U.S. veterinarians took in more than one-third of the estimated half-billion dollars that pet owners spent in 2014 on nutritional supplements for their cats, dogs, birds, small animals and reptiles.
The market research group Packaged Facts, in its new report “Pet Supplements in the U.S., 5th Edition,” forecasts a domestic market of $697 million in 2019, a rise of 29 percent from $541 million last year.
The increase, however, will be constrained because of growing sales of functional treats and “the tendency for veterinarians to prescribe medications with clinical evidence supporting their efficacy,” Packaged Facts noted.
For which conditions are pet owners most likely to buy supplements? Joint health tops the list, followed by heart health, skin and coat, and digestive or hairball issues. Joint health was the most popular category among dog owners, while cat owners often looked for probiotics or senior formulas.
About 45 percent of supplements were sold in pet specialty stores in 2014 and 35 percent—or $191 million—in the veterinary channel. The remainder was purchased online, at health and natural food stores, and at mass market retailers such as Walmart and Target.
Supplement manufacturer Nutramax Laboratories of Lancaster, S.C., struck a gold mine when Walmart agreed to stock the company’s Cosequin brand of joint supplements, Packaged Facts reported.
“Nutramax has stolen the show in the [mass market] channel since its entrance into the Walmart chain and now encompasses just under half of all supplement sales in the channel,” according to the report.
“The company alone had almost $14 million in joint health pet supplement sales in the channel in 2014, comprising almost 70 percent of sales in the category.”
Few supplements sold in veterinary offices are found in other settings.
“The veterinary channel is … quite consolidated, and there remains a strong separation between companies selling in retail channels,” the report stated. “While some companies such as Vetoquinol and Virbac do sell on both sides of the market, they also typically have different brands for each channel, and there is little crossover of a veterinary brand also being sold in retail channels and vice versa.”
Among other highlights in the report:
- Weight-management supplements make up less than 1 percent of sales. “The key for pet supplement marketers is to get pet owners to care about weight management for their pet as they would their own,” Packaged Facts advised.
- Budget-conscious pet owners tend to favor private-label supplements, which comprised 20 percent of the market in 2014. Names include PetSmart’s 21st Century Pet and Petco’s self-branded line.
- Top-selling brands in pet stores include Nutri-Vet, Pet-Tabs, American Animal Health and Veterinarian’s Best.
- The human health and nutrition chain GNC does brisk business with sales of GNC-branded pet supplements at its stores and through PetSmart. “The fact that GNC, one of the most widely known supplement names in the human world, has become so popular … speaks to the comfort in consumers’ mind of using a well-known human supplement for their pets as well as themselves,” Packaged Facts stated.
- Market tendencies in human supplements quickly move to the pet side. “Major rising trends include natural and organic supplements, weight loss and managing obesity, and a growing awareness of supplements for helping aging and age-related illnesses and cognitive decline,” the Rockville, Md., company noted. In fact, natural and organic pet supplements jumped from a 6 percent market share in 2008 to 11 percent in 2014.
- Curcumin, an active ingredient in the spice turmeric, and coconut oil will likely find their way into more pet supplements.
- Pet owners who buy supplements from veterinarians remain loyal. “A bright spot for vets who do sell supplements is that pet owners stick with the vitamin and supplement prescriptions given to them by their vet rather than shopping around for over-the-counter alternatives,” according to Packaged Facts.