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Cat litter: educating consumers and offering value-based products can help drive sales in the cat litter category, notes Howard London, director of sales and marketing for World's Best Cat Litter.

What would you consider to be some of the top trends when it comes to the cat litter category? Where is innovation and growth in the category coming from?

Howard London: Natural and alternative cat litters have seen the most dramatic growth over the past few years as cat owners are discovering the benefits of using premium products. Consumers are trending away from traditional clay and chemical cat litters and looking for safer, healthier alternatives.

The cat litter market is also seeing a shift in consumer priorities. Consumers today are less concerned about the actual cost of a bag of cat litter and more concerned with the value of the product. Consumers will pay a little extra if it means they can change the cat litter less often, will have less mess and can use products that they feel are safer for their pets.

Sounds like cat litter consumers are fairly diverse. What is it they are looking for?

Cat litter consumers want to have the information that they need to make an educated, informed choice. The cat litter buyer, like many of today's consumers, is looking for the product that will solve their problem(s), and make litter tray maintenance a more enjoyable experience. Often this includes looking for a safe, natural product that absorbs odors, clumps easily, is flushable and biodegradable, is dust free, and performs well in automatic litter boxes.

What types of cat litter products are popular right now?

Natural cat litters, particularly com-based litters, are experiencing enormous growth. Corn's microporous structure provides a large surface area to absorb moisture and trap ammonia and urine odors, providing natural odor control that is more effective than chemicals or perfumes.

Corn-based cat litters clump better, stay in the litter box, are dust free, and are flushable and sanitary. Additionally, cats, their owners and veterinarians prefer corn-based cat litters.

With that in mind, what type of merchandising and promotion strategies work with this category within retail?

Demonstrations, POP displays, coupons and customer reward programs are the best ways to achieve success in the cat litter category.

Shipper displays are also excellent tools for increasing sales because they create awareness for the cat litter and help to sell the product. You can usually obtain shipper displays and point-of-sale materials from your distributor or the manufacturer's customer support line. Most premium litter manufacturers will offer them free of charge, often with discounted pricing.

What is the best way for retailers to compete in the cat litter category and build sales?

Supermarkets need a diverse product mix that takes into account the growing consumer preference for natural cat litters. Consumers of natural cat litters are very brand loyal, and if your supermarket does not offer their product of choice, they will go elsewhere to find it.

Demonstrations conducted by in-store staff or the manufacturer are great ways to show the effectiveness of a cat litter, helping the consumer to make an educated decision about their purchase. Demonstrations also provide retailers with the opportunity to hand out brochures, customer reward applications and coupons. A nearby display and an ample supply of the product on the shelves is key to capitalizing on demonstrations.

Retailers are also finding that placing premium natural cat litters alongside traditional cat litters leads to greater profits. Customers are curious about natural litters and will ask questions about them, leading to increased sales in the premium cat litter category.
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Title Annotation:2005 NONFOODS HANDBOOK
Publication:Grocery Headquarters
Article Type:Advertisement
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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