Dog owners expect so much more than a basic dish.
Eco-friendly options, stainless steel offerings and innovative feeding products, dog dishes, water bowls, feeders and accessories are flooding the pet market. With so many choices, offering a wider range is more critical now than ever before as customers expect to be able to find a product that perfectly matches their needs.
“Instead of buying any elevated feeder, for instance, pet owners want to make sure they optimize the height of the feeder for their dog’s size,” said Laura Clark, owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Washington, D.C., and Virginia. “The same is true for all aspects of bowls and related accessories. Customers want specific styles, colors and patterns to complement their homes.”
Additionally, consumers consistently are interested in the safety of bowls.
“The most common question we’re asked is where our bowls are made, with U.S. manufacturing perceived as the safest,” Clark said. “For ceramic bowls, customers want to ensure that the glaze is impermeable. And for plastic bowls, customers want to know that they are BPA free.”
Quality, affordability and convenience are key features in a dog bowl, said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J.
“When pet owners are shopping for a new bowl or feeder, they want a dishwasher-safe and easy-to-clean bowl that blends fashion and function,” he said.
To meet these demands, this summer Loving Pets introduced its Bella Bowls in Coastal and Cosmopolitan designs, the Clip-On Dolce Dish, which has a base that snaps on and off, the Osso Diner for dogs and Pesce Diner for cats, and the Wicker Dolce Diner, Abbey said.
Toby Massey, director and co-founder of Beco Things, said the London-based company specializes in eco-friendly pet accessories, such as its bamboo bowl and new Beco Pets Travel Bowl, which is made from silicone with a collapsible design and is both durable and nontoxic, Massey said.
“The eco trend is very strong, especially in the U.S., and interactive feeding is getting very popular,” he said. “We look at accessories and have had a lot of requests for forks. We’ll also be introducing placemats by the end of the year. We want to add more interest in design and excitement to the market in this category.”
Alex McKinnon, founder and CEO of Kinn Inc. in Aliso Viejo, Calif., said its Kleanbowl Nourish-Pet Refill Bowls are biodegradable and provide a solution for pet owners looking for more healthful options when it comes to feeding their pets.
The company recently launched a line of Kleanbowl products targeted specifically for pet boarding and day care businesses to help save money and improve animal/human help at their facilities.
“Consumers are now looking for more healthful options,” McKinnon said. “It is not enough to just wash bowls in the dishwasher to ensure pets are getting the most healthful bowl per meal. Washing doesn’t kill bacteria, and the Kleanbowl provides an easy and eco-friendly solution for pet parents.”
Stainless steel continues to be the No.1 material for dishes, and it’s growing in popularity, said Gabriella DeSantis, vice president of marketing at The OurPet’s Co. in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.
“Consumers are also increasingly concerned with finding dishes for their pets that coordinate with today’s home décor, so fashion is a must,” she said. “We’ve seen increasing numbers in feeding accessories such as treat holders, coordinating/matching bowls and feeders. The trend is skewing toward clean, contemporary lines.”
The company recently introduced feeding solutions that include its Barking Bistro Adjustable Feeder, its Tilt-A-Bowls for dogs with long ears, and bowls in new styles and materials such as waterbath, metallic and chalkboard.
There’s a demand for dishes and bowls that have a modern look, which is why PawNosh in Berkeley, Calif., has unique glass styling, said Don Takemura, co-founder.
“Pet owners are clearly looking for bowls and dishes that match the décor of their homes since one quick way to ruin the look of a beautifully designed kitchen is to put an ugly pet dish or bowl on the floor,” he said.
Takemura said there’s ample opportunity for companies to come up with accessories or other replacement parts that are made from different materials, look more modern, or are made in more exciting colors.
This year, PawNosh introduced a 100 percent recycled glass bowl available exclusively to retailers called the Zorra bowl. It’s handmade in the USA out of post-consumer recycled glass.
Surveyed dog owners cited the most important features they take into consideration when selecting a dog bowl.
Source: 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey
The Retailers Speak
While basic bowls still drive the majority of sales at Wylie Wagg, Clark said she is seeing significant interest in products that go beyond traditional options.
“Raised feeders, for instance, now come in a wide array of designs to fit multiple décors,” she said. “Our customers particularly like Pets Stop and Bowsers Pet Products.
“Slow feeders have also gained popularity. The most innovative items in this category combine slowed eating with an interactive game (e.g., the Green dog feeder [from Northmate] and Kyjen’s Slo-Bowls).”
Bowls made from sustainable materials are more in demand now than in previous years, with bamboo bowls being especially strong sellers, Clark noted.
Kristen Watson, manager of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, with locations in the Savannah, Ga., area, said the latest trends in dishes at the stores are eco-friendly bowls and elevated feeders.
“Beco Bowls are very popular because they retail at a good price point and are economically friendly,” she said. “Made of recycled bamboo, they are safe for our pets and our planet. On another note, elevated feeders are very popular. Dexas makes an elevated feeder that we carry that is adjustable, making it good for dogs of different sizes.”
Customers have been shying away from brightly colored placemats and are asking more for neutral colors, said Jamie Martinez, co-owner of Cold Spring Pet Supply in Cold Spring, N.Y.
To sell upscale options, such as higher-end bowls and raised feeders, Wylie Wagg creates vignettes with coordinating accessories (such as placemats, treat jars, etc.).
“This increases sales of those accessories while also showing the ways that bowls can be both functional and attractive,” Clark said. “These types of displays can quickly convert a basic bowl customer to a decorative bowl customer.”
Watson said TailsSpin keeps all bowls displayed in one section of the store. For example, at its newest location on Whitemarsh Island, it has all the bowls in the middle of the canned-food aisle.
“This merchandising idea makes it easy for pet parents to pick up a new bowl while stopping in for food,” she said.
Kinn Inc. provides retailers with tri-level displays for the Kleanbowl. It’s also one of the only pet bowls that comes in packaging, McKinnon said.
“Because of this packaging, consumers can be educated on the needs of pets as well as the benefits the bowl provides,” McKinnon said.
The OurPet’s Co.’s DeSantis recommends integrating items together to help cross-sell rather than keeping bowls and feeding accessories separate from food and treats.
“Normal displays generally consist of just bowls or feeders. Innovative displays that address the ‘bag to bowl’ experience are very effective,” she said. “For example, on a single display, you might include bowls, scoops, treat holders and placemats.”
|The way to display|
As a way to increase sales of pet dishes and feeding accessories, Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, has had a lot of success allowing animals to interact with slow feeders in the store.
“Owners enjoy watching their dogs figure out the games, and dogs are enthusiastic about the rewards,” said Laura Clark, the store’s owner. “This has been a great demonstration tool for us. It’s fun for the customers and their pets while taking the mystery out of unusual-looking products.”
Don Takemura, co-founder of PawNosh in Berkeley, Calif., noted the retailers that sell the most product tend to be the ones that understand consumers’ diverse needs and budgets, and group products with buyer type in mind.
“Don’t put your $60 bowls and $100 bowls in the same area as the $9 bowls,” he said. “Separate them. They’re purchased by different consumers with different budgets. In the same way you’re seeing many supermarkets create ‘organic produce’ sections, they don’t place the more expensive organic grapes right next to the regular grapes, because they understand it’s a different buyer.”
“Since bowls are a must-purchase for any new puppy, adopted pet or new addition to the family, consider creating a New Dog/New Puppy endcap or section that offers the essentials like bowls for food and water, leashes and collars, and healthful food and treats,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J.
Jamie Martinez, co-owner of Cold Spring Pet Supply in Cold Spring, N.Y., said she keeps the PawNosh bowls up front alongside some pottery bowls made by a local artist, but displays other bowls and travel water bowls in the back of the store.
Almost all agreed that having a Made in the USA section is another effective approach for grouping products effectively.—KL
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Pet Product News.