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Quite a Dish!

This season’s pet feeding choices are fit for a furry king or queen.



Pet dishes, feeders and their accompanying accessories look more and more like modern art, and boutiques have banished boring bowls and plain-colored placemats from their shelves. That’s because pet owners now look to these pieces as ways to enhance their home environment.

“There are so many ways to express your creativity or your own personal style,” said Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California.

Zakrajsek points to Target’s concept of design for all as evidence that even consumers with smaller budgets still want, and can have, pet products with style.

“You can have very smart-looking products that don’t necessarily have to be super expensive, but they’ve been designed well and they’re at an affordable price point,” she said.

Contemporary designs, metallic finishes and eco-friendly materials sell well, said J. Kent Martin, co-founder and head of design for Unleashed Life in Springfield, Mo.

Unleashed Life

“We tend to avoid fad trends in home décor and design our product range to fit more classic, lasting interiors,” Martin said.   

Earlier this year, the company introduced collections inspired by the work of some of Martin’s favorite interior designers, such as Dorothy Draper, David Easton and Peter Marino.

“Each of these collections is as classic and timeless as the work that these incredible designers are known for, but they are also very relevant to today’s most popular home fashions,” Martin said.

Bright-colored prints, including Aztec and tribal patterns in vibrant hues, are popular, but what is popular changes with the seasons, said Sara O’Neill, co-founder of Kess InHouse, a San Diego-area manufacturer that offers thousands of designs to choose from for pet bowls and placemats.

“Independent pet retailers definitely have to keep up with what the trends are in the market,” O’Neill said.

Modern designs with clean lines, especially in ceramic or wood materials, and neutral tones with small pops of color are trending, as are floral and geometric motifs and textures, said Aimee Diskin, director of innovation and product development at Worldwise in San Rafael, Calif.

Yet design isn’t the only thing that matters—Worldwise focuses on solution-based innovation in its development process, Diskin said.

“This includes ergonomic solutions, such as elevated dishes to ease neck strain, shallow cat dishes to prevent whisker stress, and shapes that are easy for the pet parent to pick up off the floor,” she said. “What consumers really want are items that will make their lives easier and improve their pets’ lives as well.”

Silicone and stainless-steel materials offer hygiene and easy-to-clean convenience, said Zakrajsek, who noted that dishes and feeders that use stainless steel for the bowl portion are the most popular.

Cat-owning customers at her stores gravitate to the NomNom Bowl from Hepper, Zakrajsek said. The polypropylene double feeder with removable stainless-steel dishes has a tray that can catch crumbs or be filled with water to ward off ants.

Hunter recently released clear Silicone Bowl Mats, said Courtney Lachance, co-owner of ML Pet Products, which is based in the Toronto area and is Hunter’s distributor in North America. The mats are designed to protect floors and collect messes, and because they are clear, they can suit any home’s décor and any color pet bowl, Lachance said.

Hunter bowls sell well because they are durable, scratch resistant and long lasting, Lachance said.

“Plus, with a growing trend toward a raw food diet, the ability to remove the stainless-steel bowl insert and place the entire bowl in a dishwasher ensures no bacteria,” Lachance said.

Striking Displays
Presentation is the most important consideration for selling high-end dishes and feeders, Zakrajsek said.

“You have to present it in a way that makes it special,” she said. “If you’re trying to sell a feeder that’s $100 or $200 or $300, you can’t have it on a shelf by itself all dusty next to something else that doesn’t even tell a story.”

She said she groups feeders with other items and puts them in her stores’ windows or main in-store displays and rotates them based on their color story.

During the fall or for winter holidays, for example, she recommends incorporating red, white or earth-toned feeders into displays—“something that helps to tell the narrative of what the season is,” she said.

Retailers can make attractive bowl displays by stacking the products in a pyramid for a sculptural display in a store window or island, Lachance said. Cross merchandising bowls next to or in dog food displays also can boost sales, Lachance noted.

“Help the consumer envision the product in their home by displaying items with pet mannequins or using images showing the products in a home environment,” Worldwise’s Diskin said.

It’s important, too, to have a well-rounded selection. In her stores, Zakrajsek said, standing, elevated feeders do well, but she also stocks a variety of individual melamine bowls with removable stainless-steel inserts.

“They are a really fun, lower price point item, so for someone who’s not ready for the commitment of a designer double feeder, having that as a lower-priced option is an important way to diversify your merchandising mix,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Pet Product News.

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