Consumers Look for Safe, Stylish Pet Bowls
Dog and cat owners demand intuitive design, safe materials and a little bit of flair in mealtime accessories.
Sales of pet bowls and other feeding accessories remain strong, as manufacturers come up with solutions to keep pets healthy and their owners happy.
“The pet feeding category is consistently a growth category,” said Gretchen George, president of PetRageous Designs in Wilmington, Mass. “Pet ownership continues to increase, and the desire to provide dogs and cats with not just something to eat and drink from, but to incorporate their feeding arrangement with home and kitchen décor, is a constant trend.”
Size, price and material are the biggest factors pet owners consider when shopping for feeding supplies, said Erin Bokuniewicz, product buyer for Pet Supplies Plus, which has locations across the U.S.
“Sales are consistent, but we are seeing above-average growth in electronic feeders and elevated feeders,” she said.
Consumer education is improving, which changes how pet owners shop, said Gunnar Jeannette, product manager for PetComfort by WeatherTech in Bolingbrook, Ill.
“With the increase in education, we are seeing much more demand for safe and healthy options for our furry family members,” Jeannette said.
Yet, some pet owners still choose a pet bowl based on color schemes and “cuteness,” not realizing that there is a health factor involved, said Kathleen Sarniak Tanzola, president and CEO of JSG Oceana, a specialty glass manufacturer in Jeannette, Pa., and maker of Pawsitively Approved by JSG Oceana pet bowls. The company began producing pet bowls, which are nonporous, nonleaching and 100 percent nontoxic, because of Sarniak Tanzola’s experience with Bailey, her own puppy.
“I know glass is the healthiest choice and was feeding her from glass bowls that we produced [for human use],” Sarniak Tanzola said.
Design and aesthetics also impact pet owners’ purchasing decisions. Often, they are looking for bowls and other feeding supplies that complement home décor without sacrificing function, George pointed out.
For example, PetRageous Designs sells Tapestry Placemats that match its bowl collections to help owners coordinate their pets’ dining areas. The company promotes seasonality to encourage pet owners to update their collections rather than using the same dish year after year.
“Home owners’ house décor changes with the seasons, and the pet feeding area can change with the seasons as well,” George said.
Geography is another factor that plays a part in which designs will sell most successfully.
“Natural colors and rustic designs may be more popular in one region, while vibrant colors may be more popular in warmer climates,” George explained.
Carmel Ceramica in Carmel, Calif., uses colors inspired by the central California coast in its stoneware, said sales manager Neil Peters.
Pet owners want unique designs and durability in pet bowls, he added.
“Pets are now thought of as part of the family, so people want their dog and cat bowls to look great on display all the time, not [be] hidden in the corner,” Peters said. “Our stoneware treat jars with matching bowls are made to last while offering a unique opportunity to add to the décor of your kitchen or dining room.”
Bokuniewicz has noticed that “cat owners tend to take more fashion risks than dog owners,” and George said the cat category is steadily increasing.
“Retailers and cat owners [are] looking for more design options, various shapes and a variety of themes,” George said.
She said cat owners especially like PetRageous Designs’ oval bowls, which allow cats to drink from them without disturbing their whiskers. The company offers cat-specific bowls, saucers and crocks, and it plans to introduce a Grumpy Cat feeding collection this summer.
On the Market
Functionality and Customization Sell
To meet demand for varying consumer preferences regarding style and functionality, manufacturers have introduced a wide range of pet bowls and other feeding accessories.
My Pet Pail by Pet Partners Worldwide in Cedar City, Utah, combines function and design in an all-in-one lunchbox for pets on the go.
The product won Best in Show in the New Products Showcase for the dog category at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March and was inspired by CEO Rolane Grinnell’s struggles while traveling with his two small dogs.
The feeding kit has built-in storage and contains built-in bowls, removable bowls, removable 20-ounce bottles, a spare collar and leash, waste bags and an all-in-one utensil for food preparation. It comes in six color combinations.
Grinnell said customers are looking for a simple, functional product and “something that helps avoid the mess and works for whatever type of food that they may feed their dog.”
PetRageous Designs in Wilmington, Mass., is another company that combines function and design. With its Set the Table feeders, the company aims to give pet owners options to coordinate their pets’ feeding area with their style and home décor, said president Gretchen George.
“Our Set the Table raised feeding tables allow pet owners to select the bowls that they want to place inside the table,” George said. “This is unique to PetRageous Designs, as most raised feeders come with a prearranged bowl set.”
The powder-coated black steel tables come in three heights, and bowls are sold separately, which allows pet owners to choose the bowl materials, colors and patterns that suit their tastes, George said, adding that it also helps retailers with additional sales.
QT Dog offers a bowl designed to prevent dogs from eating their food too quickly.
The Brake-Fast Bowl was invented by Mike Kitchen to slow down his Doberman pinscher, who experienced bloating, at mealtime. Kitchen offered the patent to QT Dog before he passed away, said Mike Thomas, vice president of development for the Dallas-based company.
“We saw the potential and developed a stainless version, and sales have just taken off,” Thomas said.
Some customers will choose a bowl based on color or design without realizing that certain materials can pose health risks, said Kathleen Sarniak Tanzola, president and CEO of JSG Oceana, a specialty glass manufacturer in Jeannette, Pa.
The company launched its Pawsitively Approved by JSG Oceana pet bowls in March. They are made from Hard Roc glass, which is the company’s patented borosilicate glass, and come in multiple colors and three sizes, with the option to customize the bowls by etching pets’ names into the glass.
Sarniak Tanzola said glass is a safe choice, as it doesn’t contain the BPA or other harmful chemicals that some plastics do. And unlike stainless steel bowls, Pawsitively Approved bowls can be microwaved.
“Our bowl is weighted, so your pet can’t carry the bowl or spill food and water on the floor, as opposed to a stainless steel that is very lightweight,” Sarniak Tanzola said.
While ceramic bowls are also heavy, chips and cracks can allow bacteria to breed, Sarniak Tanzola said.
Minimizing health risks is a priority for PetComfort by WeatherTech, as well. Tired of seeing “Not Safe for Human Consumption” warnings on the bottom of pet feeding systems, CEO David MacNeil looked for a solution, said Gunnar Jeannette, product manager of the Bolingbrook, Ill.-based company.
“Our feeding systems are the first NSF-certified safe for human consumption type of product on the market,” Jeannette said.
According to PetComfort’s website, the NSF rating is typically used to denote that commercial restaurant equipment that comes in to contact with human food is sanitary.
PetComfort offers its High Feeding Systems and Low Feeding Systems in a variety of heights and colors. Customers can choose between a single or double bowl setup. The bowls are stainless steel, and the stand and mat are made from nontoxic polypropylene. Both materials are antifungal, antimicrobial and dishwasher-safe, Jeannette said.
Stainless steel remains a popular choice for pet owners.
“More than half of all owners prefer the water or food bowl to be made out of stainless or some type of metal material,” said Erin Bokuniewicz, product buyer for Pet Supplies Plus, which has locations throughout the U.S. “In my opinion, this is due to price, durability and the ease of cleaning.”
Consumers are looking for more variety and features such as slip control and fashionable designs in stainless steel bowls, George said.
“We have responded to that trend by expanding our entire stainless steel assortment with the introduction of the Kona nonslip stainless steel collection,” she said.
The Kona bowls have a nonskid rubber bottom and are sold in three colors and three sizes. They are dishwasher-safe and antimicrobial, George said. PetRageous Designs also sells a variety of other stainless steel bowls, as well as stoneware and plastic options.
While stainless steel bowls are selling most successfully overall at Huron Pet Supply in Ann Arbor, Mich., manager Brad Clinthorne said cat owners lean more toward glass or ceramic.
“Cat owners always want their own thing,” he said.
Barking About Business
Some manufacturers are using their No. 1 customers—their very own pets—as mascots to bring attention to their pet bowls.
“JSG Oceana and Pawsitively Approved by JSG Oceana utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites, giveaways, advertising and trade shows to get the word out,” said Kathleen Sarniak Tanzola, president and CEO of the Jeannette, Pa.-based manufacturer.
Pawsitively Approved by JSG Oceana pet bowls were inspired by Sarniak Tanzola’s dog Bailey, who is now a mascot for the company and has her own blog and social media presence.
“Bailey is working hard to let her buds know of her healthy choice in dog bowls through her Facebook and Instagram pages,” Sarniak Tanzola said.
Bailey travels to represent the brand at trade shows. She is set to make appearances at upcoming Pet Retail World events, Sarniak Tanzola said.
PetComfort by WeatherTech is also represented by a canine mascot. Scout is a golden retriever owned by CEO David MacNeil.
“We are currently advertising in multiple formats and markets across the U.S.,” said Gunnar Jeannette, product manager for the Bolingbrook, Ill.-based company. “A perfect example of this was our Super Bowl ad this year.”
Scout starred in the ad, which featured PetComfort’s Feeding Systems. The ad received a burst of attention online, and Scout was voted best dog of the Super Bowl 2019 ads by Yahoo! Sports.
“Marketing is something taken very seriously here at PetComfort,” Jeannette said.