Pet owners are being more selective when it comes to dog and cat dishes, bowls, food storage containers and placemats, and they are seeking out products that function as nicely as they look.

“Feeding and watering, like other categories, has been impacted by the increased time pet owners have spent with their pets,” said Lauren Stegemoller, assistant product manager, feeding and watering, for Petmate, an Arlington, Texas-based manufacturer. “Whether it’s learning the habits of a new pet or getting to know your existing pet all over again, time spent at home has raised awareness of how pets interact with products. Every pet has their own style of eating and drinking, so pet owners are seeking out solutions that cater to their specific pet while also making their own lives easier.”

Stegemoller added that pet owners are looking for feeding and watering products that are the appropriate height and size for their pet. They are also considering the ease of maintaining the product and the feeding area by selecting products that are dishwasher safe and spill proof, or that have other non-slip features.

Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has stores in Bend, Ore., agreed. She said that anything with a no-slip grip tends to sell better.

McCohan said she has also seen increased interest in slow-feeding bowls and products—of which she’s personally a fan.

“People who are feeding dry kibble can utilize mats that ‘hide’ kibble and force the dog to work on finding the food and on how to get the kibble out,” she added. “Slow-feeding … bowls make feeding high-moisture foods easy, which is a plus. But super-complex slow-feeding bowls can sometimes be a pain to clean, and the more complex bowls are usually offered in plastic material, which is not a preferred choice for most pet parents.”

Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets, a pet store in Dallas, also likes slow-feeding products and said that she recommends them to customers.

“Slow feeders are resonating with our customers,” she continued. “Not only are they good to slow down a dog that may eat too fast, but they are great for mental stimulation.”

Complementing Décor

Aesthetics are important when it comes to dishes and other pet feeding accessories.

Stegemoller said that because feeding usually happens in the kitchen, many pet owners are inclined to buy products that specifically fit with their kitchen décor. She has seen a trend toward more neutral colors that will easily tie in with the overall aesthetics of a space.

Neil Peters, sales manager for Carmel, Calif.-based Carmel Ceramica, which creates gift, tabletop, and home décor items along with dishes and treat jars for cats and dogs, said that pet owners are looking for unique designs that provide the best of both worlds—functionality and looks.

“Pets are thought of as family members, which has created a demand for bowls and treat jars that are also beautiful home décor items,” he said.

In terms of color, Peters added that lighter colors generally have broader appeal.

“Our best-selling color for our dog bowls and treat jars is French white, but baby blue, aqua/green and caramel add the variety that stores want and need,” Peters said.

Joe Clarke, co-owner and founder of Innovative Pet Products, a manufacturer in Queensland, Australia, said that pet feeders and food storage products typically follow home décor trends.

“A bowl that graces the kitchen floor must sit harmoniously with that home’s interior design,” he added. “We’re finding turquoise and greens are the top-selling colors.”

Of course, materials matter, too. This is where functionality comes into play. Pet owners might want a good-looking product, but they don’t want to sacrifice ease of use or durability. McCohan said that stainless steel sells best at Bend Pet Express.

Redwine noted that stainless steel products are the top picks at Odyssey Pets, too.

“Stainless steel is always king in my store because it’s sanitary, easily washable and won’t break,” she said. “That’s followed by ceramic bowls as the next best-seller.”

On the Market

Feeders for Furry Friends

Manufacturers are offering feeders for cats and dogs that provide solutions to common mealtime issues.

This month, Petmate in Arlington, Texas, launched the Gamma2 Vittles Vault Storage Feeder. According to Lauren Stegemoller, assistant product manager, feeding and watering, it is designed to be the right height for large dogs and creates a healthy, ergonomic eating position to improve digestion and reduce joint strain.

“This storage feeder features our patented Gamma Seal Technology to provide an airtight seal that consistently locks in freshness and flavor while keeping pests and harmful moisture out,” Stegemoller said. “It is easy to clean, with two removable, dishwasher-safe stainless steel bowls. A Gamma Seal Lid is located underneath [the] bowl for convenient access to the food storage container.”

While the company does not have any brand-new products, Innovative Pet Products in Queensland, Australia, has found that its cat category is growing rapidly.

“Cat owners are loving the LickiMat Casper and Felix wild feeders,” said Hazel Clarke, co-owner and founder. “Apart from looking really cute, these two products are dedicated solely to cats. Used with raw and wet food, they help slow feeding and also encourage cats to interact with their food in the same way they would if they were feeding on wild-caught prey.”

Assortment Optimization

Curating an Ideal Product Mix

Because every pet and every home is different, industry insiders said that stocking a variety of options is important in the pet feeding accessories category. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Neil Peters, sales manager for Carmel Ceramica, a manufacturer in Carmel, Calif., said that color variety is key as shoppers might want to match the décor of their home with feeding accessories.

Hazel Clarke, co-owner and founder of Innovative Pet Products, a manufacturer in Queensland, Australia, agreed. She said this applies to materials, too.

“Because the pet owner’s home décor is considered when buying pet feeders and food storage containers, retailers need to stock a wide variety of styles made from various materials such as plastic, metal, ceramic [and] wood,” she said. “A broad range varying from traditional to modern is a must to appeal to shoppers. There must be a good range of everything to appeal to every pet owner’s taste.”

To make the best stocking decisions, Lauren Stegemoller, assistant product manager, feeding and watering, for Petmate, an Arlington, Texas-based manufacturer, said it always helps to get to know your customers. This can be a key differentiator from big-box stores, where, despite having an abundance of space, they may not stock what customers really want because they haven’t gotten to know them.

“Utilizing consumer insights can ensure your product offering is delivering on the key needs and expectations of pet owners,” Stegemoller said. “An optimal assortment should provide a range of solutions that improve the lives of pets and pet owners.”