Targeting Natural Shoppers

Over the weekend, mass retailer Target made news with the announcement of a new organic/natural private-label brand, called Simply Balanced.

Of course, it’s no secret that major retailers have caught on to the trend toward natural products and have been moving their assortments in that direction in an effort to cash in on consumers’ evolving tastes. However, with Target planns to introduce 250 products under the new brand, it represents a major step in the mass retailer’s efforts to catch up with the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Could natural-focused pet stores be next in the crosshairs?


So far, it seems that the Simply Balanced roll-out will be focused squarely on traditional grocery products—drinks and snacks are the two categories mentioned in media reports—but Target has keyed in on the pet category as a key source of potential growth, so it’s not unreasonable to think that the line—or at least the natural/organic concept—could extend into foods for Fido and Fluffy. In fact, there are indications that the new natural/organic brand is just part of a bigger strategy to make Target’s product assortment more friendly for natural-minded shoppers. According to reports, the company plans to announce that it will increase its selection of organic foods 25 percent within the next five years.


While there is no doubt that a wide majority of natural-minded pet owners are still looking to their local pet stores for super-premium natural and organic foods and supplies, this effort on the part of Target—and other mass merchants—could pose a real danger to pet specialty retailers if it gains any traction. The bottom line is that pet retailers cannot rest on their laurels.


While pet stores have done much to build up the natural/organic pet food segment and position themselves as the best source for these products and information about animal nutrition, it is a reputation that must be continually cultivated. Retailers must be vigilant in educating themselves and their store employees on the latest developments in the world of natural products, as well as the best practices for promoting and merchandising this category.


With that said, keep an eye out for Pet Business’ annual Guide to Natural Products, which will accompany our July issue and can also be found here on July 1. In this special issue, retailers will find information on the latest trends in a variety of product categories that are being impacted by the natural movement—food, treats, supplements, grooming products, etc.—as well as valuable tips on the best way to present these products to consumers.