Tetra hopes to make a splash

Since its inception in the early 1950s, Tetra has become a world leader in the manufacture of aquarium and pond products, which now sell in 90 countries worldwide. Through its network of independently accredited laboratories, the company is also the largest investor in ornamental-fish research and development.
Tetra began in Germany in 1951 when Dr Ulrich Baensch, a fish breeder and importer based in Hanover, began developing prepared foods that could be fed as a complete diet. Aquarium ownership was rare at the time since fish had to be fed with live foods caught from local watercourses. Baensch’s research led to the launch of TetraMin flakes, making it far more practical for ordinary members of the public to own an aquarium.
The company has subsequently created a range of innovative products such as TetraFin, the first flake food specifically designed for goldfish in aquariums, TetraTest water-analysis kits and AquaSafe, the first conditioner for making tap water safe for fish. Recent drives have included improved waterproofed pond-food bags and the Quick Step campaign to demonstrate how easy setting up a tank really is.
Garden Centre Update: How important is Glee for you as a company?
Rupert Bridges: Glee provides us with an opportunity to showcase our new products for launch in the coming year and, most importantly, meet our trade customers. It is a time for us to highlight our strengths – creating innovative products that are of high quality and designed to make fishkeeping easier and more enjoyable for both novices and experts.
With such a broad sweep of trade customers, it can be difficult for our sales force to meet face to face with all the aquatics outlets that support us throughout the year. We like to take every opportunity to discuss their business plans and how we can share information, ideas and help build their businesses. Glee offers a chance for us to do this. It’s about more than just taking orders: it’s about developing relationships and understanding how we can work best with our customers so we all succeed in these highly competitive times.
GCU: What products will you be launching at the show and what are their benefits for consumers and retailers?
RB: We are launching a range of new care products and giving continued focus on our core food and equipment category. Our upgraded pond-food bags and equipment will be given further support and our care category will benefit from several line extensions and new formulas. Our attention remains on making owning ponds and aquariums easier and more accessible by offering products that help create healthy fish and healthy water, and that effectively solve common problems.
GCU: What is the current state of the pond sector?
RB: Over the past few years, natural growth in the pond market has definitely slowed down. What we’re now seeing is a more competitive market where more professional retailers and manufacturers are continuing to grow their businesses, leaving some others behind. It’s imperative, therefore, that any retailer takes a careful look at the competition it faces and the mix of products it is stocking.
Profit streams can be maximised by identifying products that offer incremental sales, such as holiday or treat foods; by promoting higher-value lines, such as premium foods; and by offering better advice – recommending appropriate care products, for example.
GCU: What are the key trends in the aquatics market?
RB: With the economic climate not getting any easier in the foreseeable future and the market maturing, we can expect competitive pressures to increase. However, those retailers with the right approach will continue to grow their business and do well.
Driven by wider consumer concerns, there is a growing interest in “natural” products. However, this needs to be handled carefully. Our research has indicated that many consumers are confused about what this means and sometimes feel that manufacturers are simply using it as a way to charge more for a less effective product. Importantly, they need clear guidance on which products to use and what “natural” really means.
Interest in premium foods that have specific benefits will continue to grow, just as it has in other pet sectors. Equally, as more food brands seem to be entering the market, it will be important for retailers to choose those that can guarantee strong sales and stand apart from the rest by offering real benefits to consumers.
Legislation will also drive changes, with biocides, medicines and animal welfare all being hot topics. The latter is especially important for retailers, as it will force them to offer more information to consumers. This has to be looked upon positively as it will help consumers to be more successful, keep them in the market for longer and provide the opportunity to sell a wider range of products.
GCU: How has your marine range been greeted by the market?
RB: We have been delighted with the response. It has given us every assurance that a range of products that are simple to understand and use, but highly effective, is what the trade and consumer are looking for. As this part of the industry grows, consumers need good-quality products from trusted brands, to help them gain success with their marine aquariums. A major investment has been made into relaunching our marine lines and it looks like that investment is already starting to pay off for us and our trade customers.
GCU: How are you getting your message out to those who have never kept fish before?
RB: There are plenty of people keeping fish for the first time but, as an industry, we are not keeping them in the hobby and managing them well. According to OATA [the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association], an astounding 50 per cent give up in just three years and 75 per cent in six years. We have to do everything we can to reduce this turnover and the most effective way is by offering consumers what they want – healthy fish and clear water. Only by making aquarium or pond ownership more pleasurable will we see a turnaround in this trend.
This is an industry-wide problem that requires us all to consider how best we can move the market forward. Especially in these difficult economic times, retailers need to think carefully before being tempted by cheaper products that might offer short-term profits, but only at the expense of their long-term customer base. All our research suggests that the majority of customers want products that work well, and that they are prepared to pay for this. If poor-quality products are used, they are more likely to have problems and drop out of the industry. Hence, our response to the current market situation is to invest heavily in product development and providing marketing support. For example, we have recently made improvements to many of our core products, including TetraMin, TetraFin, AquaSafe and Pond Foods. Our philosophy is to continually put money into product quality and brand-building, to ensure Tetra continues to lead the market for years to come, offering a source of regular, profitable sales for our trade customers.
GCU: What attracts new fishkeepers into the hobby?
RB: From children up to adults, people are drawn into the hobby because of the beauty of the livestock and a fascination with fish. It is this fascination that we need to capture and maintain.
In this vein, this year Tetra launched improved versions of two of its bestsellers – TetraMin and TetraFin. Each has been enhanced to deliver even better performance in a highly competitive marketplace. The aim was to deliver significantly improved food utilisation and minimise fish waste compared to former formulas. This means better nutrition for the fish and less waste polluting the water. So, if fishkeepers can see that their fish are healthy and that their water stays clean for longer, they are likely to get more enjoyment out of the hobby, find it less hassle and stay in it longer.
We need to remember why so many people decide to keep fish as opposed to other types of pet. It’s because they think fish will be less of a commitment than, say, a cat or a dog. While this is true, they still need to get something back from caring for their fish and if all they get is a murky-looking tank, they won’t keep at it for long. We also have a duty of care to the fish and to help the owners do the best they can for their pets. The Animal Welfare Bill is now forcing us to do more, but we should as standard do as much as we can to help fishkeepers enjoy their pets. The best way to do this is by selling them good-quality products that do the job they say they will, and to provide helpful information and advice.
If we don’t do more to help ourselves, we will find each year tougher and tougher – particularly as we are in an economic slowdown. So there isn’t a better time to focus on the one thing that matters: making fishkeeping child’s play.
For further information telephone 08700 554020 or visit http://www.tetra-fish.co.uk/ HALLS 6-8, STAND C10/D11