Are doggie drinks and treats at Starbucks just around the corner?
By Sandy Robins
It may only be a matter of time before pet boutiques start opening canine “coffee bars” in stores so owners can sit and chat while their dogs enjoy a yummy treat and a specially formulated doggie drink.
It’s becoming very commonplace for dog owners to buy their pet treats and then head over to a coffee shop to meet friends and enjoy a latté while their pets enjoy their own snacks.
“Now it’s simply a matter of taking this concept of people and their pets spending time together socially to the next level,” says Mari Justin of Doggie Java in Phoenix. “It was while I was having my morning coffee with all my animals around me that I realized how great it would be to share this experience with them.”
Justin’s drink formula is a vitamin concoction formulated by a veterinarian aimed at inducing dogs to drink more to keep them better hydrated.
“It’s been humanized by being served in a special cappuccino-shaped cup,” she says.
Justin is hoping to get human coffee stores such as Starbucks to consider serving to pets in designated pet-friendly areas. And no doubt it would work in a pet store, too.
“It’s just another way of humanizing pet products and mimicking our lifestyle,” says Robin Sparacino of Pet Celebrations Inc. of Berkeley, Ill., manufacturers of a soy-based doggie latté drink that’s packaged with treats resembling mini donuts.
“You just add water and stir,” Sparacino says. “At this stage, pet owners have to take it with them, but hopefully pet stores will start serving it to canine customers at special in-store events and parties.”
“In-store parties are a great way to introduce customers to new treats and ideas,” says Matt Pipes of Furever Pets in Portland, Ore. “To celebrate the store’s fifth birthday, we closed off a section of the street and held a pet block party. Pets at parties are just like kids. They want to taste everything. It goes without saying that the treats have to have enormous eye candy appeal to their owners before most dogs even get to nibble.”
- Always advertise the arrival of new barkery goods. Put the information on a sandwich board in front of the store or send out an e-mail announcement.
- Have new treats in a bowl at the register for pets to try.
- Do special in-store goody bags as gifts for customers who spend a certain amount. This is a great way of introducing new shapes and flavors.
Like many stores across the country, Furever Pets relies on regular deliveries from specialist pet bakeries such as Pawsitively Gourmet in Englewood, Colo., which supplies nationwide. Other retailers are teaming up with smaller pet bakeries that bake specifically for stores in their area to reduce costs.
“We bake to order,” says Teresa Miller of Treats Unleashed in St Louis. “We started out baking for stores in our area, but now we have customers all over the East Coast and Midwest. The words ‘freshly baked’ are important to consumers. In our own stores, that means confectionary baked in the morning and sold that day. But in doggie terms, ‘freshly baked’ translates into a shelf life of 90 days.
However, we find that store owners prefer to place smaller regular orders to maintain super freshness rather than buying in bulk.”
“Consumers are beyond just celebrating birthdays,” says Pawsitively Gourmet’s Bradley Isroff. “Seasonal treats are becoming hugely popular, not only for pet owners to buy to take home to celebrate events such as Valentine’s Day and Howl-oween, but also because more stores and retailers are holding more pet parties than ever before.”
Matt Brazelton of Four Muddy Paws in St. Louis agrees.
“Year-round holidays and occasions are becoming a very important aspect of the pet business,” he says. “By constantly having different shapes decorated to match the event or the season in stock means that there is always something new for people to consider buying, even if the ingredients are favorites such as peanut butter and anything with cheese.”
“These days, there’s something to celebrate every month,” Miller says. “There’s St. Valentines Day in February and St. Patrick’s Day in March, followed by Easter. People also celebrate spring, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and before you turn around, it’s the Fourth of July. And so it goes.”
As more pet owners become aware that their furry companions may be obese and could be facing serious health issues, the spotlight is on counting calories and checking ingredients to ensure that pets are snacking on healthy and nutritious treats.
“All pet treats should have some nutritional value to them,” says Judy Goodman of KC Goodies in Chicago. “A treat should never be wasted calories. It’s up to retailers to understand and pass on this message about healthy snacks such as dehydrated vegetables. Pets love the taste of Yukon potatoes, carrots and yams.”
“It’s also extremely important to remind pet owners that they are purchasing treats and not meal supplements,” Brazelton says. “Pets have all kinds of allergies, too. It’s important to also focus on goodies that take typical allergies such as wheat into account.”
According to Carol Perkins of Harry Barker in North Charleston, S.C., when it comes to treats and confectionary, packaging is important.
“Consumers like to able to display an attractive container for pet treats,” she says. “It’s like having an attractive cookie jar for the kids.
Sometimes owners like to collect them and put out a variety of goodies for their pets. That’s why I think it’s also important to offer refill packages.
Attractive packing is a plus for retailers, too, as it makes it easy for them to display and ensures that they are eye-catching to customers.
“Labeling is equally important,” Perkins says. “Customers shouldn’t have to struggle to read the contents. These days, consumers need to know at a glance how nutritional the contents are and also whether it’s low fat and calorie controlled.”
Another important part of packaging is that it contributes to the “eye candy appeal” of the confectionary.
These days, when people get invited out, they often don’t take just a bottle of wine for their host and hostess, but treats their pets, too. Giving someone a nicely packaged pet confectionary is also a great way of introducing them to something new. <HOME>
*Photos courtesy of Pet Celebrations Inc.
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