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The Puppy Connection


Welcoming a new puppy is an exciting event for pet parents. And with the holidays approaching, many grocery customers will likely be adding a furry new member to the family.

Whether they’re preparing for a holiday homecoming or for a new pet’s arrival any time of year, these customers will need puppy-appropriate products once a brand-new dog scampers onto the scene.

The Importance of Puppy-appropriate Inventory

Veterinarians and pet product companies alike stress the importance of understanding a puppy’s highly specific needs before selecting food, treats and toys.

“Puppies are growing rapidly, building bone and muscle, and developing organs,” WebMD Pet explains. “Your puppy needs extra nutrients to fuel his growth.”

That means retailers should make sure the food products they carry contain labels that clearly state the life stage for which the food is suited. “Puppies should be eating food labeled for growth or for all life stages,” WebMD Pet suggests.

Examples of puppy food include Iams Naturistics Puppy Food and Purina Beneful Healthy Puppy Dog Food, both of which contain calcium for healthy bone growth, DHA to nurture brain and eye development, and protein for strong, lean muscles.

Choosing treats and toys that are the right size for a puppy is another important consideration, since their jaws are growing, their teeth are still coming in, and they’re in the process of being trained, industry experts say.

“Puppies have 28 baby teeth that erupt through the gums, sometimes causing pain,” notes Marya Myszczynski, spokeswoman for The Kong Co., a Golden, Colo.-based manufacturer of pet treats and toys that also offers a “Puppy Handbook” with tips on caring for a new pet.

Products such as Iams Proactive Health Puppy Biscuits and Kong’s Stuff’N Puppy Easy Treat and Stuff’N Puppy Snacks are examples of products that can help with teething and training.

“Chewing soft rubber helps to alleviate teething pain” says Myszczynski. “These toys help promote the entry of growing teeth while establishing healthy chewing habits.”

More than Food and Toys

Families bringing a puppy home will need more than food — they’ll have to get food and water bowls, grooming supplies, bedding, a collar and leash, an identification tag, a crate, a gate, and an odor neutralizer, WebMD Pet notes.

Secaucus, N.J.-based Hartz would add cleanup spray and wipes, nail clippers, dog pads, and flea and tick prevention products to that list.

Puppy-focused personal care and grooming items include Hartz UltraGuard Plus Flea & Tick Collar for Puppies, which kills and repels fleas and ticks, and Wahl’s Puppy Shampoo, formulated with cornflower and aloe to gently cleanse and protect a puppy’s delicate skin.

The Puppy Place’

Most grocery retailers carry pet products, and offer a limited selection of puppy food SKUs. That approach won’t create much buzz with shoppers who want to stock up for a new puppy, however.

Why not get creative by carving out at least a small section or a few shelves in the pet aisle as “The Puppy Place,” where customers can find an array of food, treats, toys and other must-have supplies for their new family member?

Merchandising within that section could include:

  • A New Puppy Basket. This could be a prepackaged basket filled with puppy food, treats, a chew toy, a leash and grooming supplies, or a “build-your-own” version that would offer shoppers a selection of puppy products from which to choose.
  • A New Puppy Checklist featuring essential items for families with new puppies. The list could be posted in-store, displayed as a card that shoppers could take home and/or featured on a retailer’s website.
  • A Puppy Care Tip Sheet — possibly created in conjunction with a local vet — that includes information on how to care for a young pet.

The more puppy products on offer, and the more creative the approach to merchandising and marketing them, the more likely it is that a grocery retailer will become the go-to stop not only for puppy items, but also for products that customers will need as their pets mature.

Families bringing a puppy home will need more than food.

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