Our Pets’ Beauty—Er, Grooming—Routines Are Mirroring Our Own
According to a 2021 ASPCA survey, 23 million households adopted a dog or a cat during the pandemic. In turn, U.S. sales of pet products have soared—the market jumped 9 percent from 2019 to 2020, and is now valued at $107 billion across all verticals, like food, grooming, and health services.
Although pet owners are spending more, they’ve grown increasingly picky about what they put in and on their fur babies. Over the years, human consumers have grown more conscious about what ingredients go into their own personal products, and this mindset is now driving a market for “pet wellness” with grooming at the forefront. From deep-cleansing charcoal doggy shampoos and plant-based conditioners to personalized hygiene kits and skin-supporting regimens, 2022 will unleash a swell of chemical-free, plant-based products that closely mirror human beauty and personal-care trends.
“Pet parents continue to find new ways to treat and care for their pets as they would a human family member or themselves, and clean grooming products help them support their pets’ overall health and wellness,” says Jennifer Kovacs, Petco’s vice president of merchandising for dog and cat supplies. “This emotional connection and investment in pet wellness, coupled with consumers’ keen eye for clean ingredients, has led many pet parents to extend the standards they have for their go-to products to items for their pets.”
“Pet parents continue to find new ways to treat and care for their pets as they would a human family member or themselves, and clean grooming products help them support their pets’ overall health and wellness." Jennifer Kovacs, Petco’s vice president of merchandising for dog and cat supplies
Kovacs confirms that, just like they did with their favorite wellness and beauty brands, customers are pushing for ingredient and sourcing transparency from their favorite pet-care brands. According to Kovacs, a 2020 survey of Petco Pals Rewards members revealed “nontoxic,” “cruelty-free,” and “gentle” as the top three attributes dog pet parents looked for when shopping for shampoos, conditioners, sprays, and wipes.
This demand is why Petco is pivoting in the grooming sector: In 2020, Petco launched signs across its Pet Care centers educating pet parents on ingredient transparency in grooming products. Per the brand’s Sustainability Report published in June 2021, Petco plans to expand this initiative throughout 2022 to allow for even more ingredient transparency. Other expansions into the wellness sphere include the opening of Reddy Soho, Petco’s pet lifestyle brick-and-mortar store that opened in late October. It’s a one-stop-shop for all things dog wellness and beauty, including a nutrition station where pet owners can pick up skin and coat supplements and a fitting station (including Polaroid setup) for dogs to model their new looks.
While major retailers like Petco are evolving to meet broad customer demands for transparency, direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are emerging and shifting to support more targeted needs: In March, human hair-care brand Ouai dropped its first doggy shampoo, Fur Bebe, which is gentle, vegan, and free of any harmful ingredients. Grooming brand Dr. Cuddles entered the DTC-pet scene this year with more niche products, like a dry shampoo, dental spray, and anti-shedding treats. And Austin-based Alpha Paw raised $8 million in Series A funding that will be used for breed-specific product expansion in the pet wellness space, including a subscription box that includes nutritional supplements for things like joint issues and dental-care items.
“Everybody wants the best for their pet. The lift in sales, specifically on the grooming side of things, is proof of that,” says Jenny Gilcrest, vice president of marketing at Skout’s Honor, a brand that specializes in probiotic-based pet care. Skout’s Honor started as an all-natural pet odor eliminator six years ago. Since then, the brand has expanded into pet grooming and wellness products, using probiotics at the core of its formulations.
“This next year, we’re focusing on our products with our probiotic technology at their core, because these are the products our retailers are seeing fly off shelves,” Gilcrest says. “Consumers want that—they’re looking for something natural, preventative, safe, plant-based—all that stuff.”
“Everybody wants the best for their pet. The lift in sales, specifically on the grooming side of things, is proof of that." Jenny Gilcrest, vice president of marketing at Skout’s Honor
Standout ingredients that tick all of those boxes Gilcrest mentions? CBD and hemp, which are having a moment in grooming just like they are in people-focused beauty and health. In August, musician Ziggy Marley (and founder of pet CBD product, Apawthecary) collaborated with pet wellness brand Happy Bond to launch a doggy shampoo, leave-in conditioner, and a fur refreshing spray that are all formulated using hemp protein (currently available for pre-order). CBD-infused topicals and ingestibles to soothe irritated skin and support shinier coats have emerged from companies like Green Gruff and Finn (both founded in 2020). And Paw CBD just expanded out of edibles and into grooming with two CBD-infused dog shampoos this past October.
“As far as clean grooming products—whether it’s [from] Petco or independent pet stores—it’s something [buyers] are looking for,” says Chelsea Gennings, vice president and co-founder of Pet Releaf, a leading provider of pet-based CBD products. “As far as the rest of 2021 and 2022, you’re going to see more products that focus on CBD and other supplements or ingredients that create a well-rounded regimen for your pet.”
In addition to luxury shampoos and plant-based conditioners, pet parents can now support their pet’s skin, coat, nails, and teeth with daily supplements. In March, Wellness Natural Pet Food introduced four new “Bowl Boosters,” or meal mix-ins, to its line of dog food, including a specific skin and coat health formula. Veterinary start-up Bond Vet launched its first shop of vet-approved pet products in June, including three different edible supplements, a paw balm, disinfecting fur wipes, and doggy dental wipes that remove plaque and tartar. And in October, personalized dog food brand Tailored Pet launched a line of age-specific treats for puppies and adult dogs that includes Omega-6, a fatty acid, for skin and coat support.
“Just like with humans, a lot of grooming starts from the inside out,” says Melissa Mitchner, founder and owner of pet care facility The Bark Shoppe in New York City. She explains that humans have had the tools to perform their daily wellness rituals for a long time—now it’s time our pets do, too. That’s why The Bark Shoppe launched its Daily Hygiene Kit this past April, which includes a skin and coat supplement, facial stain wipes, and a fluoride water additive. “We now look at pets from a social-emotional component with the joy [pets] bring us…and many owners are thinking of how can we give them a better life [in return?]” Mitchner says.
“I won’t say it’s going to be a trend,” says Mitchner. “[Pet wellness and grooming] is what people now expect. It’s what people want.”
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Photo Credit: Stocksy/Haley Lan