Posted: Sept. 24, 2012, 6:55 p.m. EDT
Customers are drawn to eco-friendly waste pickup bags and other convenient cleanup tools.
By Sandi Cain
Today’s pet-loving consumers may treat their pets like family, but they also look to reduce their pets’ paw prints on the environment just as they seek to reduce their own carbon footprints on earth, according to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2011 Pet Products Trend Report. And pet owners increasingly realize it’s not just dog waste that’s harmful to the environment, but also the plastic bags used to pick it up.
“Consumer demand is for biodegradable products at a reasonable price,” said Paul Fidrych, general manager and chief marketing officer for Cycle Dog in Portland, Ore., a maker of earth-friendly dog waste bags.
Waste pick up bags are growing in popularity with dog owners, a trend that may continue as more cities ban plastic grocery bags. Photo Courtesy of Best Buddies Dog Boutique and Bakery
With an estimated 46 million dog-owning households in the U.S. alone, according to the APPA’s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, that demand is likely to increase as more cities require owners to pick up after their pets or ban traditional plastic bags. Dog owners averse to touching the odorous piles or dangling full bags of pet waste precariously from a leash are turning to their local pet shops for functional and attractive solutions.
The pet industry has responded with a variety of eco-friendly and fashionable products. Retailers such as Kelvin Stanke, president of Critter Jungle in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, said he sells “a ton of biodegradable bags” and carries 10 brands.
“Adding a brand doesn’t dilute sales,” he said.
Waste bags of natural and sustainable materials such as corn, wheat and sugar cane are a staple of New York-based Greenberry Eco-Industries’ Greenbone line. Hong Kong, China’s Jiangmen Proudly Water-Soluble Plastic Co. sells waste collection bags designed to be flushable and biodegradable; New York-based Metro Paws features Poopy Packs of natural cornstarch. A Green ‘N’ Pack line from J-Trend Systems in New York is made of 20 percent recycled decomposable plastic, according to the company. While Pet Loo, with offices in the U.S., Australia and Canada, offers a thick, antileak, 100 percent degradable bag that doesn’t break down until it comes in contact with pet waste, according to the manufacturer.
New products this year range from Eco Dog Planet’s bags made from tapioca-derived film and designed to be leakproof and Cycle Dog’s Earth Friendly Pick-Up Bags made from corn and plant starches to Metro Paw’s fashionista designs such as plaid, argyle, polka dots and stripes.
Eco Dog Planet itself is a new company, launched in Los Angeles this year. Its Doggie Waste Bags are easy to open and opaque, according to CEO and president Chris King.
In line with the ever-growing range of waste bags available, retailers are stocking a wide variety to satisfy their customers’ preferences.
“Anything eco-friendly sells better,” said Bob Molloy, owner of Bark Place, a dog spa and boutique in Boston.
To that end, New York-based Metro Paws reported that it changed its packaging to post-recycled paper and switched to a carbon-neutral shipping partner in response to customer feedback concerning eco-friendly options.
Emily Danskin, manager of Sedona Pet Supply in Sedona, Ariz., carries local biodegradable lines called Bags on Board and FiveStarPet. Mark’s Ark in Salt Lake City carries Four Paws Products’ Doggie Doo line of bags that manager Steve Barlow said are easy to pick up, small and easy to tie.
Flush Puppies are a popular choice of customers at Just for Pets in Austin, Texas, because they are both flushable and biodegradable, according to owner Jim Kelly. The city estimates that dogs generate 60,000 pounds of waste each day in Austin.
“That’s a lot of poop,” he noted.
Savvy retailers will draw customers to pet waste bags in both traditional and unique ways. Some rely on the tried-and-true point-of-purchase promotions near the register to encourage impulse buys. Others, such as The Yuppy Puppy in Spokane, Wash., display them on a clip strip near the leashes and collars.
Manufacturers also frequently pitch in with creative promotional help.
“We take a comical approach,” said Eco Dog’s Chris King.
Plastic Bag Bans Drive Waste Bag Sales
As more cities ban the use of plastic grocery bags that for years doubled as pet waste pickup bags, pet owners have scrambled to find acceptable alternatives.
“We sell a ton of poop bags because grocery stores aren’t giving away plastic bags anymore,” said Kelvin Stanke, president of Critter Jungle in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
However, an impending plastic bag ban in Austin, Texas, hasn’t fazed customers at Just for Pets. Shop owner Jim Kelly said most of his customers stopped using them long ago—a story repeated by retailers in San Francisco, Sedona, Ariz., and Spokane, Wash.
Manufacturers run into different challenges. Cycle Dog in Portland, Ore., and Greenberry Eco-Industries in New York had to remove the word ‘biodegradable’ on their packaging in California because the state has strict and specific standards for such products that differ from those in other locales. —SC
The company already has licensing agreements to sell the bags in Tinkerbell pink—after Paris Hilton’s dog—and Snoopy blue, and is planning other campaigns that stores can use, he said.
Metro Paws encourages stores to create and sponsor local events and to ask customers about their pet’s waste habits to generate upselling opportunities for its Poopy Packs. The company listened to retailer feedback in creating a combo four-pack of the product.
“Picking up your pup’s poop is a necessity, but it doesn’t need to be boring and mundane,” Jon Bolton, vice president of business development, said.
Greenberry advises retailers to think in terms of “user experience” and shows them how to creatively feature products using eco-color palettes and the bag design itself.
“We’ve been told countless times how packaging and color assortment help drive sales,” Kim Gimine, the company’s spokesperson, reported.
Tools and Accessories
Just as purses and backpacks are accessories for people on the go, dog waste bag totes, scoops and other tools have become accessories for conscientious dog walkers.
Environmentally friendly, washable totes made of cotton canvas with a waterproof lining from Dog Walk Bag of Western Springs, Ill., joined that sector in April.
“They’re a more attractive and hygienic option [and a] refined way to transport waste while helping the environment,” Anthony Arendt, the company’s co-owner, said.
They’re also a green alternative in the face of plastic grocery bag bans that are gaining momentum in the U.S. and Canada, he added.
Eco Dog offers a checkered mini duffel bag to hold pet waste bags, while Doggie Did, in Franklin, Mass., has a new hands-free waste carrier that comes in five colors and features variable leash attachment options. Another accessory is the Park Pouch from Cycle Dog, which is made from post-consumer recycled materials and attaches to a leash.
The Fifth Paw started shipping its “hands-free, doody-free” leash attachment to pet stores in July. The attachment snaps on to a leash and has three slots to hold waste bags in place tangle-free, according to the Kings Park, N.Y.-based company’s top dog, Stephen Longo.
Waste pickup products can be marketed as convenient as well as eco-friendly. Photo by Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at PetStop Warehouse
“I designed The Fifth Paw to keep your hands clean and in control while out for a stroll,” he said, adding that he’s considering a QR code
for retailers that links to the product demonstration video.
Pickup tools offer pet owners a sanitary way to keep their distance from pet waste while keeping the environment clean. A simple tool called the Waste Wand, from a company of the same name in Eastpointe, Mich., finds a use for those left-over plastic grocery bags. Users simply attach the grocery bag as if it were a scoop, clean up the mess without bending over, remove, fold and place in the trash, according to the company. Bags typically can be used for more than one mess.
The Auggiedog pickup tool from Newmarket, Ontario, Canada-based GCL Solutions Group doesn’t require any bags and operates on a lithium battery, the company reported, adding that the product resembles a pump, picks up waste at the click of a button, and comes with a built-in light and cleaning solution.
Critter Jungle’s Stanke called it one of the most innovative products he’s seen and carries it in his shop, but hasn’t sold any yet.
“It may be ahead of its time,” he said.
Even more ambitious is the cordless Pooch Power Shovel from Chanhassen, Minn.-based Pet Power Products. It picks up poop from any surface, holds up to three pounds of waste and comes with 25 custom bags, according to the company.
Retailers have varied opinions about dispensers and bag totes.
Both dispensers and bags sell well for Aquila Brown, proprietor of The Yuppy Puppy. She recommends them to people with a new puppy—or even those seeking a gift for a puppy ”shower.”
Bobby Wise, owner of George, a boutique with locations in San Francisco and other Bay Area cities, said his shops’ style-conscious clientele prefers to purchase rolls of bags with dispensers.
At Bark Place, Molloy said he sells plenty of waste bags in Boston, but has his doubts about automatic pickup tools.<HOME>
“We’re an inner-city store,” he said. “People aren’t going to carry [those] around with them on the street.”
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