Long gone are the days of placing a utilitarian food bowl and water dish on the patio or in the garage for Fido or Fluffy. Today’s pet owners are seeking dishware that not only enhances the dining fare of pets, but also harmonizes with home décor, as these products are often displayed in the kitchen or in other parts of the home.
Several factors have affected the category, according to Sue Pregartner, CEO of The Americas at Paikka, which makes dishes, clothing and other accessories for pets and has U.S. headquarters in Burnsville, N.C.
"Pet owners are more demanding and aware of the type of bowl that is best for their pet," she said. "For example, plastic bowls do not sell anymore. Most dogs and cats eat in the kitchen, so bowls have become part of the home interior and must look nice."
Food selection itself is another influencer. As pet owners are nourishing their dogs and cats with higher-quality foods, they are demanding a finer mealtime ambiance in general, she said.
Variety is up, as pet owners expect many choices in mealtime accessories, said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets, a pet treat and accessories manufacturer in Cranbury, N.J.
"Bowls for pets represent a lifestyle, and [offering] an array of designs is incredibly important in order to appeal to a more diverse and wider range of pet parent," Abbey said. "Retailers seek solutions that will offer great value to their customers, and provide durability, safety and quality construction."
Pet retailers report a mix of consumer wants and needs.
At Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., owner Lorin Grow has not noted an uptick in demand for a particular style.
"For a while it was farmhouse décor," she said. "Now it’s individualized to purpose and placement."
Elevated feeders can make dining easier for a dog or cat and alleviate mess. At Teca Tu–A Pawsworthy Pet Emporium & Deli in Santa Fe, N.M., these products are displayed with a variety of inserted bowls, said owner Laurie Wilson, who noted that the store sells a lot of raised feeders.
Teca Tu also stocks a broad selection of colorful glass ceramic bowls, including its own popular line with Santa Fe styling.
"We also carry stainless bowls with no-skid rubber on the bottom, but some people like the more colorful glass bowls," Wilson said. "And we try to have matching treat jars for all of our dishes."
Neil Peters, sales manager at Carmel Ceramica in Carmel, Calif., which creates gift, tabletop and home décor items along with dishes and treat jars for dogs and cats, said that hue has an impact on consumer choice.
"We offer four different colors for our dog products and two for cats," Peters said. "Customers seem to gravitate toward more neutral colors such as French white or gray that are easier to match to a décor. However, there will always be those that prefer stronger colors like caramel or aqua/green."
Loving Pets provides pet owners with a variety of feeding and containment options designed to harmonize with home décor, unique personality, and pet feeding preferences at an affordable price point, according to Abbey.
"Also, the natural design trends that we see every day on HGTV, such as wood, farmhouse or natural, are very popular," Abbey said. "The category has evolved based on lifestyle, with a priority on designs that complement life and home."
But while pet owners are seeking bowls, mats and treat jars that will enrich personal style and home décor, they are also calling for products that are durable and easy to clean, Abbey said.
In this way, demand for stainless steel is strong, retailers report.
"Basic stainless steel bowls are still our best-sellers," said Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of Wag Heaven Pet Supplies and Self-Serve Dog Wash in Georgetown, Texas.
At Teca Tu, customers desire stainless steel bowls that do not slide, Wilson said.
"Another great category is the slow-feeding bowl for the dog who eats too fast," she added. "We also carry automatic feeders and waterers."
Locale and climate play a role in product selection, according to Yang Bernhard.
"Here in Texas, our climate is somewhat warm throughout the year, and we are always mindful of the surrounding environment," Yang Bernhard said. "For instance, we carry ant-proof pet bowls for our customers. And in an active community, we offer portable bowls as well."
Some consumers also look for bowls that are appropriate for outdoor use, according to retailers.
"If for outside, customers want sturdy and unbreakable bowls, so [they] ask for stainless, bamboo or plastic products," Grow said. "If inside, it’s more about décor and/or the individual dog or cat. Then, there are those who want only sustainably made."
An increasing number of pet owners also travel with their dogs to the dog park, down the street or even farther, and they are looking for products that are easy to clean, are space efficient or feature clip-on designs for on-the-go travel and convenience, Abbey noted.
On the Market
Form and Function
Consumers demand both style and function in dining accessories, and manufacturers are proving that they are up to the challenge.
Wood bowls and diners are the most recent addition to Loving Pets’ Black Label Collection, according to Eric Abbey, president and founder of the Cranbury, N.J.-based pet treat and accessories manufacturer. Four bowls and diners feature the natural beauty of antibacterial and sustainable wood accented by a variety of finishes and powder-coated wrought iron, with veterinary-recommended stainless steel insert bowls, Abbey said.
Loving Pets’ best-selling stainless steel Bella Bowls line for dogs and cats has been extended to include functional Bella Mats for dogs and cats. They help keep food and water spills contained, and the durable, dishwasher-safe mats are available in a variety of sizes and colors, Abbey noted.
Retro Bowls from Loving Pets are durable melamine bowls with removable stainless steel inserts. Available in hot retro colors, their no-tip design and rubber-lined base prevent spills and slides while reducing noise.
"Retro Bowls have a smooth, glossy finish and provide a lot of fun and personality to complement the home environment," Abbey said. "The veterinarian-recommended stainless steel interior bowls are not only bacteria resistant, but removable for easy cleanup."
Dish accessories, including treat jars, complete the décor of any kitchen, according to Neil Peters, sales manager at Carmel, Calif.-based Carmel Ceramica, which creates gift, tabletop and home décor items along with dishes and treat jars for dogs and cats.
"Our dog treat jars have been steady, strong sellers for years," he said. "They are a wonderful gift item, and so many times after someone receives a treat jar, they go on to purchase the matching bowls that are available in three different sizes."
Paikka, which manufactures dishes, clothing and other accessories for pets and has U.S. headquarters in Burnsville, N.C., focuses on ceramic.
"Our current pet bowl assortment is 100 percent ceramic, is FDA approved, human grade and cools naturally," said Sue Pregartner, CEO of The Americas at Paikka.
Cooling ceramic assists in keeping food fresh and water cool, and it eliminates potential bacteria, Pregartner said. The bowls are available in three standard colors: black, concrete and pink.
For pets with a strong appetite, Paikka slow-feed bowls support healthy eating habits and prevent overeating by slowing a pet’s pace of eating, resulting in a healthier stomach and teeth, according to Pregartner.
"We offer two styles of bowl: One is a water bowl, and one is a slow feeder," Pregartner said. "The slow feeder has either a bone, heart or fish as the center obstacle to slow the dog or cat down."
Sales Floor Strategies
When it comes to displaying and promoting a wide array of bowls, mats, jars and feeders, retailers and manufacturers agree that placement is crucial.
Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets, a pet treat and accessories manufacturer in Cranbury, N.J., suggests modeling an aisle similarly to a home goods store so customers can easily navigate to the design and price point that suits their individual need.
"Create different sections for a new puppy, home-design style, goal—such as everyday diners or travel, raised versus traditional bowls, or materials, including melamine, plastic, stainless, ceramic and wood," Abbey said.
At Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., mealtime products are shown in a dishware section but also presented in unique pairings throughout the store.
"We will separate different bowls out of the dishware section of the store and place them in unusual places paired, for example, with something breed specific," said owner Lorin Grow. "We might pair a cute cat dish or two with a particularly popular cat food brand in a prominently seen location; the same with dog food."
Grow also pointed to the benefits of using a standalone display featuring a particular design in an unusual location to capture the attention of shoppers.
"If someone isn’t specifically shopping for dishware, this can prompt an unintended view and subsequent impulse purchase," she said.
Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of Wag Heaven Pet Supplies and Self-Serve Dog Wash in Georgetown, Texas, noted that when retailers partner with food brands, both food and dining accessories can be highlighted.
"Sometimes, we are able to get our manufacturers to help us sell food bowls in combined promotions, such as buy a large bag, get a free bowl or some dollars off," Yang Bernhard said. "We then display the bowls by the pet food brand."
Wag Heaven’s travel bowls are positioned near an outdoor products section as well as alongside other dining selections, Yang Bernhard said.
"We have also placed portable bowls by the leashes," he said. "For the most part, we try to move product around to keep our store layout looking fresh."
Exhibiting a variety of bowls in raised feeders helps customers to visualize a product in their own home, said Laurie Wilson, owner of Teca Tu–A Pawsworthy Pet Emporium & Deli in Santa Fe, N.M.
"We put bowls in raised feeders so people can see how they fit; if they don’t want stainless, we use glass or ceramic bowls," Wilson said. "We have feeders all over the place with different types of bowls inside."
Bowls and treat jars are also staged in a section devoted to specific designs.
"Our exclusive petroglyph and chili pepper bowls and treat jars have their own dedicated space where they are all set up with different sizes so customers can see them," Wilson said. "Plus, we always have a really cool bowl with water at the entrance where it will be seen."
Sampling dining accessories in the store is a good way to call attention to these products, said 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 dogs and cats.
"We encourage our retail customers to have a few around the store for furry shoppers to try," he said.