The exotic products industry has seen explosive growth, with live animal sales widely reported to be on the rise across the country. This strong demand for pets has pushed sales of reptile and amphibian food and diet products to new heights.
“We had a hard time keeping our cages fully stocked,” said Frank Zucker, sales associate for Arizona Reptile Center, a pet store in Mesa, Arizona. “We’ve just started flying through animals. We still have customers who want to buy animals. I think it has a lot to do with the stimulus checks. People just have money on hand that they don’t. don’t know what to do. As a result, we’ve certainly seen an increase in live food sales. “
Traditionally, consumers have not viewed reptiles and amphibians the same way as dogs and cats. Now these dominant attitudes are changing, as herpes is increasingly seen as a member of the family.
“Fifteen years ago, it was like pulling teeth trying to get someone to buy the right cage size and lighting,” said Sean Murphy, director of operations for Preuss Pets, a pet store in Lansing, Michigan. “Now people are more than willing to do it. They want to go above and beyond for their pets.… There is a big push for the welfare of pets, [to] create better living conditions and [to] extend the life of these animals. They are no longer disposable decorations. Herpes is part of the house.
This change has led herpes enthusiasts to consider the health of their pets, and nutrition is increasingly one of their main concerns, retailers reported.
“My customers are more concerned about nutrient profiles and health,” said Rick Bell, owner of Rick’s Fish & Pet Supply in Frederick, Maryland. “They are also focusing on offering variety. I have customers who only fed crickets, and now all they buy is dubia cockroaches. a list of what they want. Some ask [a certain number of] crickets in three different sizes of crickets, different types of worms, dubias and so on.
The variety of food offerings is becoming a major concern for customers, industry experts have reported.
“In the reptile community, people want more ways to engage with their beloved pets and provide them with fulfilling lives by adding variety to their diets,” said Miranda Huntley, specialist in regulation, Nutrition R&D division, for Zoo Med Laboratories, a manufacturer based in San. Luis Obispo, California “While it’s clear that variety is important, the quality of these options is just as important. Reptile keepers care about premium ingredients.
In line with trends in quality and variety, retailers are reporting that more and more customers are turning to dubia cockroaches, which are now the # 2 most popular live feed item.
“People certainly [have been coming] in and looking for dubia cockroaches quite frequently lately, ”said Jasmine Ervin, reptile manager for Pet Time, a pet store in Eugene, Ore. “It’s definitely increased. We definitely sell more dubias compared to crickets. We still sell the same number of crickets, but more and more customers are buying dubia cockroaches. “
Dubia cockroaches offer several benefits, but expense can be a barrier.
“The sales ratio is definitely in favor of the dubia cockroaches,” Zucker said. “People are starting to understand the idea of nutritional value and the differentiation between insects. People are finally realizing that there are a variety of options for their pets. … However, sales of dubia are not as high as with crickets, just because of the expense. Of course, sales are going to be lower than crickets, but we do sell a lot of dubias. “
Although the added cost of dubia cockroaches depresses their sales compared to crickets, customer attitudes and perception of value are changing.
“Dubia cockroaches sell out quickly,” said Kyle Hughes, sales manager of Prehistoric Pets, a pet store in Fountain Valley, Calif. “They are more expensive [than other live foods], but people are always quick to buy them. … There is a silver lining in the supply of dubia cockroaches. We can point out that they are easier to keep and that they last longer.
Many customers do not have a good understanding of the nutritional needs of their herptile pets, and some are reluctant to offer live feeders.
“Honestly, when most people order bugs, they don’t want to come in contact with those bugs at all,” Zucker said. “Most customers buy just enough to feed a portion, and they make sure they don’t even have to touch them. They can just throw them in.
Retailers can educate their customers on the nutritional benefits of live feeders and help them meet the dietary needs of their animals through variety and quality.
“Nutrition is such an important part of an animal’s health and well-being; it’s an increasingly important goal, ”said Huntley. “Providing a varied diet is more than just getting the necessary nutrients, but it can be used to enrich an animal’s mental well-being. Retailers must continue to educate themselves and their customers to help understand why variety in the diet is such an important part of our companions’ lives for nutritional and behavioral reasons.
Helping customers be successful ensures that they come back for more live foods and diet products in the future, and helps support the health of the pets they have purchased.
“I even printed care sheets and other documents to help notify customers when they make a purchase,” Ervin said. “I spend time telling people about the supplies they will need for their pet.
Diets prepared for herptiles still represent a lower percentage of sales compared to live feeders, but innovation and convenience are driving customers’ interest in these options.
In May, Zoo Med released two new flavors of its Crested Gecko Food, Plum and Blueberry Breeder.
“Both flavors are available in 2-ounce and 1-pound sachets,” said Miranda Huntley, regulatory specialist, R&D Nutrition, for Zoo Med Laboratories, a manufacturer based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “We’ve expanded our Crested Gecko Food line because it’s important to enrich the lives of our pets, and a great way to do that is to offer a variety of flavors.
The manufacturer’s Plum flavor has the same nutritional profile as its current Tropical and Watermelon Crested Gecko Food flavors, she added, but the Blueberry Breeder has a new formula with a higher proportion of black soldier fly larvae to increase the protein, fat and calcium levels.
These additional nutrients are formulated to give adult herpes additional support during reproduction and egg-laying, and to provide support to juveniles throughout their growth, Huntley said.
Other prepared offerings are popular, especially with certain types of reptiles, such as turtles.
“There is a new turtle dumpling from Tetra called Tetra Tortoise,” said Sean Murphy, director of operations for Preuss Pets, a pet store in Lansing, Michigan. “We just got a few samples of it that I tried for the first time yesterday. It’s a hydrated pellet that you add water to, and it absorbs it and gets a little spongy. very good source of fiber, good source of protein and low in fat. I decided to try it mainly because it is a good source of calcium and is low in phosphorus. It contains a good mix of crude fiber and a good mix of low fat protein.
To complement the live food options, some herp retailers are making fresh mixes for customers, with great success.
“When it comes to diet, we tend to stick more to all-natural diets for herpes,” Murphy said. “We make our own salad mixes in-house. We work with a local vegetable distributor and we produce cabbage, mustard, turnip, radish and dandelion leaves. Then we mix this with zucchini, summer squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and turnips. In fact, we precondition the salads and sell them to our customers. This ends up being the majority of the diet. We use some of the pre-packaged turtle pellets.