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7:53 AM   April 28, 2015
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Let’s Dish

The latest in boutique pet diningware emphasizes style, safety and comfort.
By Sandi Cain

Food bowls have joined the parade of pet amenities gravitating to high-end styles that blend with home décor. Pet owners no longer have to confront chewed-up plastic bowls strewn about the kitchen and spilled food under foot.

Customers who purchase high-end pet bowls often seek artistically designed ware to accent their home décor. Courtesy of Louisville Stoneware
Instead, new products include high-quality ceramics, satin-finished stainless-steel bowls in heavy wood or metal stands; stone bases with stainless-steel bowls; and break-resistant glass bowls. Some custom-designed bowls are bejeweled; more are likely to sport fashionable colors atop their microwave and dishwasher-safe materials.

Several factors play into food bowl trends. According to the 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook from the American Veterinary Medical Association, almost 50 percent of pet owners consider their pets as family members. In the 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, roughly 25 percent of pet owners said they buy designer bowls, leashes, carriers and beds.

“The boutique market is growing, though there’s a slight stagnation because of the economy,” said Tim Homer, CEO of Fuzz-Butt Marketing in Coachella, Calif. Fuzz-Butt distributes a line of bowls from HugX Ltd. of Derry, Northern Ireland that was introduced in the U.S. in April. It’s carried by online retailers In the Company of Dogs and Doggie Traveler.

What’s New
There’s no dearth of new products in the food bowl sector. One new line of dog bowls from Northbrook, Ill.-based Petstages is made of break-resistant glass similar to Pyrex and has been rolled out at Petsmart stores. Product Development Manager Caroline Benson said extensive consumer research led to this line—research that showed people wanted heavy bowls that wouldn’t slip, chip or break and are bacteria-resistant and dishwasher/microwave safe.

“We learned after the last pet food scare that more people are making meals for their dogs,” she said. “So that led to the microwave piece.”
The HugX bowls from Northern Ireland address the tug of war between pet owners who want bowls to stay put and dogs that prefer to push them around. HugX bowls are set at an angle that helps the feeder “hug” the floor. They also can be turned around in the stand to control the amount of food the bowl will hold.

Elevated feeders are all the rage for companies like Unleashed Life in Springfield, Mo., which launched two elevated lines this year: the Belmont stainless-steel feeder and Wescott dual-dish metal and slate table feeders. Brand director Ryan Hahn said the company tested elevated feeders against floor feeders on its employees’ own dogs, with the elevated feeders proving the clear canine preference.

Petrageous Designs Ltd. of Burlington, Mass., updates 30 percent of its pet bowl line annually. “We think it’s important to stay fashionable, trendy and updated,” said Chris George, vice president of sales and marketing. That’s one reason Cichlid Food Canada Ltd., a distributor in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, offers the Petrageous lines, according to Andrew Boyce, vice president of sales.

Petrageous also launched what George called “designer plastic” that’s unique to the product. The bowls look like stoneware but have a vinyl coating that makes them pet-safe and bacteria-resistant. The company also added a stainless-steel line with various finishes and decorative elements.

“We’re always looking for safe and beneficial products that also lend themselves to home décor and the impulse of pet buyers,” George said.
New designs available from Petware Pottery in Grand Junction, Colo., were inspired by consumers’ desire for simplicity in solid colors that matched their kitchens. “People wanted something that didn’t scream ‘dog’ or ‘cat,’” said owner Eric Larson.

Retailers Rule
The decorative hand-thrown ceramic bowls from Louisville Stoneware in Kentucky are nontoxic, bear lead-free paint and now are available in two-bowl sets. But it’s the “Made in the USA” label that often closes the deal on the bowls, according to Karen Killian, manager of Captain Spicer’s Gallery in Clayton, N.Y. Louisville Stoneware plans to add new designs next spring.

Retailers often seek suppliers who meet the needs of their specific clientele. Laura Clark, owner of Wylie Wagg in Tysons Corner, Va., carries both Petrageous and Petware products for their affordability and colors, but she also likes bowls from Melia Luxury Pet in Atlanta because they offer another price point that still fits with the décor.

Vince Anginoli, co-owner of Mackie’s Parlour in Scottsdale, Ariz., said his best-sellers are from Melia and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Rasco. His clientele is attracted to Rasco’s jeweled bowls and Melia’s pattern variety.

“Customers want quality and will pay for it,” he said.

Vicki LePore and Whitney Leach of Flea Bag’s Barkery and Bow-tique in Henderson, Nev., sell a lot of raised feeders, so they brought in a high-end line from Arthur Court Designs Inc. in Brisbane, Calif. But they also carry spill-less plastic bowls popular with the RV and auto travelers that frequent their town.

One major selling point: Retailers and manufacturers agree that including a tag that explains the bowl’s benefits for the pet can seal the deal because it reflects concern for pet safety and comfort.

Where’s the Cat?
Cruise any pet boutique, and there are far more options for dog bowls than for cats.

“Dog people seem more décor conscious,” said Vince Anginoli, co-owner of Mackie’s Parlour in Scottsdale, Ariz.” Cat people like the cute bowls or crystal bowls.”

Nevertheless, Petrageous has noticed a big increase in cat spending in recent years and created a cat bowl set for Pet Supplies Plus in Farmington Hills, Mich. that is selling well.

“Manufacturers in general neglect that segment,” said Chris George, vice president of sales and marketing for Petrageous Designs Ltd. of Burlington, Mass.

Expanding Horizons
The line between human and pet boutique furnishings is beginning to blur, as a growing segment of pet owners seek high-quality, decorative pet amenities. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 19 percent of dog owners purchase products made by designer manufacturing companies. That trend has led to some interesting business ventures.

Springfield, Mo.-based Unleashed Life is a sister company to a home furnishings retailer that was launched two years ago to fill a demand for tastefully done dog bowls in styles that complement high-end furnishings, according to brand director Ryan Hahn.

“Style isn’t just for humans,” Hahn said.

Debby Carman, artist and proprietor of Faux Paw in Laguna Beach, Calif., specializes in hand-thrown pet bowls with freehand drawings. Her line is carried by local boutique pet shops and at the World Trade Center in Dallas. But her ”shop” is actually an art gallery in downtown Laguna Beach, and she’s seen growing demand for custom pet bowls, gift items and breed-specific bowls.

Manufacturer Kevy K Designs in Las Vegas was created in response to customer demand for stylish feeders suitable for large dogs at the company owners’ 10-year-old boutique pet shop, Snooty Pets.

“The fashion side of the industry took off, but dining lagged, so that was a niche that hadn’t been filled,” said Kevin Thomas, co-owner. So they moved into making heavy stone bowls with stainless-steel inserts geared to large dogs. The company plans to launch a double feeder later this year.

“No dog will turn these over,” Thomas said. <HOME>

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