Supplements Are In Demand

Inside Sales

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How can your veterinary customers benefit from the increased interest in supplements?

Marketing studies and consumer surveys from the past few years vary a bit in their numbers. Still, they all show similar results: about 75% of Americans regularly take supplements, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic when numbers took a huge jump. With the spotlight on disease and prevention, pet supplements followed the human trend and shot up 21% in 2020 alone to $800 million, according to Packaged Facts data. They expect sales to exceed $1 billion by 2025. Since supplements are readily available in stores and online, how can your veterinary customers benefit from the boon of these products?

People obviously purchase supplements for themselves and their pets to improve health and well-being. Still, many aren’t aware of the risks and safety issues that can be associated with their use, or they equate “natural” with “safe.” Over half the respondents to a recent Harris Poll mistakenly believed that supplements available for purchase have been declared safe and effective by the FDA. In fact, the agency doesn’t regulate supplements for people or pets. Often, they may not be identified as dangerous until adverse effects are reported. Just as people should check with their healthcare provider before taking a supplement, pet owners should consult their veterinarian before giving them to their animals.


With the humanization of pets helping to drive growth in the supplement market, consumers may opt to look for the ingredients they know and use themselves or head to the internet for pet care advice. With the lack of regulatory control, there’s no guarantee of ingredient content, product strength, or effectiveness, and often little to no information about the manufacturer’s integrity. It’s important for veterinarians to help their clients separate the helpful from the hype by recommending proven products from trusted manufacturers.

Changing mindsets

It’s been my experience as both a pet owner and in veterinary sales, that clinics typically carry a few supplements, but don’t regularly explain or recommend them. I’ve initiated the conversation several times for my pets, or had a doctor briefly mention trying a supplement but then not follow through and ask if I’d like to take a bottle with me. It’s as if they assume I’ll just buy it online, even though they have the product on the shelf. Helping your customers change that mindset can mean better-informed pet owners and increased profits for the practice.

Pet supplement sales have historically been driven by joint health and skin and coat products, but the most significant jump in the past two years has come from products for digestive health like prebiotics, probiotics, and antioxidants, behavioral issues like anti-anxiety and calming supplements, and products to provide immune support. Sales of pet CBD products in 2020 were triple 2019 sales at nearly $100 million. This mirrors what people have been doing to reduce stress and boost immunity. Consumers tend to associate certain ingredients with particular benefits, but still need advice from their veterinarian on whether those ingredients will deliver benefits to their pet and meet their expectations.

Familiarize yourself with the variety of supplements you carry, backed by proven research from trusted manufacturers for conversations with your customers. Check their purchase history. Are they regularly ordering the types of supplements that have seen significant growth in the past couple of years? Like nearly everything we buy these days, supplement sales have seen a major shift to online purchasing. The perfect opportunity is for clinics to offer and promote those products in their online store, with the same convenience of auto-delivery offered by the big e-retailers.

Your customers can use social media, their website, and in-clinic materials to educate pet owners about the supplements they offer and recommend. They might consider adding supplements to targeted wellness plans or packages, particularly for pets with chronic or senior health issues.

Reviewing purchase histories

Senior dogs and cats represent 44% of the pet population. Does your customer’s purchase history include supplements that support preventive care for older animals? This list might include:

  • Digestive support. Older pets or animals with chronic conditions may develop digestive issues. The numerous formulations of probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzymes help maintain the correct balance of good and bad bacteria and promote healthy digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Weight control. Data shows that over half of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for many of the same health problems associated with older pets, like cardiac and respiratory disease, diabetes, inflammatory disease, and degenerative joint issues. Weight loss supplements can have significant health benefits for less active senior pets or those with mobility issues.
  • Behavioral support. Older pets may exhibit behavioral changes resulting from cognitive dysfunction, which is much like Alzheimer’s disease in humans. While it’s impossible to completely reverse this condition’s clinical signs, supplements containing S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), antioxidants, mitochondrial cofactors, or omega-3 fatty acids can significantly improve the quality of life.
  • Mobility supplements. Eighty percent of dogs 8 years or older show signs of arthritis. Ensure you’re familiar with the items that contain active ingredients to maintain joint health, including glucosamine hydrochloride, omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin sulfate, or cannabidiol (CBD).
  • CBD supplements. CBD sales have exploded in the past few years for both people and pets for the treatment of chronic pain, seizures, and anxiety, with dozens of companies joining the market. With many of them looking to make a quick profit, it’s crucial for pet owners to get advice from their vets about products backed by trials and testing. Mars Petcare recently released the results of a study that found that a long-term once-daily dose of CBD is “well tolerated” in healthy dogs.

 

Currently, less than one-third of cat owners give supplements to their pets. A lack of knowledge regarding feline supplementation provides vets with an excellent opportunity to educate their clients and improve their feline patients’ well-being.

Pet supplements are obviously in high demand and will continue to grow. While they provide significant benefits, they can also have side effects just like pharmaceuticals, so it’s important for veterinarians to be the trusted source of information for pet owners. Helping clinics capitalize on this opportunity can enhance pets’ well-being and increase profits for your customers.

 

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Chalabala

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