortar pet specialty retailtime. I coined the term ‘Clicks to Bricks’ plete halt when lockdown occurred, we ers can provide services and a memoraand spoke about it for many years at were blessed to be able to see sales di- ble experience which can’t be replicated international pet conferences. Today verted to our website.” online, some suppliers point out. “The More recently, retailers have noticed reason customers return to indepentechnological advancements on e-commerce have come a long way. We no category growth was driven by a series dent retail stores time and again is for longer need to develop systems by our- of factors. With more people spending product education and a level of service selves. In April 2018 we launched our time at home due to shelter in place they can’t experience online,” said Lara fourth generation improvements to the orders and working from home, there Bernhardt, Director of Consumer MarPLC website with a commercial engine was a rise in pet adoptions as a result keting for H&C Animal Health. “Our reof people using their extra time at home tail partners continue to offer the same to power our website.” “While many companies use website putting it to good use to socialize and level of excellent service, while also builders, we had decided to use specific train a new pet. For other retailers, expanding their offerings to include r Cont'd on Pg. 6 engines and build our website from the in-store services played a key role in PG 4 / PE T I N S I G H T



Fastest Growing Pet Chains r From Pg. 4 things like ‘Buy Online Pick Up In-Store’ and delivery options.” “We have a strong relationship with neighborhood pet (NHP),” said Molly Mulcahy, VP of Brand Marketing for Stella & Chewy’s. “We have built this business together, they have a lot of confidence in our products and as a result, we get strong placement and solid product recommendations.” One of the many ways Earth Animal’s retailer partners have contributed to their store growth this year is through exemplary customer service. “That’s a Business 101 thing, and it’s not always fun, it’s not always easy, but customers like going to stores where customer service is key and where they feel that relationship and connection,” said Brett Zingle, Head of North American Sales. “When I think of really strong stores during the last six to 12 months, they’re the ones that remember the customer’s name, remember the dog’s name, remember what food they feed or what treats their dog likes, walk out from behind the counter and shake their hand and say ‘hi’ and pet the dog as they come in. Those are the types of environments that made it so people weren’t willing to buy food at the grocery store instead of pet specialty, even though it might have been slightly more convenient.”

Growth-driving categories

At Ren’s Pets, the mission is, “We’re here for your pets’ best life,” and it’s a combination of passionate associates and the products they stock that helps to deliver this. “We’ve always had premium products but that doesn’t have to mean you are paying more,” Arsenault said. “Kibble has continued to perform great. We’ve expanded some of the best brands in kibble, and it’s really helped us with our overall growth and making sure we’re carrying the right diets for your pet. Raw pet food has been massive, we’ve been putting walk-in freezers into all of our new stores, 16 to 20 doors, and more than half of the company has walk-ins. Raw and freeze-dried combined has seen enormous growth but kibble is still a leader. Making sure we’re evolving the diets that we’re carrying and having what the pet parents want to give their pets their best life. We don’t want to approach anything PG 6 / PE T I N S I G H T

to make money. Instead we consider: Does it fit the brand? Is it right for the pet parents and the pet? That’s how we approach business.” Retailers like Pet Supplies Plus have seen an uptick in store traffic thanks to the rise in households adopting pets during Covid-19. One upside of shelter in place orders meant people had more time, which they decided to spend on training and bonding with the newest member of their families. “We’ve experienced growth across the board with Covid-19 and neighbors adding more pets to their homes,” said Rowland. “We expect those new additions to the family will drive incremental sales and traffic for years to come.” The biggest opportunity for growth at Woof Gang Bakery is its in-store grooming services. So much so, Allen predicts Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming will groom more than 1 million dogs in 2021. “Our focus now is groomer relations and groomer development,” he said. “As an organization, we wholly respect and appreciate our groomers, and cultivate opportunities for them to develop and prosper in their careers.” At Hollywood Feed locations, food is the predominate growth driver. “Food being the largest category, it is always going to present the greatest opportunity,” McGhee said. Having to adapt this year to pet owners shopping from home and curbside, Mud Bay associates uncovered opportunities. Where many retailers resisted change and perceived online as an encroachment, Mud Bay evolved and provided uninterrupted service to new and loyal consumers when they couldn’t visit Mud Bay locations. “The growth of our e-commerce business and the expansion of local Mud Bay store based delivery are big opportunities for us to serve new customers and provide more flexible buying options for current customers,” Puntillo said. PLC continues to see a rising trend in pet ownership. “Such a rising trend creates a knock-on effect where the demand for pet food, accessories and pet care services are also rising correspondingly,” Ng said. “This is not happening just to a specific type of pet but across all pets types from dogs to hamsters. The knock-on effect of such

a trend would be the rising demand for pet food and accessories and pet care services. Our online arm will continue to play an important role in our online offerings. Our customers will also find us on Lazada. We are currently working with Shopee. We want to be even closer to all our customers online and offline.” PLC’s company website serves as its corporate online store and a one-stop shop for of its products and services. “We will continue to build a close community focusing on every aspect of pet care,” Ng said. “Building a website is more than just putting products on a platform to sell. There is so much going on that is beyond the scope of this interview. I envision our website to be the de facto website for all of Asia! Our customers will no longer see us simply as an online presence. PLC will be a household name for everything pets. We should be a pet supplies store near you wherever you may be in Asia. Today’s consumers want to be able to get their daily necessities as conveniently as possible and as fast as possible. Pet owners are no exception. They want their pets’ daily essentials to be highly accessible. Omni is about being everywhere, i.e., being totally accessible. Our website information is integrated with our stores and warehouses. Which means if, for example, our customer wants to know if a particular product they are looking for is available for sale, not only will they be able to know in real time, but also which of our stores is carrying it, or if our warehouse is carrying it for that matter, so that they can head to the store that is most convenient for them, or even call our delivery hotline, or place an online order, depending on what suits them best.”

Driving in-store foot traffic and repeat purchases

The live foods category continues to drive steady foot traffic to brick and mortar pet retailers because unlike canned and dry foods, reptile and amphibian pet owners obviously can’t stock up on live foods. With the current tumult impacting the pet industry, live foods suppliers are trying to keep up with demand to offer uninterrupted service. Although, these suppliers wish people realized that amping up supply r Cont'd on Pg. 8



Fastest Growing Pet Chains r From Pg. 6 it keeps those customers coming back & Chewy’s said. “Once animals and pet of live foods isn’t resolved by adding and buying CBD. Additionally, Green parents experience the positive differshifts and manufacturing more product. Coast Pet has one of, if not the most, ag- ence they are customers for life. The “There isn’t enough supply because gressive Astro Loyalty programs in the best driver of repeat purchase is a diet that performs very well, that is it’s not a factory—it’s a farm and the role of premium pet food.” all these things have to grow,” “Stores have found Earth said Timberline Live Foods’ Andy Animals’ natural, herbal remePettit. “Reptiles sales are through dies line to be a great tool bethe roof. Our specialty categocause it requires a bit of conry has been keeping pet stores versation with consumers and afloat during the pandemic. I’ve that’s another way of allowing been on several calls with the big the store to offer an enhanced boys and the little guys, and evlevel of customer service,” Zinerybody says, ‘If you’re a cat food, gle said. “If I go in and my dog cat litter, dog food or treat suphas itchy skin, being able to go plier, you should hope customers somewhere where they underown bearded dragons because stand that, they ask about it, they’re driving all the traffic to they appreciate it, and they ofthe stores.’” fer a targeted solution to cure “The supply issues are almost it, you certainly can’t replicate a result of the demand,” Pettit it online and you can’t replicate continued. “The demand is so it at big box stores. We’ve seen high that any misstep creates a really strong category growth, little miss and then a little miss especially with our stores that turns into added pressure the have fallen into that natural next week. Demand has just got world to begin with. Right now everybody so maxed out on their they’re really seeing those cusbandwidth on what they’re able tomers embracing that. It’s very to do. Every single one of us can difficult to replicate that in any scale. We can scale, it just takes other sales channel for sure.” us time. With a farm, us reptile people, we can’t just add a third Pet Lovers Centre currently operates 142 store locations across five Helping Retailers ID Top countries. / Photos courtesy of Pet Lovers Centre Issues shift. You’ve got the same number of eggs, and you have to wait for “With CBD products now on them to grow. You can’t add another as- space by offering each store’s customer shelf at places like Petco and PetSmart, sembly line to make mealworm eggs, as a Buy 5, Get 1 Free offer on any of our stores once thought they had great an example. You have what you have un- CBD oils. This keeps customers invested partners they could grow with and now til you change what you start with, and in not only the store, but the brand. And they are beginning to realize that may it takes time to get what you need. It’s most importantly, we offer an incredi- not be the case,” said Green Coast Pet’s not as easy as, we’ll just get some raw bly effective product. If it doesn’t work, Bateman. “Stores we partner with are materials and add a second shift and ad- people don’t buy it again. So we must facing the same issues they have in the make sure efficacy is at the top of our past, now there’s just more on the line. ditional assembly lines.” “The CBD category is incredibly im- list with any product we make.” People are shopping online much more “When pet parents are looking for an and in big box much more. Green Coast portant in driving repeat business to stores, especially partners with Green over-the-counter solution for their pet, Pet is helping navigate that with our Coast Pet,” Bateman said. “Green Coast they tend to turn to pet specialty stores,” promise that Green Coast Pet will nevPet’s philosophy is to offer amazing Bernhardt of H&C Animal Health said. er be in big box or mass and also peoproducts at fair market prices and not “Because independent retailers are se- ple shopping in independent pet stores to jack the prices through the roof just lective with the supplements they car- now really want to support small busibecause it says ‘for dogs’ on the label. ry on-shelf, the salesperson can help ness and support local business.” Just by offering a product that com- direct them to the solution that’s right The top issue H&C Animal Health’s repetitive price point for CBD is a great for their pet and educate them on how tail partners face is bringing traffic into offering instead of someone buying a to pick the right supplement. As for re- their stores. “From a Covid-19 standproduct once, noticing it’s the same peat purchases, once a pet parent finds point, each state differs in terms of rething they can buy down the street at a a brand that works well for their pet, strictions and all shoppers have varying CBD store or online for humans. By hav- they’re likely to stay loyal to that brand.” comfort levels with shopping in-store,” “Premium pet food works, it allows Bernhardt said. “To help support our reing products in stock that are priced in r Cont'd on Pg. 10 line with those other human products, animals to thrive,” Mulcahy with Stella PG 8 / PE T I N S I G H T



Fastest Growing Pet Chains r From Pg. 8 tail partners, H&C continues to launch new products that drive customers to stores for trial, such as Catwater and Dental Doubles by dailydose. We also use our advertising dollars to support in-store shopping as a call-to-action and we create and share assets that our retail partners can use online and in their social media accounts as they continue to find alternative ways to communicate with their customers.” “The pandemic has certainly created challenges in the marketplace, with people staying home has impacted store traffic, but neighborhood pet has demonstrated how resilient the channel has become as well the great value they add for pet parents in service, experience and education,” Mulcahy said. “We offer a red door retailer program that offers exclusive marketing and sales programs to help drive traffic and sales for NHP. Additionally, we provide online retailer training to educate NHP to keep them informed and knowledgeable on our latest products. Our support is working and NHP is bouncing back and our brand continues to grow at impressive rates!” “A lot of the conversations I’ve had with accounts is your customers are your customers, they’re not brick and mortar customers,” Earth Animal’s Zingle said. “At the end of the day, the corner pet store down the street from my house, the customers that went there, went there because of the store. Stores that have positioned themselves to embrace these different types of communication and buying experiences that those customers want, those customers don’t want to go to Amazon or Petco. com. If they did, they would have three or four years ago. Instead, they want to keep supporting that local store. Stores that have given them a convenient and easy way to shop with them, no matter how they want that shopping experience to be, have moved beyond obstacles and are actually excelling because of that.”

Top goals and priorities for 2021

Looking towards 2021, Arsenault said Ren’s Pets plans to continue upholding its mission to allow for pets to live their best life, and one way of achieving this is by keeping the compaPG 1 0 / PE T I N S I G H T

ny’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) at 70+, an achievement which is something the retailer is proud of. “NPS is really

log of new deals and independent pet store conversions in the pipeline. In addition, we have made and will continue to make major strides with our online offering, including both delivery and subscription services.” “As a franchise-driven business, the success of our franchise owners and continuing to build the Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming brand is paramount in 2021,” Allen said. “Looking ahead, our growth strategy will include development as a multi-service concept to include grooming, wellness clinics and dog walking services.” McGhee with Hollywood Feed expects Covid-19 will linger with safety precautions and health and safety concerns continuing to be top of mind for the pet industry well into 2021. “Covid-19 will continue to require a heightened focus on sanitation and safety,” he said. “Keeping all our employees and customers protected while continuPet Supplies Plus will end the year 2020 with 520 store ing to operate as normal as locations. / Photos courtesy of Pet Supplies Plus possible will continue to be our highest priority.” a truth question,” he said. “If anyone is “2021 will be a very special year,” looking at your business, they tradition- Ng with PLC said. “I would like to say ally want to look at your bottom line, we are cautiously optimistic at best; but if they ask for your NPS, they would things are more likely to remain status probably get a better indication of how quo like now in Singapore. During such you are performing. You can’t have Covid-19 times, our top goals are to foa low NPS and do really well. A good cus on creating excitement both online score in retail is 40 and we’re in the 70s. and offline. We will continue to focus on That’s Starbucks-like. That’s our goal digital process enhancements such that is to keep that level of service, and it’s we can be slimmer and faster in prepabeen hard through Covid-19 because ration for the upturn to come. While there’s new challenges. We had a sale retrenchments seem to be prevalent recently and had to limit people into the in the coming months to come, we will store and customers can become frus- continue to keep our people and train trated because they want to shop like our people and improve our processes. they used to but we have to adhere to While I don’t know when Covid-19 will new legislation and safety. We kept that pass, I am certain that this is a transient score throughout Covid-19, we’ve got a phase. We will get through this like any lot of positive feedback on our cleaning other crisis and be stronger and faststations, closing early, wiping down, er. Our team is prepared for the many Plexiglass and directional arrows.” challengers that will come our way. The Rowland with Pet Supplies Plus antic- storm will pass. We hope to be ready for ipates seeing “rapid store growth over the sunny days to come.” the next few years, as we have a back-



Market Focus Pacific Northwest

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hroughout the years, the PacifSeattle Portland ic Northwest (PNW) has been Store Store Company Company known for its beautiful coastline, Count Count green interior, rainy weather and Mud Bay 35 20 stunning mountain ranges. The Petco landscape of the PNW has allowed PETCO 27 14 for ample opportunities for hu- Mud Bay man and animal bonding through Pet Pros 16 13 the pet-friendly hikes, outdoor ad- PetSmart ventures, off leash parks, restauAll The Best Pet Care 15 11 rants, hotels and more. The PNW Nature's Pet Market has become a hub for pet specialPetSmart 14 All Natural Pet Supply 3 ty retailers to thrive and grow through the various expansion The Soggy Doggy 4 Healthy Pets Northwest 3 opportunities presented within major cities and up and coming Nature's Pet Market / Lexidog 3 4 EarthWise Pet towns. Taking a closer look at Wash- Portland Pet Stores A Dog's Dream Natural Pet 3 2 Supply ington state, Seattle has become Fang!, Salty's & Three Paws a haven for the independent pet Critter Cabana 2 Lucky Dog Outfitters 2 retailer community. Pet retailers within Seattle have similar store The Filling Station Pet Supplies 2 Next To Nature 2 market shares to major pet stores. Seattle is the only top 25 market tomer service while empowering pet their pets. Since EarthWise Pet’s incepin the country with three local chains of owners. Pet Pros has been committed tion, the company strives to better the more than 20 stores: Mud Bay, Pet Pros to providing pet parents with knowl- lives of pets and their owners through and All The Best Pet Care. Portland, OR edge and advice on how to ensure pets the well-educated staff, exceptional cushas also become a major hub for pet are healthy, happy and live a long life. tomer service, all-natural products and specialty retailers throughout the years Recently, the retailer joined the Pet Sus- green business practices. After 40 years with many Mud Bay and EarthWise Pet tainability Coalition and Earth Animal’s of running a trustworthy pet specialty locations. Flex Forward program in an effort to en- retail business, the retailer has develMud Bay: Mud Bay has a growing courage pet parents to recycle their pet oped a unique and extraordinary pet supply brand within the PNW. footprint and expects to a total of 60 food and treat bags. To create a positive, lasting impresstores throughout Washington and OrAll The Best Pet Care: The first egon by the end of 2020. The company store was located on Lake City Way sion on pet parents in-store, “every cusstarted in Olympia, WA and has become in Seattle, and the retailer focused on tomer is greeted. Period. No exceptions,” one of the largest pet specialty retailers carrying health and specialty foods for said CEO & Chairman Michael Seitz. in the US. Mud Bay has 31 locations in pets. Later, their son Josh took a lead- “The second thing I would say is store Seattle holding 16.2 percent of the mar- ing role in the business alongside Deb tours. That’s something that I love is ket share. Mud Bay also has plans to Wilson, who has more than 20 years of when store owners do store tours. Your customers want to believe in the ownopen two new stores in Washington by experience in the pet industry. the end of the year with the exception Today, each location is a neighbor- ers. They want to believe in what you of a temporarily closed location and one hood gathering place where pets are represent. There’s no better way to do under construction for remodeling. celebrated, and consumers are intro- that than to give them a guided tour of Pet Pros: Pet Pros has 16 locations duced to a progressive nutritional phi- your store. Our stores are beautiful and in the greater Seattle area and these lo- losophy. There are 15 locations within as for the new stores, there’s nobody cations hold 8.3 percent of the market the greater Seattle area, which takes up that builds stores like we do. The third share in the area. Pet Pros was founded 7.8 percent of the Seattle market share. item is the expertise and knowledge of in Seattle in 1986. Since its inception, EarthWise Pet: EarthWise Pet cur- the staff. We have an extensive certified the retailer has grown from one store in rently has 11 locations in the greater pet dietitian program which takes 300+ North Seattle to 18 stores in Washing- Portland area, which holds 10.1 percent hours of training. From the customer’s ton, and it is one of the largest indepen- of the market share in Portland. The first impression, they can be confident dent pet supply retailers in the PNW. company is locally owned and provides you’re not spouting biased information. The retailer has continued to dedicate natural pet products, pet nutritionists Instead, they know you’re trained with its stores to deliver old-fashioned cus- and online ordering for consumers and valid nutritionist information.”

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Special Report Mud Bay

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ud Bay’s humble beginnings have turned this pet specialty retailer into a powerhouse for not only the Seattle marketplace but the Pacific Northwest marketplace as well. The company has continued to focus on providing consumers and their companion animals with high-quality food, treats, supplies and accessories to ensure animals are living happy and healthy lives. Mud Bay is known for its highly knowledgeable staff that is readily available to provide advice, education or a little extra help when it comes to individual pet needs. Since its inception, Mud Bay has remained dedicated to its customers’ unique needs and demands.

History

Mud Bay’s store fronts are a destination for solutions-based products for pet owners residing in the neighborhoods stores are located in.

Wulff’s son, Lars became Mud Bay’s third employee in 1989 to help bolster the business. Slowly the business became more family oriented when Wulff’s daughter, Marisa, joined the business as well in 1993. When the farms surrounding Mud Bay began giving way to housing developments, the Wulffs quickly realized it would become harder to excel while selling fertilizer and farm feed. Keeping this in mind, the retailer focused its efforts on researching canine and feline nutrition alongside looking for healthy, natural foods for dogs, cats and other animals as well. The change was a slower process, and the food and supply the retailer needed weren’t carried by local distributors. According to Mud Bay, the healthiest dog biscuits the retailer could find were made by a company on Long Island, so Mud Bay shipped them across the country. The retailer rented a local bagel bakery on Friday nights and used their oven to bake its own organic dog cookies. The company quickly recognized that giving Mud Bay is committed to addressing pets’ health and wellness people accurate information was just as important primarily through the pet’s diet. Stores offer a vast selection of premium foods and treats made with clean ingredients. as providing them with In 1988, Elsa Wulff bought a tiny farm store, which was housed in an 80-year-old building on Mud Bay Road running west out of Olympia, WA and spans the bottom end of Mud Bay, one of the southern arms of Puget Sound. In the beginning, Mud Bay sold a wide variety of items: locally grown oysters, Pop Tarts, folk art, hog feed, fertilizer, hay and more. According to the company, the store began to lose money, and

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healthy food options. During these early years, the staff created and distributed pamphlets for consumers to help them make informed decisions on pet nutrition. With the focus on education and dedication to supplying high-quality products, Mud Bay had become one of the pioneers of natural pet care and sales had quadrupled by 1999. According to the company, Mud Bay focused on using natural food and accurate information to contribute to the health of dogs, cats and the happiness of the people who care for them instead of trying to be a one stop shop for everything and everyone. In the summer of 2000, Seattle’s largest chain of small format pet stores became insolvent, and when Mud Bay learned that the stores were closing, the company saw the opportunity to save 60 jobs and eight neighborhood stores. Once acquired, the process of turning these stores into Mud Bay locations started with training the staff to be fully educated in dog and cat physiology, nutrition and the pet food industry. Within two years, Mud Bay became a profitable company of 85 people who were dedicated to contributing to the health and wellness of animals. As the years of growth went on, Mud Bay opened its grooming services in Olympia known as The Mud Room. The Mud Room specializes in dogs who have chronic skin and coat issues, dirty dogs, matted dogs and dogs who need special r Cont'd on Pg. 16



Special Report: Mud Bay r From Pg. 14 care when it comes to certain grooming services. The staff is trained to deal with dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages as well as how to care for dogs who might be uncomfortable with nail trims, baths and more.

Mud Bay’s Dedication

The company has been wellknown for maintaining its dedication to the overall well-being and quality of life for humans and their companion animals. The retailer has demonstrated this throughout the years through various resources and commitments. In 2003, Mud Bay opened its own distribution center to improve its Mud Bay has taken safety precautions to ensure associates’ and pet owners’ safety while shopping inability to source directly from the store. Services such as curbside and online ordering are available to consumers who prefer to take greater smallest and best manufacturers social distancing measures to protect their health. the company could find. In 2007, the animal welfare organization in Seattle Mud Bay opened a new store in Silvercompany tripled the size of its distribu- Humane’s new building in 2017. dale, WA, also in July, and hosted anothtion center in order to accommodate Mud Bay has also looked at ways to er pet food donation drive where they the many manufacturers the retailer transition its manufacturing of private matched the donations made to Kitsap buys from. label organic dog cookies to a manufac- Humane Society’s Pet Food Pantry. The company has invested in itself turer that can bake many more biscuits The retailer has plans to open more throughout the years to ensure its staff, than the company currently can. Mud locations by the end of year in Puyalcustomers, consumers and their pets Bay has consistently updated its prod- lup, WA and Seattle. Mud Bay has also are well taken care of with high-quali- uct lines such as adding fish oil and new been remodeling its Lacey, WA location ty food, products, advice and education. cat litter options to its SKUs. which is expected to reopen this fall. Mud Bay provides free food to thouCurrent Events Looking Ahead sands of dogs and cats adopted through Throughout the years, Mud Bay has Mud Bay has continued to look at Puget Sound animal shelters through continued to evolve and grow into a ways of expanding its private product the retailer’s partnership program. Mud retailer pet parents know and trust. In line and meeting its consumers’ needs. Bay has also donated tens of thousands recent years, Mud Bay has received in- Mud Bay focuses on measured growth of dollars to organizations that contribdustry accolades and since then, has and the company values the importance ute to the welfare of animals. continued to carefully consider new of growing steadily but not at the exIn 2013, Mud Bay opened its first ways of expanding to meet consumers’ pense of providing superior customer store in Oregon and southeast Washneeds. In May 2020, Mud Bay launched service and exceptional products. ington. The company also expanded its its free same-day curbside pickup with Looking forward at the company’s shelter program into these areas, and online ordering at all of its locations in goals going into 2021, “We are excited Mud Bay started to form a community light of the current climate as well as the to expand our focuses on environmenoutreach team. The outreach program booming demand for convenient online tal sustainability, diversity, equity, and allows Mud Bay to partner with differshopping and e-commerce in general. inclusion, as well as expanding our abilent animal welfare organizations, local Consumers can visit the retailer’s ities to provide pet owners with even schools and non-profits on projects to ShopLocal Portal to order food, treats, easier access to accurate usable inforlearn more about dogs and cats. toys, litter and other items that the re- mation both inside and outside of Mud Two years later, Mud Bay launched an tailer stocks. The retailer started its Bay stores,” said Al Puntillo, Chief Meremployee stock ownership program to delivery services in Washington’s Thur- chandising Officer for Mud Bay. give every Mud Bay employee a path toston County, but steadily expanded to Mud Bay has continued to open stores, ward owning a part of Mud Bay. In 2015, include cities such as Portland. renovate existing ones and invest in the the company also launched its VolunFurthermore, Mud Bay has steadily company. The retailer has helped to teer Award of Excellence, which honors opened new locations since its incep- feed thousands of pets adopted through people who volunteer at animal weltion, and most recently, opened a new local and regional shelters and continfare organizations with a cash reward. store in Lynnwood, WA. The store’s ued to financially support organizations Mud Bay also launched its first Mudlet, grand opening was coupled with a dedicated to animal welfare. which is a mini Mud Bay that benefits an PAWS Pet Food Drive in July. Similarly, PG 1 6 / PE T I N S I G H T



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Retailer Viewpoint Dog Toys

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et specialty retailers know materials and sourcing origins are the top factors pet owners consider when mulling over potential toys for their pets. Materials such as rope, rubber or plush make a difference to pet parents coupled with durability of these materials, to make sure their pets can enjoy their new toys without immediately destroying them. Made in the US toys are meaningful to pet owners who want quality products priced fairly. In fact, retailers regularly observe pet owners who decided durability and Made in the US consistently outweighed price because they were willing to pay extra for a product that would last while simultaneously being safe for their pet. Some retailers shared they merchandise toys they would give to their own pets and have even stocked products based off of consumers’ requests for specific brands. The popular toys on shelves tend to come from tried and true brands which have proven themselves in durability and safety. “As a retailer we try to offer many new and innovative choices for our customers and pets, but I will focus on a few reliable standouts that have been with us for more than 10 years,” said Melisse LeWeck of The Doggie Bag in Roseville, CA which carries toys ranging in size from mini to large, in styles including tough and plush, in functions such as puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys, in addition to toys that double as dental chews, those made with rubber and latex, toys without stuffing or squeakers, rope, water and Made in the US toys. “With so many great, quality toys on the market, I focus on finding brands that will differentiate us from other big box and online retailers and vendors that will partner with us to grow together,” said Joshua Galvez of Pet Food Express. “The toys come as a result of that partnership. As with all of our categories we do our best to have solution-based products to help make a better life for the pet and pet parent.” “I decide on quality of toy, is it available for the same price online or lower, do I have to compete with the manufacturer and extra points if the toy is USMade,” said Beth Staley, Owner of Happy Dog Barkery in Downers Grove, IL.

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Lisa Samar, Co-Owner of Daisy’s Doghouse in Buffalo, NY stocks toys that she would buy for her own dog—ones that are both attractive and will last a long time “and as much as possible that are Made in the US. I always have Fluff & Tuff, West Paw and Huggle Hounds in the store.” With an oversaturated category such as dog toys and so many enticing options for plush toys, Audree Berg-Farnsworth, Owner of Auggies Doggies Pet Supplies in Fort Lauderdale, FL, took a decisive approach to help her weed through options and streamline her product offering. “When I first opened my store, I made the decision to only purchase toys that were Made in the US,” Berg-Farnsworth said. “That decision had several ramifications. First, it immediately eliminated 95 percent of all the toys produced. This made my life far less complicated. Secondly, I needed to really seek out unique and small companies. Thirdly, we differentiated ourselves from other stores in that we only have Made in the US toys.” “When looking at new toys we are always on the lookout for new innovative ones that offer something outside the traditional chew and of course the cute factor comes into play,” said Felisha Yon, Owner of The Dog House, in Wayneville, NC. “The Go Dog Dragons and Tall Tail leather and wool toys have been a customer favorite for us during the last few years. As far as plush toys go the Go Dogs hold up the longest and are low stuffing so if they do tear, the mess isn’t as bad. Kong rubber toys are a must have, especially for teething puppies.” “The industry is going to look for more and more Made in the US toys as the year goes on,” Yon added. “Currently we carry lots of Made in the US nylon and rubber toys but have not been able to find any plush toys made here. This would be a great vacuum for a company to take advantage of.” LeWeck of The Doggie Bag said the retailer has strong ties with supplier partners Fluff & Tuff, GoughNuts and Multipet. These companies offer durable, Made in the US and whimsical products that resonate with pet parents who frequent The Doggie Bag. “We have

had a long relationship with Fluff & Tuff toys because of their great durability success with both large and small dogs,” she said. “A bonus with Fluff & Tuff is they offer toys with no squeakers and their collection is always expanding. Many customers return over and over to shop for their new toys to add to their own collection at home. Besides their incredible fabric softness, Fluff & Tuff cuteness factor is over the top.” “Another line we have carried for many years is the Multipet ‘Look Who’s Talking’ toys,” she said. “Customers get such a kick testing each toy, listening to the animal’s lifelike sounds, and usually purchasing two to three at a time. They are funny and cute and actually beloved by many of our customers.” “We like to carry a mixture of hard rubber toys, interactive toys and plush,” said Berg-Farnsworth of Auggies Doggies Pet Supplies. “Some of our favorite companies are West Paw, Cycle Dog, Katie’s Bumpers and Kong. We also like Planet Dog, however they’re inventory has been reduced and availability has been an issue. We also carry a really tiny toy line called Green Planet Pet Products. They use recycled tennis balls in their toys. It’s highly niche, but we find it very popular.” “Favorites at our store are West Paw and Fluff & Tuff as both are well made, are durable and very good sellers! Planet Dog is another good one, especially interactive toys like the Snoop,” said Jody Maddox, Owner of Wags! Dog Emporium, based in Eugene, OR. “Toys that perform best are interactive and treat dispensing toys.” Samar’s consumers at Daisy’s Doghouse look for something that will last and will value durability above price when they trust the quality of the product. “They will try new things and pay a little extra if they think it will last,” she said. “Also, they are always looking for different designs from their favorite manufacturers so they can buy another toy without guilt.’” “Pet parents are becoming better educated about the importance of enriching their pets’ lives so interactive types of toys will continue to evolve and expand,” said Maddox.


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Retailer Viewpoint Live Foods

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et specialty retailers are highly knowledgeable and educated about feeding reptile and amphibian pets the proper diet to ensure a comfortable quality of life and that these pets are well nourished. Many pet owners don’t realize while their intentions are good, determining the best live foods for their pet is not as simple or straightforward as it seems. With hundreds of types of live foods options and species-specific dietary needs, retailers are there to assist the savviest, well-intentioned consumers with how to properly feed their reptiles and amphibians to ensure their dietary and nutritional needs are met. Tracy Snyder, Owner of Carson’s Critters located in Brookings, OR, carries mice, rats, crickets, mealworms, waxworms, super worms and dubia roaches which are used to feed snakes, bearded dragons, geckos, chameleons, frogs, spiders, scorpions and some fish. “The majority of these animals respond better to live food, and some won’t eat dried or canned at all,” Snyder explained. “I do however offer dried mostly for aquatic turtles and as treats.” “We carry a wide variety of live foods for all common species of reptiles and amphibians,” said Josh Willard CEO of Josh’s Frogs, based in Owosso, MI. “Currently, we work with more than 20 different species of feeders, many of which are targeted as treats for people’s pets. We find that maintaining both staple feeders—crickets, mealworms, waxworms, super worms, fruit flies— and less common or hard to find treat insects—butterworms, hornworms, springtails, isopods, blue bottle fly spike—draws customers in and keeps them buying. It also allows us more options to offer customers if we do have shortages in supply.” Loren Leigh, Founder and Owner of LLL Reptile & Supply, in Oceanside, CA, cautioned determining which types of live foods to carry and which reptile and amphibian pets they are best suited for can be complex as there are thousands of types of reptiles, with most of them eating many types of insects of varying sizes. “We sell many different types of live food, more than 100 varying options,” Leigh said. “Everything from

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crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, calcium worms, roaches, fruit fly cultures, isopod cultures, spring tail culture, rice flour beetles to name just a few. And of these feeder types we sell many different sizes as well. There are all types of live pet foods and they are not specific to one animal type. Many can be used for all types of species of reptiles. The most commonly used feeder for lizards for example would be crickets, worms—all varieties—and roaches but this varies if it is an 8-inch lizard or a 4-foot lizard and with frogs and toads, fruit flies, isopods, smaller species of crickets and some worm types as well.” Equally important as deciding which live foods to stock in-store to ensure pet owners can feed their pets appropriate diets, is retailers are tasked with considering the quality, sourcing and sustainability of the live foods they select. Snyder of Carson’s Critters only sources live food from quality suppliers to ensure safety for her staff, pet parents and the reptile pets. “Feeder insects carry parasites that can be harmful to the reptiles so it is very important for me to have captive bred feeders,” she said. Josh’s Frogs is addressing quality and safety measures by doing the work themselves. The company is currently working on bringing mealworm and super worm production in-house, so associates have more complete control over quality and freshness for their customers. “We work with our suppliers to ensure insects are raised in a sustainable and green fashion when possible and are nutritious,” Willard of Josh’s Frogs said. “As we grow and our demand—both in quality and quantity—increases, we’re finding it best to bring production in-house. This began years ago with our fruit flies and has grown from there. You are what you eat, and we want to provide the best for our customers and their pets.” Matt Smallheer Co-Owner of The Tye-Dyed Iguana in Fairview Heights, IL agrees quality, sourcing and sustainability are important factors to weigh, in addition to forming partnerships with feeder distributors that are reliable and consistently deliver on their promises.

“Sourcing is the most important,” he said. “Some feeder distributors tend to drop the ball more often than not.” “The most popular food item for lizards is crickets followed by worms,” said Leigh. “We have seen a massive increase of people now feeding roach species to their lizards as well as they are learning the health benefits of these feeders and also trying more assorted food options for their animals. Also with the popularity of bioactive substrates and vivariums, isopods are more popular than ever along with spring tails.” Snyder of Carson’s Critters said availability and speed are the most significant impacts to live foods since Covid-19. “When the country shut down so did production of feeder insects and mice and rats,” she said. “Thankfully I did have a supply and was able to get them back in again before the animals were affected too much. The delivery is still delayed so there are times when I get a box of deceased crickets and worms, but the companies sending the feeders are taking extra precautions so it’s getting better.” Dawn Learn, Owner of Over the Bridge Pet Supplies in Hornell, NY has experienced similar challenges with ensuring pet owners have access to a consistent supply of live foods. “The hardest part of supplying this year has been availability,” she said. “We have found that insects have been in extremely short supply—mainly super worms and mealworms. Plus, the quality if they have come in has been lacking—therefore we would sooner be out of stock rather than sell substandard foods.” “In addition to stocking live foods, we make sure the lives of rodents are extremely well looked after—everyday bedding change, fresh food and water,” Learn added. “They are not overly caged or overly bred—we have rest periods between breeding. We make sure they have a good life even if they are food intended. Again, with the insects we make sure they have clean living quarters and are fed and cleaned daily. We do not breed these ourselves and have to rely on suppliers for the quantity we can use. We ship in weekly, so we have fresh supplies.”



Category Analysis Training Treats

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he increase in pet adoptions this year has only helped bolster the training treats category as owners are seeking ways to bond with and to instill good habits in their new pet companions with high quality and wholesome, but also tasty treats. While pet owners don’t typically visit a pet store—or an online store—with treats as their only objective, savvy retailers are adept at making sure treats wind up in their shopping carts, and treats suppliers are supporting these efforts with both flexibility and aplomb. “Fortunately, we’ve had a good strong second half and overall a strong year despite Covid-19,” said Ahdee Abramson, President of Pet ‘n Shape. “As a lot of people are aware of these days, Covid-19 has been good for the pet industry, given the amount, or record high of adoptions. People are home with their pets more. There are more dogs, more households with dogs, a lot of them being puppies, and puppies need training, and treats are a great way to train them.” The increased demand for treats also translates to more pet owners looking for alternative proteins, said Anne Carlson, CEO of Jiminy’s. “2020 has been a step change for us as we’re seeing pet owners continuing to look for something more for their pets,” she said. “Since Covid-19 has created a new group of pet owners, training is a big need so training treats are more relevant than ever. While overused proteins, like chicken, still rule the pet world, training treats for dogs with sensitive stomachs and allergies will continue to be a trend as alternative proteins give pet owners a healthy and natural choice.” But Jiminy’s isn’t just intended for dogs with sensitivities. “These are our regular treats yet the protein is just that good and different that it can grapple with a number of challenges,” Carlson said. “While no food is inherently hypoallergenic or completely allergy-proof, research published in the Journal of Animal Science found no allergic reactions or other adverse effects in adult dogs who were fed cricket meal in a longterm trial. We’re grounded in science and it’s one of the many reasons both

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trainers and vets are recommending Jiminy’s Training Treats.” The lifestyle changes that took place this year have been very positive for pets, said Jillian Smith, Director of Communications at Merrick Pet Care. “It’s also been wonderful to see the increase in pet adoptions and volunteers to foster pets in their home, which is not only emptying many shelters, but is also bringing new pet parents into the marketplace.” Merrick’s offerings in the category and in the overall treat category have done well this year, she said. “We are driving category growth by continuing to raise awareness for our training treats and focusing on product innovation—both from a development and a usage standpoint,” Smith said. “We’re promoting our offerings with the help of a national media campaign and brand ambassadors that share their experiences living life off leash with their dogs. To help bring excitement to the treat’s aisle, we are adding a beef recipe within our popular Zuke’s Mini Naturals lineup and are bringing back our fun seasonal treats, which are available in tree and pumpkin shapes for the upcoming holiday season.” Similarly, Wellness Natural Pet Food is focused on expanding its portfolio of offerings for both dogs and cats. “During the past few months, we’ve seen interest in our kitten and puppy treats rise as a result of increased pet adoptions and more family time spent at home,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, Director of Consumer Experience. “Our Wellness Kittles are natural crunchy cat treats packed with high-quality protein and natural forms of nutrition like cranberries, a rich source of antioxidants. These thoughtfully crafted treats go beyond serving as a healthy bite, they are just two calories per treat, allowing pet parents to treat multiple times throughout the day without worrying about weight gain. Plus, the texture and crunch of Kittles help clean cats’ teeth, another unique added benefit.” At this point in the year, it would be difficult to find a successful pet supplier that has not responded to the technologies that have allowed the consumer

shift to online shopping. “We were already pretty focused online, working with the different online channels,” said Abramson with Pet ‘n Shape. “Now it’s just how to manage it all effectively and make sure that it’s done right and managed appropriately and everything is communicated right. It’s been a very, very strong year for us. We just hope we’re well prepared for the fourth quarter to continue to take advantage of it.” Jiminy’s also reacted quickly to the new realities spurred on by Covid-19, said Carlson. “It’s been a strange time for us and all of our retail partners, and we quickly realized the need to pivot and offer help where we could. For example, we usually send an extra bag of treats for sampling in store, but since people weren’t going into stores, it was obvious that sharing product from a single bag of treats didn’t make sense. So, we instead sent out trial size bags for at home sampling. Our stores who participated were able to drop a sample into a curbside pickup bag.” Suppliers also weigh outreach options in this new shopping reality. “We know that our customers are looking to e-commerce options more than before to buy food for their pets, so we’re making efforts to ensure we capture a digital audience and educate them on the power of natural nutrition and specific benefits of our Wellness treats portfolio,” said Leary-Coutu. In the end, though, treats still tend to be an impulse buy, whether in-store or online, said Smith with Merrick. As more consumers opt to buy online and pick up at stores, “There’s an opportunity to work with our retail partners to keep treats top-of-mind with shoppers,” Smith said. “When online shoppers come to a retailer’s site, many of them already know what they are there to buy. However, this shouldn’t stop retailers from getting creative and making suggestions for treats or other products a pet parent can to add to their purchase. Some of our retail partners are expanding their treat offerings or putting a stronger focus on cross-promoting treats when a shopper is purchasing food for their pet.”



Category Analysis Supplements

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any supplements suppliers have adapted to the shift in consumer shopping to online from earlier this year and adjusted marketing efforts accordingly. Yet as the landscape continues to evolve and retailers are able to resume business—with limitations—these suppliers are working diligently to meet their partners and support them where they are to ensure everyone comes out of 2020 with something meaningful to show for their efforts in quite a challenging year. “Thanks to the great relationships we have with our distributors, the second half of the year is looking promising for us, as we’ve been able to keep the flow of products going to fulfill retailers’ needs, and stay in stock for consumers,” said W. F. Young Pet Brand Manager Marjorie Murray. “We’ve been working closely with manufacturers to make any adjustments needed due to ingredient availability and shipping challenges quickly to avoid any delays in production and distribution.” Derek Archambault, Director of Marketing at Pet FoodScience Corporation, makers of the VetriScience brand, credits VetriScience’s strong showing this year to its omnichannel approach to the marketplace. “As we have seen retail open up and find their way in the second half of the year, we are shifting more attention to supporting that channel, and moving back a few things that we had held off on.” Janis Gianforte, President of NUPRO, said though stores are opening again, things are different. “Before, you would have reps come out and hand out samples, talk about products. That’s not happening because the stores aren’t allowing the reps to come, so we’re not getting a lot of the exposure we were getting before, at these types of events that would happen all year long. But I think what’s happening is a lot of people are turning to online and other people are posting about how they’re keeping their animals healthy.” Without company reps on hand to assist customers, many retailers are still doing their best to drive sales and samples, and NUPRO is relying on old-fashioned word-of-mouth to support them,

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said Gianforte. “The owners and retailers, they are starting to get back into the swing of things, and they are calling and saying, ‘Thanks you’ve been there for so many years and you’ve supported us a lot. We know your company. We know you’re going to stand by us in these hard times. That’s why we’re calling you. We know you’re one of the businesses we can count on.’ A lot of the times they’ll say that because I’m always there to help them,” said Gianforte. “I push stores, rather than for people to go online.” Consumers have been eager to get back to in-store shopping, even with new safety guidelines, said Murray. “Finding the balance between digital and in-person services and providing exceptional customer service is what will help drive category growth—so we must be ready to support our retailers with whatever they need to make this happen,” she said. “With travel restrictions in place, our sales team has worked hard to stay in remote yet ‘close’ contact with our retail partners and continue to build strong relationships. They have participated alongside retailers in virtual trade shows, open houses, online education opportunities and have brainstormed creative customer promotions.” This dynamic, hybrid nature of pet industry sales this year isn’t new but events this year helped accelerate what was already happening, said Archambault with VetriScience. “It means that there are more touchpoints with retailers and more ways of partnering. Retailers need to keep the consumer at the center of their thinking and be transparent about what is working best for them in this new world.” Providing content and promoting websites, e-commerce and social media are some of the more direct ways W.F. Young has supported partners in the online environment. In stores, “We have developed new merchandising and POP options including counter displays for many of our products, and single samples of our Smartmouth Dental Chews that are available only to brick and mortar retailers,” Murray said. “Being a knowledgeable resource for customers,

both online and in-person, will be vitally important for continued growth.” Growth opportunities in pet supplements are also bolstered by the continued concern for pet health and wellness against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, which has also ushered in a notable increase in pet adoptions as people sheltered at home. Murray with W. F. Young, said, “The good news is that one of the primary benefits of nutritional supplements is to boost our pet’s immune systems.” This leaves plenty of room for innovation to complement all of these outreach efforts by suppliers. “We have a new line of senior-specific supplements called Golden Years that feature research-backed trademarked ingredients that address common health concerns that senior dogs face,” said Archambault with VetriScience. “We are also bringing new innovation to our Composure line of behavior supplements. We are also launching new educational resources for retailers and have had a year-long robust consumer marketing plan that drives millions of impressions to pet owners about the importance of supplements and what makes VetriScience special.” H&C Animals Health launched Catwater, the only mineral-free and pH-optimized water for cats, in several new distribution channels, said Director of Consumer Marketing Lara Bernhardt. Additionally, the company is releasing Dental Doubles by dailydose by yearend. “Dental Doubles is focused solely on dog dental care and features the signature dailydose honey bee royal jelly formulation to break down biofilm and biopolymer fibers to scrub away plaque and tartar,” she said. “Additionally, we have several exciting projects upcoming in 2021, so we are also busy planning and looking ahead.” Murray with W. F. Young summarizes the general sentiment: “The importance of maintaining health and heartiness through supplementation is resonating with pet parents more than ever as we all adapt to new normals of taking care of each other and being cognizant of the importance of vitamins, minerals and balanced nutrition.”



FIRST TAKE Premium Foods

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remium pet food suppliers and manufacturers have been able to cut through the din of disruptions this year to home in on pet owners’ continually evolving needs in caring for their pets, in the form of new and updated products along with better tailored educational opportunities. These brands value the relationships they’ve formed with retailer partners and are collaborating in innovative ways to support them through the rest of the year and beyond. “Brands are trying to figure out if the spike in pet food growth from Covid-19 will be a sustainable growth,” said Heather Govea, Chief Commercial Officer for Alphia. “And with pet parents spending more time at home, there is a stronger connection to pets that is driving differentiation.” Julie Wong, Marketing Specialist with Champion Petfoods, said the company continues to support its retail partners who are still feeling the impacts of Covid-19. “Specifically, many of the campaigns we’re running and plan to run through the end of the year are focused on supporting neighborhood pet shops,” Wong said. “The ACANA PupUp Video series, rotational feeding and Supporting Local campaigns are just a few ways we’ve focused our efforts.” In-person visits are harder to come by this year because of distancing regulations, but Katie McNulty, Marketing Coordinator with Midwestern Pet Foods, said those interruptions haven’t affected its planned product development and launches for the rest of the year. “As a family-owned company, we strive to be nimble and innovative regarding product development and meeting both retailer and consumer demand,” she said. “Not surprisingly, some key consumer trends we’re seeing are increased interest in pet food recipes that are pea-free and limited ingredient as well as recipes which include ancient grains and superfoods.” Because of these noted trends, the company’s Select Earthborn Holistic recipes are being refreshed to be pea, lentil and legume-free and will include the addition of superfoods such as pumpkin and sweet potato. “Crafted in

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family-owned US kitchens, Earthborn Holistic offers a wholesome approach to heart-healthy nutrition through safe, trusted ingredients,” McNulty said. “Available in grain-in and grain-free recipes to fit any dog or puppy’s needs. We plan to launch our Earthborn Holistic refreshed recipes beginning this fall.” Champion is looking to drive category growth with new and upgraded products too. “First, we launched new foods under both of our brands, including new ORIJEN Small Breed, a uniquely shaped food developed specially for small breed dogs; four new recipes in our ACANA Cat line, including foods crafted for kittens and indoor cats; and ACANA Wholesome Grains, a proteinrich and grain-inclusive diet for dogs,” Wong said. “We further enhanced our ACANA Singles Limited Ingredient Diets to include more meat and updated our existing ACANA Cat line for better nutrition and flavor.” Suppliers like Evanger’s are even stepping out from their traditional strengths in premium dog food. “We’ve always dealt with dog food for years and years and cat food somewhat got neglected, so now our focus is going to be on the cat food side,” said Evanger’s President Holly Sher. “There is a trend. We’re seeing more that people—because of Covid-19, and probably because they’re staying home—that their dog or cat has specific problems or specific needs. Cats need moisture. We’re seeing a lot more people buying canned food. I don’t know if it’s because of Covid-19. They’re more educated on moisture and the importance of it.” Understanding the evolving needs of pet owners in this way is only possible with regular input and feedback from retailer partners who have borne the brunt of the impact of Covid-19. Premium foods suppliers recognize that small independent retailers need as much support as possible to get back to business. Alphia is helping its partners ‘premiumize’ their product offerings both in store and online. “Super premium pet food used to only be about the label, but now it’s about the label and an engaging experience,” Govea said. “It has to go

beyond the limited task of putting food in a bowl and be able to evoke feelings of love and care for the pet. Previously, this engagement was limited to treats and luxury pet items.” Portland Pet Food Company continues to utilize social media in its efforts to encourage customers to shop locally. “This has always been our main source of connecting with customers but we have definitely focused on this channel as promotional events were canceled due to Covid-19,” said Kate McCarron, founder of Portland Pet Food Company. “We are working with our brick and mortar stores closely to support their marketing needs in this challenging environment since Covid-19. We are offering marketing displays, bundles, etc. to assist them with expanded offerings for their customer as well as promoting retailers online. We launched a new product during Covid-19 which has seen great success and provides a new item for our retailers. We are all facing challenges due to Covid-19 and supporting each other during this challenging time will strengthen our relationships.” Evanger’s is also chipping in with both on-the-ground and interactive support such as sample products for stores and education via Zoom meetings and podcasts. Sher said their partners have been appreciative. “They like talking to people who actually know what they’re talking about, and not a marketing firm, because there’s just so few of us making the food,” she said. “I think people realize they want to deal with Made in the US, they want to deal with the manufacturer because we don’t have the outages. When you can’t have a product for four months, you can’t make money. They want the manufacturer where there’s more guarantee of having the products.” Supply chain has also been a concern for Champion. “Our retailers are the foundation of our success; we care deeply for them and appreciate their leadership as channel preferences have shifted,” Wong said. “We’ve prioritized strengthening our supply chain to support a reliable inventory for retailers whose customers migrated online.”


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Interview: Chantal Saelen, Moderna “I have realized you cannot do things just by yourself—you need a good team with you and around you. So, those people who are motivated to come to work every day, also motivate me to keep doing the right things and make sure that they can remain a part of the Moderna family.” — Chantal Saelen

Chantal Saelen, Managing Director, Moderna

What encouraged you to join the pet industry?

Well, I have been in the pet industry since day one. This is a third-generation family company so I have always been part of the company since I was little. So, what encouraged me was it seemed to be a fun industry to be in, and it seemed to have a lot of potential, and that is basically what encouraged me to be part of it.

How is the overall pet industry compared today to when you first joined?

There have been a lot of mergers from different players in the market, which was not the case when I started 30 years ago. I have seen a lot more professionalism with pet retailers, which was also not the case 30 years ago. Today, everybody is trying to get organized, get that critical mass to be profitable. I would say those are the biggest differences—more professionalism and larger companies. The pet industry has always been a community. I don’t know for what reason, but if you start in this industry, you really have to seriously mess up to get out of it. When a person disappears in

one company, 99 percent of the time, they pop up in a different company but are still in the same industry—which I hear from friends that work in different industries, is totally not the case. So, there must be something addictive in the pet industry, and I think that is the fun part of it. Also, there is a lot of emotion involved in the pet industry. Our mission, which starts right when we get up in the morning, is to make the life of a pet better, reflects that emotion.

Which pet industry trends have caught your attention and how is Moderna Products addressing them?

We have picked up the trends from humanization. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years already, but back then we saw that was becoming a big thing with pets; moving from being outside to inside the house and really becoming a part of the family. So, we developed products that really fit into people’s homes, and are attractive enough to be part of that home interior. Moderna Products was founded in 1932 as a button manufacturer, so we have always been on the lookout for new trends, and also for colors and materials. When we shifted from the button manufacturing to the pet industry, that part of our DNA remained. For instance, your cat litter box doesn’t need to be ugly, clunky and/or a dull color. Why is it not a functional tool that is also nice to look at no matter if you keep

it in your garage or in your bathroom? It can be nice to look at, so that was a trend we picked up on and have been very successful with ever since.

How is the company setting itself apart from competitors within the industry?

We set ourselves apart from competitors by focusing on making the product, adding a touch of design to it, but our first priority is of course function. We know that it is much more than just product and price, there is also as a company, the service you give, the partnerships you have, the sense of exclusivity and the reliability. If a customer has an urgent need for something, we will do everything we can to help them. We focus very much on that extra service level and partnership because it is more than just product, price and a corporate relationship.

Who has been your biggest advocate and supporter?

That would be our team. We are a third-generation company, 100 percent family-owned. I am the third generation; I run this business with my husband, and I have realized you cannot do things by yourself—you need a good team with you and around you. So, those people who are motivated to come to work every day, also motivate me to keep doing the right things and make sure that they can remain a part of the Moderna family. They have been my biggest motivators and supporters.

P.O Box 2607 • Issaquah, WA 98027 • 425-497-0950 Vol. 9, No. 10 Publisher/Editorial Director Davis Johnson

djohnson@executiveinsightproperties.com

PG 3 0 / PE T I N S I G H T

Editor Katie Murdoch

kmurdoch@executiveinsightproperties.com

Circulation Director James Anderson

janderson@executiveinsightproperties.com



Save the date August 17-19, 2021

AUGUST 17–19 Education: August 16–19 Mandalay Bay | Las Vegas, NV

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