Dog Marketplace: A Solid Movement
Retailers can offer a range of options—many of them considered eco-friendly—to simplify cleaning up dog waste.
By Kristin Mehus-Roe
Many issues regarding dog waste are vexing to pet owners. Among them are how to potty dogs when it is inconvenient, picking up poop whether in the yard or on the go, and how to ameliorate smells and stains—both indoors and outside on the lawn.
Indoors and Out
For apartment dwellers and others who face difficulty getting pets outdoors, there are indoor dog potties, such as the Piddle Place, which launched earlier this year.
“It’s for times when you can’t be home, when weather does not permit a walk or for people who are not ambulate with their pets,” said Kathy Hillman, owner of Piddle Place in Jupiter, Fla.
The product features porous artificial turf on top of a base with a containment chamber. The urine drips through the turf and into the containment chamber, which can then be detached and emptied into the toilet, Hillman said.
There also are products on the market designed to help prevent stains or odor from waste.
Zero Odor, based in Litchfield, Conn., cleans pet odors from the air, according to the company.
“Zero Odor works on the molecular level,” said Larry Burday, director of marketing. “When you spray Zero Odor in the air or on surfaces, it seeks out the molecules causing the odor and turns them into nonodor molecules. There’s a permanent chemical reaction, so the odor will never return.”
Other products seek to prevent and eliminate the stains that dogs’ urine can leave behind on grass and other plantings.
“Dog Rocks is a 100 percent natural prevention and cure for pet urine burn marks on grass, shrubs and hedging,” said Carina Evans, director at Dog Rocks, based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The company officially released its products to the U.S. market at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in February.
When the rocks are placed in a dog’s drinking water bowl, they naturally filter the water, limiting the amount of nitrogen in the dog’s urine, according to Evans.
NaturVet Yellow to Green Lawn Spray, made by Garmon Corp., based in Temecula, Calif., also works to ameliorate pet urine burns on grass and shrubs. When sprayed on urine burns, natural bacteria and enzymes break down the urine so that the area will re-seed, said Sitara Dickson, graphic artist and PR coordinator for the manufacturer. The company also sells dog treats that help prevent urine stains.
Scoop Their Poop
Perhaps the greatest heroes of the dog waste world are the products designed to pick up dog poop. There are new offerings in poop scoops for home use and poop bag holders for pets and their owners who are on the go.
“No one really thinks about ‘innovation’ in picking up pet waste, but we do,” said Jenna Buhagiar, director of marketing for All Paw Pet Products, maker of the PoogoStick, based in West Sacramento, Calif.
PoogoStick, she said, was developed for pet owners to scoop poop easily, without having to bend over. The product features a pronged scoop designed to sift through grass, and the basket is lined with a plastic bag, so the poop goes directly into the bag and then into the garbage, she added.
“Our customers come to us most frequently for bags and bag holders,” said Laura Clark, owner of four Wylie Wagg pet supply stores in Virginia. “The options in that space have grown tremendously in recent years.”
Doggee, for example, is a flexible, hollow ball on a key chain that stores poop bags and attaches to a pet owner’s keys or their dog’s lead.
“The Doggee is an offshoot of the Baggee, which was originally designed to carry supermarket bags,” said Conal Cunningham, director at Baggee in London. “The idea behind the Baggee is that you always have your keys, so your bags are always with you rather than being left behind in the kitchen or car.”
Cycle Dog Earth Friendly Pet Co. also produces an on-the-go poop bag carrier, called the Park Pouch. Made from reclaimed bicycle inner tube rubber and sewn by hand in Portland, Ore., the pouch has a carabiner clip that allows it to be attached to a belt or dog leash. The company offers Earth Friendly Pick-Up Bags as well.
“Our goal was to create a better pickup bag holder than the typical plastic holders,” said Cycle Dog president, Lanette Fidrych. “We wanted to make a nicer-looking holder, and we’re finding that people really like the low-key look of the Park Pouch—especially men.”
Another poop bag holder is the Loop. Made by Loft 312, which is based in Chicago, Loop is a plastic holder that is looped to the leash. Designed to be part poop bag holder, part fashion accessory, it comes in a range of colors.
“I had a traditional bag holder and it broke on me,” said founder and CEO Jennifer Blaese. “I was thoroughly disgusted with the styles out there. I thought there must be something better. I wanted something that would fit my lifestyle and my personal style.”
Clark agreed that in this category, design can be important to dog owners.
“For most waste management products, looks are not a factor,” she said. “However, people do sometimes choose poop bags and holders with an eye toward design. We also see some selection based on masculine or feminine colors.”
Lori Anderson, owner of A Dog’s Dream Natural Pet Supply in Seattle, however, said that few customers buy waste management products based on looks. Her customers generally buy a waste management product because it’s effective and environmentally friendly—and has a good price.
“For us, it’s really about price point,” she said.
|Emphasis on Earth Friendly|
In the dog waste world, there is a greater focus on eco-friendly products. As welcome as poop scoop laws have been, they’ve also led to a lot of poop in plastic bags sitting in landfills. In response, many companies now supply earth-friendly poop bags, as well as other waste management products.
“Our customers are definitely interested in environmentally friendly options,” said Laura Clark, owner of four Wylie Wagg pet supply stores in Virginia. “The biggest demand for biodegradable products is for poop bags. We offer only eco-friendly poop bags, and we carry multiple brands.”
Andrew Kim, co-owner of three Healthy Spot stores in Southern California, agreed.
“At our stores we only sell biodegradable poop bags,” he said. “Our client base supports this and is willing to pay the slight premium.”
At Lori Anderson’s A Dog’s Dream Natural Pet Supply in Seattle, customers don’t mind paying slightly more for the most eco-friendly bag she offers: one made of GMO-free cornstarch. Although, she laughed, “I sometimes say that means it decomposes in one million years instead of two.”
Cycle Dog Earth Friendly Pet Co. in Portland, Ore., makes being green its company mission.
“Our goal is to provide the world’s best pet products while minimizing environmental impact,” said Lanette Fidrych, president. “All of our products use post-consumer recycled materials.”
The Park Pouch itself is created from recycled bicycle tires, while the accompanying Earth Friendly Pick-Up Bags are made from corn and plant starches.
For Loft 312’s Loop, the issue of poop bags has changed the focus of the entire company. While Jennifer Blaese, founder and CEO of the Chicago-based company, was inspired to create the Loop because of a lack of stylish and practical poop bag holders, she finds her vision now is about truly compostable poop bags.
“When you see the word ‘biodegradable,’ you really need to ask where,” said Blaese.
She pointed out that unless you are in San Francisco, where poop is allowed in yard waste, compostable bags won’t actually compost the way you might be thinking—they’re designed to biodegrade in high heat, which landfill waste isn’t always subject to. And, said Blaese, biodegradable plastic bags require oxygen and sunlight to decompose, neither of which they are exposed to in adequate amounts in a landfill.
“We developed a new of plastic bag,” said Blaese of her company’s GreenLine product. “Our bags are regular plastic with an additive that is food to microbacteria. The microbacteria digest the plastic and there is nothing left but C02 and methane gas. It breaks down to organic matter—and it’s safe for the landfill environment.” —KMR
Although all dog waste products are designed for the larger dog-owning population, the demographics of those who use the products break down by lifestyle, dictating at least some marketing decisions.
NaturVet, for example, runs a GrassSaver TV commercial on HGTV, DIY Network and TLC—marketing to those with homes, gardens and pets. Zero Odor also directs its sales to homeowners. One of its biggest retailers is Bed, Bath & Beyond.
“Our current marketing efforts are mostly from bloggers who have tried the Piddle Place and loved it,” Hillman said. The company also has about 13,000 followers on Facebook and finds that many new customers contact it through the social media site.
The Personal Touch
Many pet supply stores find that they don’t actively need to sell waste-management items. Rather, customers come to them with a need and they provide options to fill that need.
“We view most waste products as basic needs and keep them close to the sales counter so that customers are reminded of picking up poop bags before they go,” said Andrew Kim, co-owner of three Healthy Spot stores in Southern California.
Anderson does no marketing of dog waste products other than keeping poop bags in the front of the store so that customers don’t forget to grab them. She noted that her poop bag sales increased exponentially when Seattle enacted a ban on plastic bags in the city. She hasn’t had to promote the products since.
That said, a number of manufacturers do provide employee training, as well as point-of-sale support, including pamphlets and display cases.
“Our goal is to be exceptional when it comes to providing education and promotional support to the retailer,” said Dickson. “We create education videos for both the consumer and the store employees … we also provide a flip chart that helps the customer make the right choices for their pet while in the aisle.”
QR codes also have become standard for many products that require some direction to use.
“The PoogoStick is perfect for video; prominently displayed on our packaging is a QR code that links right to our ‘how it works’ video,” said Buhagiar.
Both the manufacturers for the Park Pouch and the Doggee provide point-of-sales display cases.
“Because pickup bags can be an impulse buy, we also offer a nice countertop display for presentation at the cash wrap,” Fidrych said. “Our dealers have been extremely successful with our POS countertop solution, and it has helped increase sales.”
Wylie Wagg’s Clark has taken advantage of displays offered by manufacturers.
“Some of the poop bag manufacturers are especially good at providing attractive counter solutions, many of which offer the option of buying just one refill roll, which we display along with a holder,” Clark said.
At Healthy Spot, the only product Kim uses manufacturer-provided displays for is indoor potty units, which he finds maximizes the marketing message and space economy in the store.
Clark pointed out that while few of the waste management companies she works with provide training, the products are innately easy to understand and use. Wylie Wagg’s greatest success has been in using the products in-store.
“We keep a bottle of floor cleaner behind the counter to use for accidents in the store,” said Clark.
“Likewise, we keep poop bags handy behind the counter for customer use. Customers often buy what they see us using in our own space.”
She added that she supplies poop bags for a potty area outside one of her stores and donates poop bags for a large pet rescue event each year. Both help market her products and store, and promote customer loyalty, she said.