By: Dr. Emily Dae Andersen, DVM, CVA, CVFT
External economic factors pressure both practices and clients. As veterinary practitioners, we are told to always present the owners with options for their pet’s health care, but often we pre-judge what they can afford to do as well as their interest in the choices we present. This has created an inequality in what the owner expects vs. what we as veterinarians expect. One way to bridge this gap is to focus on preventive care and maximizing health options by recommending quality supplements. This allows veterinarians and support staff to educate clients about the long-term benefits to all parties: pets, clients, and practices.
There are many years of data proving consistent growth in the supplement market as well as client preference for utilizing supplements. This is backed up by the growth in the animal supplement market. The global pet supplements market size was valued at USD 1.77 billion in 2021 and is predicted to reach USD 2.98 billion by 2030, increasing at a CAGR of 5.94% from 2022 to 2030 (“Pet Supplements Market Growth” 2022).
In an internal 2016 study, we found that 90% of clients preferred to use supplements vs. medication.
There are a number of things driving the growth of the supplement market. Pets are aging and clients are looking for ways to ensure that their pet has the highest quality of life possible. Clients themselves are having success using supplements and that interest is transferred to optimizing their pet’s health. And, people are looking for non-prescription ways to support their pets both physically and mentally. Clients will often seek supplements in stores or online without their veterinarian’s input, not because they don’t want our knowledge, but because we don’t discuss it — and they then have to rely on the teenager at PetSmart for advice.
Getting ahead of this market direction benefits the practice, as well. Here are some general policies to follow to maximize influence and revenue and support pet health.
- Veterinary-Exclusive Products: Choose products available only to the veterinary channel. This decreases the purchase of unknown-quality supplements from unknown sources. Some supplements, like generic omega 3 fatty acids, are a commodity and readily available from outlets that practices cannot compete with on price.
- Inventory Management: Most trusted supplements are available from your veterinary distributors. This allows “just in time” ordering so that unsold product doesn’t linger on the shelf, taking up valuable space. Enhance turnover by keeping only the most-used supplements on hand, but also, do not hesitate to offer something that can be delivered quickly.
- Training Staff: Technicians, receptionists and staff on the benefits of supplements. Clients may share problems with your staff that they don’t consider to be “important enough” to bring to the attention of the veterinarian. Early intervention with supplements that can be knowledgeably endorsed by your staff is a win-win situation. These products do not require a prescription, but are best suggested by a veterinary professional who has done their research. If you aren’t comfortable with this, you may not be optimizing the full abilities of your staff. They appreciate having input into solving problems for both the clients as well as the pets.
- Home Delivery: Alternatively, set up initial and/or recurrent shipments with the hospital’s home delivery pharmacy. This allows you to “prescribe” what you recommend and allows the infrastructure of the home-delivery pharmacy to pursue the sale. It has been shown that since people may have a predetermined spending limit for the in-hospital transaction, splitting the transaction into two parts — physical inventory and hospital pharmacy — is perceived to be less costly overall while keeping the sales in-house.
- Retail Offering: Display supplements in your retail area and coordinate with therapeutic diets, if possible. Many clinics have retail areas for self-service by clients. This can be a wonderful place to display and offer quality supplements to your clients. I often recommend matching the supplement with a therapeutic diet area, if appropriate. For example, if you have a place for GI therapeutic diets like Purina EN or Hill’s I/D, including a display of Fast Balance GI Pro, GI Balance Pro®, and Entero Health Pro will offer your pet owners additional choices to help support their pet’s health. Expand your offering for joint care, renal care, and skin support, as well. This encourages the multimodal management of specific issues that your clients may not be aware is available to them. It will also stimulate a conversation that will show you are interested in helping your clients make the best choices for their pets.
- Regulatory Approval: Educate staff and clients about regulatory bodies like the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). This regulatory body ensures — via testing, inspections and protocols — that what it says on the bottle is actually in the bottle. There is a lot of confusion about whether supplements are valuable, due to lack of general regulation. The NASC seal is a quick way to ensure quality.
Your clients are looking at these products and consider them to be an opportunity for early intervention or prevention of many health concerns. The demand is there, do you have a strategy for fulfilling this need?