We all know the expression “like a kid in a candy store.” Well, dog owners are probably experiencing that same feeling when they stand in front of the dog treat section in a pet specialty store. The selection is huge, the variety mind-boggling, and manufacturers promise more on the way.
Carnivore to Cookie Lover
Merrick Pet Care’s Backcountry Treats are an addition to the company’s popular Backcountry dog food line designed to tap into the trend to promote a dog’s carnivorous ancestral diet.
“Merrick’s grain-free Backcountry treats are available in jerky strips, sausage cuts and patties,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parents relations. “They meet the demand for all-natural, cooked-in-the-USA meat treats and chews that pet parents are looking for at treat time. And they have a hearty, wood-smoked taste that dogs really enjoy.”
The company’s Jerky Chip Treats are oven-baked cookies for dogs that replicate popular human chocolate chip cookies.
“These grain-free gluten-free ‘cookies’ offer a meaty taste, as they feature jerky chips made from real deboned chicken, beef or salmon,” he added. “They can easily be broken into smaller pieces and used for training, too.”
According to Ward Johnson, co-founder of Sojos Dogs, dog owners are looking for treats that they know are high in protein and low in fat.
“Sojos SimplyMeat treats meet these criteria and are gently freeze-dried to lock in all the natural enzymes, vitamins and minerals,” Johnson said. “They are perfect training treats for dogs of all sizes as they come in small, medium and large bone sizes and in flavors that appeal to pets and humans alike, such as blueberry cobbler and bacon cheddar.”
Paragon Pet Products, maker of WHIMZEES natural dog chews, reports great success with its refillable Variety Value boxes that provide dog owners with a combination of their favorite WHIMZEES Hedgehogs, Alligators, Toothbrushes and Stix.
“Our chews range in size from XXS to XL to cater for every breed and support our mission to offer high quality, healthy ingredients in a taste that dogs love in celebration of our commitment to pet health and fun,” said Jeff Camosci, vice president of marketing and sales for the North American region. “Currently, we are putting greater focus on smaller dog breeds and adding smaller sizes to our value boxes and bags.”
Also following the trend to focus on smaller dogs, Loving Pets, based in Cranbury, New Jersey, has introduced a line called Houndations Dog Treats. They are bite-sized, soft-chew treats for small dogs, or what company CEO Eric Abbey called “little learners,” as they are designed to be training treats as well as for general spoiling.
Houndations are grain-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free and corn-free and made in the USA. To help promote them in stores, each pack comes with a free carabiner to make it easy to take Houndations on the go for training, hiking or to the park. They are available in five flavors: beef, chicken, duck, lamb and salmon.
According to Jenna Fortin, marketing manager for Petcurean, the duck Spike Jerky is the company’s top-seller.
“What makes Spike stand out is that it’s a snack full of antioxidants, high in micronutrients and filled with superfoods like chia, pomegranate and kale,” Fortin said. “Each treat is made with high-quality protein and all-natural ingredients that are free from by-products, glycerin, added growth hormones, artificial preservatives, flavors and colors. The selection also includes venison, duck, catfish and turkey recipes.”
Last year, Lindy & Company added five new flavors to Lindy’s Bakery line of gourmet pet treats, bringing its total number of SKUs to 10, including two vegan options: Cranberry Supreme and Peanutty Puppers.
“We are responding to consumer demand for healthier treats for their dogs,” said Linda Kramer, CEO of Daybreak, the nonprofit organization that runs Lindy & Company and whose prime focus is to provide emergency shelter, housing and support for over 500 homeless teens and young adults each year. “Daybreak’s employment program helps Daybreak youth develop the skills necessary to get and keep jobs. Thus, many of them work at Lindy & Company producing the treats.”
With regard to more unusual proteins, Bette Schubert, Bravo co-founder and senior vice president of sales, reports that the company’s all-meat Bonus Bites are a big seller with one of the standout flavors being dry roasted Duck Feet.
“Also, we see dog owners becoming very calorie-conscious,” she said. “Our freeze dried Training Treats measure a quarter-inch square in size and provide a lower calorie option for when pet parents are treating frequently during a training session. The two flavors are Turkey Bits and Trail Mix Bits, a combination of turkey, beef, bison and cheddar cheese. They are also ideal for overweight dogs, as it still allows them to have a delicious treat, but without the extra calories.”
Know the Source
Zuke’s has expanded its treats selection with the introduction of PureNZ Jerky Treats.
“When it came to sourcing the primary ingredients for our new jerky treats, New Zealand was an easy choice,” said Chris Meiering, the company’s director of innovation. “This country’s unparalleled commitment to quality and the ethical treatment of animals, along with its rolling hills and pristine waters, make New Zealand home to some of the best natural ingredients in the world.”
The treats are crafted in small batches for ‘farm-to-dog’ freshness,” he added. “The limited-ingredient recipe contains 80 (to) 90 percent real meat protein plus high-quality fruits and vegetables.”
The PureNZ are available in four forms: bites, cords, cuts and steaks. There’s also a map on the back of every bag that shows where each ingredient was sourced.
According to Maggie Marchese, vice president of marketing at Petmatrix, the company is expanding its SmartBone line of treats by adding additional flavors, shapes and novelty chews that include additional chicken wrapped on the outside of the product.
“Our proven flavor winners are always chicken, beef and peanut butter, and classic hand-tied bone shapes and sticks are always our top-selling shapes,” she said, adding that though SmartBone treats resemble rawhide treats in shape, they do not contain any rawhide. “It’s very important to us to convey this message to consumers. Consequently, we have a large ‘No-Rawhide’ seal on every package to visually communicate why this formula is unique and better for dogs.”
Barkworthies recently introduced a line of cannabidiol (CBD) treats for dogs dealing with ailments ranging from mood disorders to pain that can benefit from this naturally occurring compound found in the hemp plant.
“This extract is highly therapeutic and can help relieve many common symptoms, like inflammation, lack of appetite and anxiety,” explained Bill Chilian, marketing vice president of the company. “These all-natural treats are available in two flavors, Blueberry Cannabidiol Treats and Pumpkin Cannabidiol Treats, and offer a spectrum of comforts that can be enjoyed by dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes. And by utilizing ingredients like gluten-free oat flour, organic coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, delicious blueberry, pumpkin and peanut butter, these treats combine the curative effect of CBD and hemp seed with healthful, tasty flavors that dogs love.”
These biscuit-styled treats tap directly into a new and growing trend of cannabidiol products for both dogs and cats that are becoming available in a variety of forms including supplements and transdermal applications.
Snacking without the Guilt
Freeze dried raw treats made from proteins like chicken or salmon are one of the biggest trends currently being highlighted on the feline treat shelf. They are healthy, neat and do double duty, as they can be added to both kibble and wet recipes to entice finicky eaters to the food bowl.
“Our Merrick Backcountry freeze-dried raw cat treats are available in chicken and salmon and bring together two mega trends in the pet food aisle—namely, freeze-dried raw products and single ingredient proteins such as chicken and salmon,” explained Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations. “And yes, they are perfect to be added to the food bowl in their treat form or crushed and sprinkled onto kibble to enhance mealtimes.”
Scott Brownell, director of sales for Grandma Lucy’s, concurred with Brace.
“We have definitely seen a shift in the cat treat market with customers looking for a single source option with no fillers and overall a healthier option to feed to their pets. Our Singles Chicken and Singles Fish options are currently our most popular treats.
“When it comes to promoting them with our retail partners, we offer in-store discounts, social media boosted announcements, coupons and taste testings,” he added. “We like to take a multi-faceted creative approach to promote our products and introduce them to new customers.”
The company also has new treats debuting at the Global Pet Expo next month but is keeping the information under wraps until the trade show.
Caru Pet Food reports that its Salmon and Chicken Baked Bites Recipes, which are part of their Soft ‘n Tasty line that launched at Superzoo in 2016, are selling well.
“Cat owners are becoming increasingly conscientious about the edibles they select for their felines. They’re migrating toward meaty, limited ingredient treats that are rich in antioxidants, Omega 3s and other healthy nutrients,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “There is no question that made in the USA continues to be a purchase driver and now more consumers are further seeking treats that are also made from non-GMO ingredients. Our Soft ‘n Tasty line meets all these criteria. And we have plans to expand the line.”
According to Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of sales for Bravo, another growing trend in the treat aisle is products specifically formulated to meet unique feline nutritional needs.
“The industry as a whole is more cognizant of the fact that cats require double the amount of protein that dogs do,” Schubert said. “This translates to more treats being formulated with higher protein levels, organs and amino acids, including the recommended levels of taurine and arginine, essential for feline nutrition. We are going to see more treats being made with added organs and less with added vegetables, as cats really have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates.
“Our Healthy Bites and Healthy Medleys freeze dried treats provide nutritionally-sound options for feline pet parents,” she said. “Our top proteins in the Healthy Bites line are salmon and chicken, while the Mariner’s Medley, a combination of salmon, cod, and shrimp, is another favorite among our feline fans.”
It’s important that cat owners take the calories in treats into account in a cat’s overall calorie count for the day.
“That’s why treats should never be considered junk food and wasted calories,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet. “Healthier snacking is becoming a major priority for pet parents. Similar to the human snack industry, we’re making sure that treats for cats (and dogs) are made with wholesome, quality ingredients that can help supplement their regular diets. Our snacks contain no fillers, artificial colors or flavors or meat byproducts. We’re seeing a growing interest in grain-free treats to help with weight control in training and also to accommodate pets with grain allergies or sensitivities.
“We recently introduced three new flavors of Kittles. They are Duck & Cranberries, Turkey & Cranberries and Whitefish & Cranberries,” she said. “Cats are known for having finicky palates, so these new flavors give cat parents even more options to choose from when it comes to treat time.”
It’s Purely Natural is a single ingredient line of cat treats from Loving Pets and is available in four flavors: beef lung, chicken, buffalo and shrimp.
“This line also promotes the single ingredient protein trend along with ingredient labeling that easily identifies the contents, and, most importantly, shows what is not included,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of the New Jersey-based company. “And, to this end, Purely Natural Cat Treats have no additives, glycerin, artificial preservatives or fillers.
“Our research has shown that cat owners seek out high quality, yet affordable treats on the retail shelf for their feline friends,” he said. “We believe our treat line is competitively priced. Cats need a diet focused on healthy proteins because in terms of their dietary needs, protein is the cornerstone of their nutrition, keeping them both healthy within and looking good.”
The Sky is the Limit
Allowing cats to safely and securely experience the great outdoors is an overall boon to their general health and well-being. With this trend comes increased interest in feline collars, harnesses and leashes, and the selection is growing to meet this need in a variety of materials—from genuine leather, vegan leather and nylon to hemp and bamboo.
“We have seen excellent growth in the cat accessory market and have several new products currently in development,” said Kasumi Forth, technical design manager for RC Pet Products. “Our Kitty Breakaway Collar comes in nine plain colors with cyan and raspberry being the most popular shades. The Kitty Clip Collar line is available in 24 signature RC patterns, with the pirate cat and love birds designs being our best sellers.”
Forth added that the company tries to refresh its products’ pattern assortments twice a year, with the recent fish and bird patterns that were released in August 2016 being very well received by consumers. While the company also produces feline harnesses and leashes, they are not sold in conjunction with collars.
“But our customers do create their own matching sets or mix and match patterns as they please,” Forth explained.
Coastal Pet Products, Inc., offers a large selection of collars for both cats and kittens as well as a line of mesh harnesses sold with attached 6-foot matching leashes in several colors, including red, blue, pink and lime green. The harness sits on the shoulders so that it can be worn in conjunction with a collar. They are also adjustable around the tummy area.
The company’s newest collar selection is a range of glow-in-the-dark designs with a magnetic breakaway clasp.
“The glow-in-the-dark collars charge during the day, even indoors, to glow all night and feature a pivoting breakaway buckle,” explained Brooke Bower, marketing specialist for Coastal Pet Products, Inc. “The magnetic buckles self-align and provide a consistent breakaway point for maximum safety.”
Late last year the company also expanded its Li’l Pals Kitten line, introducing five high fashion safety collars.
“The Ribbon Safety Kitten Collar is available in green stripes and pink stripes and features a fashion forward, color-coordinated bead embellishment and a bell,” Bower added. “The other popular design has a decorative bow and is available in black silk, white silk and pink and grey velvet. They also have bells.”
According to Elizabeth Littlejohn, visual specialist for Petmate, the company’s research indicates that about 30 percent of cat owners put collars on their cats, and that safety features, rather than fashion trends, drives them to purchase a specific collar.
“Reflective prints in glow-in-the-dark ink and breakaway buckles top the list of important features for cat parents, and our various collections offer these important details,” Littlejohn said. “Such patterns not only look fashionable and on trend during the daytime, but glow for added safety and security at night. It’s an ideal combination.”
PetSafe Brand offers a free bungee leash to consumers who have purchased one of the company’s breakaway, snag-proof collars or the Come With Me Kitty harnesses.
“These sets are available in six colors, the most popular being blue, red, then black,” said Mandie Sweetnam, product manager for this category. “The advantage of a bungee leash is that it prevents kitty whiplash.”
Lupine Pet Products is known for its replacement collar guarantee for collars that have been chewed or badly frayed through scratching and exuberant play.
“We mostly get chewed dog collars back but occasionally there’s a chewed cat collar, too,” said Tracy McCarthy, a marketing repesentative for Lupine Pet Products.
According to McCarthy, many of Lupine’s customers who own both cats and dogs purchase matching collars and leashes for their pets. Consequently, the company makes matching breakaway feline collars in a narrower band and in one size intended for cats ranging between an 8-inch and 12-inch collar size.
Lupine’s H-shaped harness is available in two sizes; the 9-inch by 14-inch design is for kittens and svelte cats, while the 12-inch by 20-inch model is for cats with larger necks.
New York-based Around The Collar, which has built a strong reputation on its high fashion, handmade leather dog collars, recently started producing matching designs for cats as a result of requests from pet owners.
“Many of our canine designs cross over well for cats if the patterns can be replicated on a narrower collar that is between ⅝-inch to ½-inch wide,” explained Sharon Romero, creative director for the company. “Our small harnesses for tiny dogs are well-liked by cat owners, too.”
“And we have found that cat owners also love bling in the form of Swarovski crystals,” Romero added. “Flower patterns are very popular, as well as appropriately sized studs and spikes collars for larger cats like Bengals and Main Coons.”
Angel Pet Supplies also produces matching cat and dog collections.
“Our Athens rhinestone collection and our Alpine plain designs are the most popular amongst cat consumers,” said Eran Konorty, CEO of the company. He added that Angel Pet Supplies often offers retailers special promotions by discounting an entire collection.
“This allows us to offer deals on seasonal collections,” Konorty said. “It also gives retailers an opportunity to try a collection from Angel that they currently do not carry knowing they are getting the most popular colors and sizes within that deal.”
“And throughout the year, we also offer ISO deals (Initial Stocking Order) for new customers,” Konorty added. “We realize that new customers still need to familiarize themselves with our products, so we will either offer a certain percentage off of the order or we will recommend a pre-built or custom built collection based on their store type, location and budget. We want to ensure the success of the brand and will recommend our best starting point.”
Number One Fan
America is a nation of sports fans, though the revenue earned is not only from ticket sales in stadiums and arenas around the country. A large portion of sales comes from fan support in the form of team apparel merchandise worn at games as well as at home, on the couch, in front of the TV. Due to the fact that we have such a strong emotional connection with our pets, this “alma mater” effect often includes the family dog, making team sports pet apparel an equally lucrative niche market.
Since 2008, the main business for pet apparel manufacturer All Star Dogs, Inc. in Marlboro, New Jersey, has been licensed sports products.
“With over 5,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states, there’s a team in nearly everyone’s backyard,” said Elan Ovadia, vice president of sales for the company. “Overall, for us, the collegiate properties are the most popular nationwide.
“Over the last five years, we have acquired the licensing rights to over 200 new properties and several new leagues, effectively doubling our licensing program,” Ovadia said. “Our retail footprint is very strong in the pet specialty market, but it has also grown tremendously in the sporting goods and campus bookstore channels, too.
“Because our manufacturing is U.S.-based, we are able to produce licensed pet gear for not only the Big 10 teams, such as Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State, but also teams and universities that are on the second and third tier of NCAA divisions,” he added. “And, in fact, we sell as much team apparel that represents such teams like North Dakota State, TCU and Baylor, too.”
NASCAR and the NFL
With the closing of Hunter MFG, a former competitor in the pet sports apparel market, All Star Dogs was able to acquire the exclusive license to manufacture NASCAR pet gear as well.
“We are always looking to add new teams and licenses to our portfolio,” Ovadia said. “Product innovation is a top priority for us and we like to keep things fresh by debuting new designs constantly. Several new deals are in the works and we plan to add four or more new products to our lines during 2017.”
In 2012, Hip Doggie, a manufacturer of high fashion for small canines, formed a partnership with Little Earth Productions to design a collection of National Football League (NFL) pet apparel and harnesses in line with the sports license that Little Earth Productions had acquired.
“Little Earth approached us because it was looking to develop high quality and unique NFL products that would differentiate it from what was currently being offered in the market,” explained Sue Kim, Hip Doggie president and CEO. “Our partnership also extends to distribution of the merchandise.
“Our NFL puffer vest is our top seller,” she said. “The line also includes a hoodie, which can be worn year-round, as well as a harness vest that is often purchased in conjunction with our NFL retractable leash.”
There is also a knitted ski hat that has a built-in stretch scarf that allows the hat to stay on without fuss. It’s available in three sizes, making it suitable for dogs both big and small.
Pets First, based in New Jersey, originally started in 2004 by manufacturing character licenses, such as SpongeBob and Disney favorites, before adding about 60 NBA sports licenses as well as some colleges to their portfolio. Then, in 2014, the company bought Sporty K9, a company well established in the pet retail space with NFL and MLB (Major League Baseball) licenses for pet wear.
“This acquisition made us the country’s largest sports-licensed pet product company,” said Mark Sok, national sales manager for Pets First Company.
Pets First currently boasts a vast library of officially licensed apparel and products that are sold through pet retailers and specialty gift shops. This includes licenses with nearly 50 of the top colleges in the country, including Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State University and the University of Southern California.
“Currently, jerseys and collars are our most popular items, followed by T-shirts, bandanas and leashes,” Sok noted. “In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in size purchases. When we produced merchandise ranging from X-small to large, medium-sized apparel used to be our most popular size. However, retailers started lobbying for even bigger sizes, so we added XL jerseys and then last year we extended our lines to include XXL sizes, too. And we will be adding more XXL sizes starting with our MLB apparel this spring.”
Ovadia concurred with Sok, endorsing a growing market for sports apparel for bigger dogs.
“There’s no question that pet owners are as likely to gear up their mastiff as they are their beagle,” Ovadia said. “You’d be amazed how many photographs we get of 200-pound dogs wearing our apparel.”
The “alma mater factor” extends beyond dogs joining family members on the couch at home. Now pet owners can ocassionally attend special sports days for dogs in stadiums across the country, which means the market for canine sports apparel (and accessories such as collars and leashes) continues to expand.
“Dressing your dog in a team jersey—whether you are at home or at a tailgating party—is another great way of enhancing the human-animal bond,” Ovadia said.
Getting Closer to Nature
When families sit down to a traditional meal, it’s a way of celebrating familial roots and enhancing family ties. This custom has crossed over into the pet space, as meal times are a great way of bonding with your dog. In addition, meals comprising raw or freeze-dried raw foods replicate a dog’s ancestral diet, providing a carnivorous meal they love.
A recent study produced by GfK, an international market research and consumer insights company, cited Merrick Pet Care’s Backcountry product line as the top-selling new natural dog food launch in pet specialty in 2015. Merrick joins a plethora of new and established names offering both freeze-dried raw and frozen raw canine options available in pet specialty stores nationwide.
“Backcountry raw infused recipes deliver a perfect combination of protein-rich, grain-free kibble plus real whole pieces of raw, freeze-dried meat for the nutritional benefits and fresh taste of a raw diet in a convenient format for pet parents,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations at Merrick Pet Care. “And given this success, we’ve expanded the line with Backcountry Freeze-dried Raw Meals or Mixers, available in beef and chicken, to provide a nutritional raw boost in a convenient and safe format. It can be served either as a complete and balanced meal or as a mixer on top of kibble.”
Meanwhile, Bravo! offers both frozen raw diets and freeze-dried raw foods based on a simple, single protein, limited-ingredient formula philosophy.
“Our product line of raw foods called Bravo Blends was developed to allow for easy customization to meet the specific nutritional needs of our customers’ dogs,” said Bette Schubert, Bravo! co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education. “Our formulations run the spectrum from healthy, complete and balanced diets, to condition-specific, limited-ingredient, single-protein diets, especially for dogs who are allergy or food-sensitive.
“Our Homestyle Complete freeze-dried dinners have really been a game changer for us in terms of sales and bringing new pet parents into the category,” Schubert said. “This line offers grain- and gluten-free formulas with added veggies, cranberries and vitamins and minerals. We’re gaining new and loyal customers one bite at a time.”
According to Matt Koss, founder and president of Primal Pet Foods, freeze-dried formulas can be a stepping stone to raw frozen foods.
“Once a customer has transitioned to freeze-dried raw, a natural progression can be the addition of raw frozen foods into the feeding rotation,” he said. “Frozen foods can offer a wider variety of protein sources and will typically be less expensive per pound when compared to a rehydrated freeze-dried formula. Our gateway products, such as raw bones and raw goat milk, are a very approachable introduction to the freezer. These nutritionally functional products have proven to be strong selling SKU’s for our brand.”
Primal Foods runs promotions with pet specialty retailers throughout the year, offering a variety of deals to its consumers.
“These promotional deals can cross promote products or introduce a new product line or the expansion of a line, to name a few,” Koss said. “Our promotions are exclusive to brick and mortar retailers and often feature a raw frozen item to help insulate the retailer from the threat of online sales. We are looking to build long-term and lasting relationships with our specialty pet retailers and our promotional tools are one of many ways we accomplish this.”
“We just launched two new recipes specially formulated for growing puppies,” explained Ward Johnson, Sojos co-founder. “Sojos Complete for Puppies is the first life-stage food in the raw, shelf-stable category. It combines raw, freeze-dried turkey and Omega-rich salmon with select superfoods and a targeted blend of essential vitamins and minerals. It rehydrates in just five minutes to minimize prep time for both puppies and new pet parents, and the ‘soft serve’ mix is particularly friendly for puppies with developing teeth and gums. Also new this year is Sojos SimplyPuppy, raw all-meat treats that come in two varieties: protein-rich turkey and salmon or beef and venison.”
According to Johnson, the company’s “new puppy recipes come at an exciting time… as they represent the next wave of innovation in raw nutrition for pets.”
Stella & Chewy’s has embarked on an active educational drive with their pet specialty retail stockists to inform dog owners how freeze-dried raw food is different from traditional dog food by offering in-store samples, promotional discounts and in-pack coupons that offer consumers savings on their first and repeat purchases.
“Freeze-dried foods can be easily sampled in-store or at pet-centric events and are an ideal way to introduce new potential purchasers to the raw food segment, as they eliminate some barriers that can exist when learning more and trying raw food for the first time,” Stella & Chewy’s Director of Marketing Lee Hessenthaler said.
Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers have been well-received by pet parents since owners can “add raw food nutrition to their dog’s existing diet by adding the product to their current food.”
“Research has shown two thirds of pet parents ‘mix’ kibble with other foods before feeding,” Hessenthaler explained. “So instead of suggesting a change in feeding behavior, it can serve as an easy way to complement and enhance their current brand to deliver raw food nutrition to any meal.”
According to Heather Hickey, national sales director for Nature’s Logic, the company’s raw diets offer complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages.
“With over 95-percent meat, Nature’s Logic raw frozen diets emulate a pet’s ancestral carnivorous diet,” Hickey said. “Our very palatable muscle and organ meat, along with our proprietary dried veggie and fruit concentrate, ensures that dogs are getting all the nutrients they need without any added chemical or synthetic vitamins or minerals.”
For convenient preparation and serving, Nature’s Logic patties come in two sizes, 3.2 ounces or eight ounces and are available in beef, chicken, rabbit and venison.
“We also offer cooking instructions on the package if you prefer to cook for your pet,” explained Hickey, who added that if you reverse the process by initially cooking the meat patties, it’s another way of converting to raw.
Lots of Litter Options
The cat litter category has always been proactive in terms of innovations. However, the last two years have seen some real game changers come to market, giving consumers lots to consider before making a selection that best suits their needs.
Despite the advent of so many types of litter, such as those made from wheat, corn, silica gel and plant products such as cassava, coconut husks and even paper, clay-based litters remain a popular choice. So the introduction of lightweight clay formulas has had a positive impact on the litter shelf.
“Tidy Cats has always been an innovator in the litter category,” said Paul Cooke, vice president and director of trade and industry development at Nestle Purina PetCare Company. “We were the first brand to launch a truly lightweight litter, and we’re changing the litter game once again with the introduction of TidyLock Protection. This new technology, which better absorbs liquids and features an improved deodorizing system that helps neutralize odors, has been added to Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance and Tidy Cats Instant Action traditional and LightWeight cat litters.”
“We are driven to continuously improve upon the odor control capabilities of our litters and provide different options for our consumers’ needs,” Cooke added.
To promote this new technology, the company has embarked on an extensive advertising campaign across TV, print and digital platforms. The tongue-in-cheek Tidy Cats Stank Face campaign features actress and cat-lover Angela Kinsey and also directly targets consumers via social media platforms.
Another game changer in the litter category comes from Cats Incredible, the new litter from Lucy Pet Products.
“No company has ever addressed the health issues for cats and people due to ammonia exposure from the litter box,” explained Joey Herrick, president of Lucy Pet Products and the Lucy Pet Foundation. “The fact that Cats Incredible has breakthrough technology that stops ammonia from ever forming makes it a one-of-a-kind product that is revolutionizing the litter industry. Further, there’s a worldwide patent pending on the two-handled bag with a side spout that’s easy to pour. We’ve produced a premium-priced litter that actually lasts up to 30 percent longer due to no ammonia odor, which makes it less expensive in the long run.”
There’s no question that eco-friendly litters are growing in popularity as cat owners mimic their own lifestyle habits to maintain a small carbon footprint.
According to Jane Wasley, brand manager for Healthy Pet, ökocat Natural Clumping Cat Litter (the blue box) is the most popular one in the extensive line of ökocat natural litters.
“We are incredibly proud that our distribution has expanded to over 5,000 retail stores in the US alone,” Wasley indicated. “Our initial region that had the largest distribution was the western/northwestern US, but now we have expanded national distribution partners in all regions, with the biggest growth occurring in the Northeast.”
He credits this increase in large part to a specific generation.
“This growth is being boosted by millennials who are now the largest group of cat owners in the country,” Wasley said. “Research has shown that natural and organic products are very important to them and they are willing to pay a premium for a litter that is a safer, healthier alternative for both their cat and themselves.”
Garfield, America’s favorite orange tabby cartoon cat, has recently been “endorsing” a variety of pet products, including a new clumping litter from 7pets, based in Miami, Florida. The company partnered with Paws Inc. to license the cat litter formula using Garfield’s brand.
“There are three formulas combining only natural ingredients from South America, and the blend of these ingredients enables instant clumping and eliminates the strong ammonia odor in cat urine,” explained Luana Francischini, communications director for 7pets. “Two of the products are made of a specific type of cassava (tropical root also known as yucca) and corn and are biodegradable and flushable in the toilet (the green and purple packages). The third litter in the line-up is not biodegradable. It is made of cassava, corn and dolomite, which is a mineral. So there are no chemicals at all, which makes our three products 100 percent natural.”
According to Francischini, consumers have a particular interest in biodegradable litters.
“Since launching in the U.S. in March 2016, we’ve seen more interest in the biodegradable versions, without a major preference between the tiny or standard grains,” she said. “It tells us that the local market seems to be more sensitive to renewable resources and/or practicality, since the biodegradable options are flushable and completely dust-free.”
Endorsing the growing power of millennial spending and their influence over trends, Ultra Pet Company is tapping directly into this generation of cat lovers with their vibrantly colored clumping crystal litter called Neon Litter.
The company suggests combining the three neon pink, green and orange colors in the litter box and allowing feline creativity to take over and create interesting patterns as they scratch and cover up as part of their basic toilet habits.
According to Tom Atyeo, the company’s vice president of marketing, the product is 70 percent lighter than clay products, making the cartons easy to use for an in-store display.
“The absorbent micro crystals are soft on paws and offer excellent odor control, too,” he said.
The company is also on another new trend bandwagon, namely the latest innovation of diagnostic litters that change color and alert cat owners to potential serious health issues, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections and diabetes. This allows owners to effectively monitor the situation on a daily basis and refer this detailed information to a veterinarian.
Atyeo pointed out that although the term “diagnostic litters” is being bandied about as a generic term in the industry, such products are not truly diagnostic. Instead, they are “indicators” of possible problems. There are now several on the market, including products from Pestell Pet Products, such as LifeMate Health Alert and Dr. Elsey’s Health Monitor Everyday Cat Litter.
“Only a veterinarian or a trained member of their staff has the diagnostic tools necessary to do a true diagnostic,” Atyeo said. “We specifically point this out on the bag and on the instruction card that is inside each bag of our product called Monthly Monitor.”
Atyeo explained how the product works.
“Most indicator litters use assorted pH indicators that react to the introduction of urine,” he said. “The pH indicators are either applied to a form of litter (silica gel or clay) or are added to the cat’s normal litter as an additive (silica gel or treated paper strips). Indicator litters and litter additives will turn colors once the urine is introduced. The cat parent then needs to compare the color to those on the provided color key. However, there is no doubt that litters that alert to a problem can potentially help to save lives.”
Sleeping in Style
Our dogs spend approximately 13 hours a day in snooze mode. Fortunately, pet bed manufacturers have created plenty of new options for dogs to enjoy both indoors and outdoors.
According to Gary O’Donnell, vice president of marketing at Snoozer, the company’s new Forgiveness mattresses are fully washable.
“If a dog soils his or her bed, the mattress can be simply washed with soap and water, which will not only eliminate any smells but simultaneously rid the mattress of any dust mites, allergens or other contaminates that build up in mattresses over time,” he explained.
Snoozer is using the same Forgiveness material, which is crafted from recycled bottles for crate mats. Both the bed mattresses and crate mats are available in a variety of sizes. In addition, the company produces a special stand to display a selection of mattress covers in a variety of sizes and stunning patterns, enabling pet specialty retailers to offer customers a large selection without taking up too much floor space.
With the growing demand for orthopedic dog products, Snoozer is promoting the orthopedic Cozy Cave, a hooded bed for small dogs, along with its popular lounge dog flat mattress-styled option.
West Paw Design recently celebrated its 20th anniversary at Superzoo with the debut of new styles in their Heyday Bed collection. The beds are available in a micro suede fabric and plush top in a variety of muted colors such as oatmeal, midnight blue and a burgundy wine shade designed to blend well with popular home decoration schemes. Special features include pillow-styled bolsters and a double-stuffed base for maximum canine comfort and a low profile offering easy access.
The company’s popular Montana Nap flat mats are available in a variety of sizes and new patterns that have been added to the line. As with all West Paw Design products, the flap mats are manufactured in Montana.
As part of a year-long celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the Carolina Pet Company has collaborated with the iconic Pendleton Woolen Mills apparel company. The result of the partnership is the Pendleton National Parks Collection of pet beds, collars, leashes, jackets and totes inspired by the colorful Pendleton blankets representing 10 of the most famous U.S. National Parks. Among the iconic parks featured in the collection are Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains and Yellowstone. The collection includes over-stuffed fleecy beds sporting these blanket patterns. There are also jackets and other accessories to match.
“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Pendleton, and future collections will feature the stripe patterns of early camp blankets,” said Penny Stolfe, speaking on the compnay’s behalf. “With regard to the beds in the line, we have focused on supreme comfort, as the beds are made of memory foam, orthopedic foam and have special moisture barriers to protect and preserve.”
The Dream Sleeper multi-functional bed from Tall Tails is reversible, with one side featuring plush fabric and the other side a durable twill. The bed is available in four sizes and is completely washable.
“The plush fabric provides warmth for a cozy nap or night’s rest and twill allows air to circulate, creating a cool, comfortable space for dogs after a long walk or day at the park,” explained Stephanie Krol, Tall Tails’ publicist.
The company’s new 3-in-1 Blanket Bed, which is available in two sizes and two colors, transforms into three different resting options. Pets can get cozy by configuring a nest to snuggle into for a nap, a pad to lie on after a long day of adventures and an opening to crawl and burrow inside of on a chilly night.
Tall Tails has a wide range of fleece blankets and throws that can be used separately or on an existing pet bed for additional warmth. The company also produces special dog and puppy gift sets that include a luxurious fleece blanket, a trademarked Waterwoof pad and a soft squeaky bone toy that are being promoted for the holiday season.
These products work well for special occasions and as gifts for new pet parents. In addition, Tall Tails offers retailers a variety of display options, including their Accessories Tower that displays a large selection of different products from the company.
New from Urban Paw, manufactured by Los Angeles-based Sentiments, is a selection of uniquely shaped beds in nautical and fish prints, along with cartoon-style dog patterns, that make the bed a focal point in a room.
One popular design is the Teddy Cuddler, which is available in both a navy-and-white and a grey-and-white anchor pattern. The product has a reversible insert with a solid color as an alternative, and the poly cotton canvas fabric is dirt resistant and washable. The fish patterns are available in a variety of blues and sea greens.
Nautical fabrics have become a very popular theme for pet decor, and there are currently plenty of available accessories. Dog beds that match a room’s theme will be a welcome addition in any home. Kids also love cartoon characters as a bedroom theme, so consumers who like to place dog beds in different rooms will welcome the opportunity to have a dog bed with a cartoon theme that matches a child’s bedroom pattern.
The Petlinks Deluxe Dreamer from Worldwise, Inc., continues to be a perennial favorite.
The filling is made from reclaimed memory foam and reclaimed “cluster foam” (shredded standard foam) that conforms to a dog’s body and evenly distributes weight across the bed to provide relief for painful joints and achy muscles.
San Francisco-based P.L.A.Y. has introduced the Scout and About Outdoor Collection, an extension of its award-winning outdoor bedding line that features outdoor and travel-friendly products for the active human and dog, including tents, beds and mats.
“The Scout and About Outdoor Tent turns rugged adventures into a breeze with its compact and packable pop-up design for easy travel,” explained Bill Parsons, sales manager. “The tent features a water-resistant fabric, mesh sides for ventilation and visibility, fully enclosed floor to keep out unwanted visitors, optional rain shield and provides your dog safety from the elements. The hideaway is completed by a choice of weatherproof, extra durable beds, including our newest outdoor bed design or one of our best-selling Chill pads. This collection offers active humans and dogs ideal accessories for a day of backyard fun, training and events, weekend trips to the beach or lake, and even back country hiking and camping.”
With “pet technology” being a popular term in the pet industry, more pet specialty retailers are considering the addition of tech products to their inventory. Apart from the wide array of fun gadgets, there is a selection of products that solve serious problems such as feeding cats in multi-pet households, tracking the amount of water they drink and finding them when they go into hiding.
According to research conducted in the United Kingdom, makers of the Surefeed microchip-operated feeders and motion sensor pet bowls, found that cat owners waste between 33 percent and 50 percent of their cat’s wet food.
“This is because wet food does not stay fresh for long and subsequently becomes unpalatable,” explained Piers Hampson, marketing manager for the company. “And this is an issue because most cats like to graze throughout the day. Sealed bowls maintain freshness for a longer period. They also keep flies and insects out of the food.”
Thanks to its motion sensor, the bowl only opens when a pet approaches, making it ideal for single pet households. On the other hand, the microchip feeder is programmed to only let a designated animal feed from the bowl—perfect for multi-pet households where pets might be on differing diets. For pets that are not microchipped, the company also supplies a special tag that can be paired to a specific bowl.
Surefeed has also incorporated the same microchip technology to operate a cat door that allows felines access to secure outdoor areas. The door can also be installed inside the home to give cats privacy away from other pets.
New Jersey-based Pet Life produces a range of smart food bowls and water fountains. The Petkit Fresh bowl has a scale that offers four units of conversion: grams, pounds, ounces and milliliters. The bowl has an anti-flow contoured design to prevent food or water from spilling and anti-skid rubberized grips to keep it firmly in place.
The Petkit Eversweet drinking fountain alerts when the water level is low and, when in smart mode, only flows when approached by a pet. In normal mode, it flows continuously. The product has been awarded the International Product and Design Innovation Award for its sophisticated modern design.
“The fountain is engineered on the infinity concept,” said company representative Joseph Braha. “The upstream water flow directly comes into contact with water above the rim resulting in far less noise and complete silence.”
“It also has a five stage carbon filtration system,” he added. “The filtration pads are also re-usable. We recommend a carbon filtration change once every 12 months and they should be cleaned every six months.”
The Eyenimal range of products from French company Num’ Axes has produced an “intelligent pet bowl” with an integrated scale and an LCD screen that enables pet owners to measure the amount of food put out daily as well as monitor the amount of water consumed on a daily basis. The latter is an important feature because cats often do not drink enough water.
Combs and Cameras
The company also has a static comb, a chemical-free alternative to killing fleas. The battery-operated comb uses a harmless electrostatic current to kill and remove fleas hiding in a cat’s thick coat.
In 2010, Num’ Axes made headlines when it collaborated with Friskies to create the first movie made by cats. For this project, a variety of cats wore the first Eyenimal pet camera that filmed their lives. The movie was subsequently edited by a Hollywood film crew and debuted with a red carpet event in Hollywood.
“Since then, we have significantly improved the technology and reduced the size and weight of the cameras,” said Joëlle Thomas, export manager for Num’ Axes.
There are currently three different cameras available. The latest one designed specifically for cats is called the CatCam, which films with HD clarity, features night vision and a motion detector that halts recording when the cat is sleeping.
The latest version of the barrel-shaped POD GPS tracker designed in Australia specifically for cats is now Wi-Fi compatible, which allows for both faster location notifications in the neighborhood as well as inside your own home. The tracker, which is reputed to be the smallest and lightest, weighing in at one ounce, fits onto any collar.
The POD GPS tracker is also waterproof and comes with two batteries so there is no down time. Thanks to smartphone connectivity, pet owners can also monitor their feline’s activity levels and receive alerts if the cat escapes its domestic safe zone.
The Petzi Treat Cam allows owners to treat their pets around the clock from anywhere. Working through an app, owners can check-in and interact with their felines from any smart phone or tablet. The product has a wide-angle camera with night vision and high-quality audio capabilities. The treat launcher can be used with any dry, crunchy treat smaller than an inch in diameter. The unit also comes with a mounting kit so that it can be placed anywhere in the home.
Indoor cats that are exposed to artificial lights tend to shed year-round, making hairballs a perennial issue. This feline issue is best addressed from a nutritional standpoint as well as from a grooming one.
The Wellness Natural Hairball Control recipe is made with a precise blend of fiber to control hairballs.
“It helps move hair and already-formed hairballs through the cats’ digestive track,” explained Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior manager, marketing communications for Wellness Natural Pet Food. “The natural recipe includes wholesome, savory protein sources cats love like deboned chicken and turkey and also includes vitamins and minerals to support skin and coat health, resulting in fewer stray hairs being ingested.”
“Similarly, our new grain-free Wellness TruFood CocoChia Bakes are treats with salmon, coconut oil that contain a healthy dose of coconut oil and chia seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics,” she said. “These tasty treats are great for a cat’s skin and coat while helping promote digestive health and keeping cats hairball free.”
Evanger’s Holistic Pheasant Dinner or Organics Turkey & Butternut Squash Dinner are recommended for cats prone to hairballs. Both of these USA-made meals contain optimal levels of fiber and nutrition to help pets reduce the formation of hairballs.
“Premium, highly digestible ingredients can improve coat strength and reduce shedding, as well as add quality fiber to aid in the digestion of hair through the intestinal tract,” said Holly Sher, president and owner of the Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company.
Solid Gold also promotes a diet that addresses overall good health, which ultimately promotes a healthy digestive system to cope with a hairball issue.
“We believe that holistic pet health is the key to ongoing hairball management,” said Leasa Greer, nutrition and regulatory affairs manager at Solid Gold Pet. “This means promoting digestive health, supporting the immune system and ensuring skin and coat vitality.”
“If a cat is in a state of overall good health, its digestive system is built to manage the hard-to-digest material in a hairball by moving it through the digestive system quickly,” she explained. “However, if the digestive system is not functioning normally, or, the cat is digesting a large amount of hair during grooming or due to poor skin health, the hair can build up in the intestinal tract, causing upset stomach and vomiting.”
Increasing the fiber content of a cat’s diet can help promote a healthy digestive tract, enabling hairballs to move efficiently through the digestive system. Solid Gold’s Fit as a Fiddle dry cat food contains increased levels of fiber content to support healthy digestion.
“If the digestive system needs additional support, canned pumpkin can be added to our kibble to increase the fiber content of a cat’s diet,” she said. “1-2 tbsp per day mixed with a normal diet will encourage digestive tract health.”
Royal Canin has a specific formula to address a hairball issue called Indoor Intense Hairball formula.
“It’s our top formula for cats who have hairball issues,” said Brent Mayabb, vice president of corporate affairs for Royal Canin. “Our Persian formula is also formulated to help reduce hairballs since the very unique coat (and the hairballs associated with it) is one of the hallmark characteristics of the breed. So this breed-specific Persian formula is designed with hairball reduction in mind. However, all our feline formulas help address hairballs, even if we don’t list it as a specific feature on the packaging.”
The Honest Kitchen, known for their dehydrated food formulas, has two products especially for cats, namely, Grace and Prowl.
“Our feline foods contain natural sources of essential fatty acids and soluble fiber as a result of the whole food ingredients in the recipes, so they support total health, which in turn helps to reduce hair balls,” said Lucy Postins, founder and CEO of the San Diego-based company.
Postins confirmed that her company is working on new cat products to debut in 2017.
Grooming tools such as slicker brushes and combs are basics in the feline grooming tool box along with deshedding tools, including the Furminator range, which can drastically help reduce loose hair from being ingested.
There are other grooming accessories that can help too such as the Catit Design Senses Massage Center which is a self-grooming rubber massage unit that appeals to a cat’s sense of touch by offering a variety of textures that provide a luxurious pampering experience. This is part of the Catit interactive cat products from Rolf C. Hagen Inc. now available in pet specialty stores for the first time. This accessory is designed to help remove loose hair and thus prevent cats from ingesting excess fur when actually grooming themselves. The ripple massager provides intense rubbing pleasure to head, neck and face and the body stroke groomers on the product offer easy-access and an intense massage, removing loose hair in the process. It comes with a sachet of catnip to attract feline attention to the unit. All the Catit accessories come in specially designed boxes that can be saved and utilized at fun hideouts for cats around the home. They have places for owners to cat holes in them and if placed together create a fun cardboard play station.
Slim and Trim
Like humans, cats need to stay active and have a balanced diet in order to maintain a healthy weight. By stocking quality diets and appropriate toys, retailers can help cat owners manage their pets’ weight.
Diets for Dieting Cats
Pet food manufacturers are giving top priority to formulas that promote healthy weight management.
“We currently have a number of recipes in the Wellness family that help support a healthy weight in cats and are planning to introduce more grain-free recipes down the road that also play a vital role in weight management,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet. “We believe that balanced recipes, specifically formulated to fit a cat’s age and lifestyle, can help play a role in keeping them happy and healthy.”
“Fewer grains means there are more protein-rich ingredients to help keep cats fuller longer,” Leary-Coutu added. “By expanding our grain-free offerings, we’ll be able to provide pet parents with more choice when it comes to feeding their cats balanced, delicious meals without grains or fillers that weigh them down. The Wellness Complete Health Healthy Weight for cats has been specifically formulated to help cats with weight challenges. We have focused on the nutrition that overweight cats need to remain healthy with less caloric intake. These cats tend to gain weight because of a less active lifestyle, experience hip and joint problems from carrying excessive weight or aging, and tend to eat more. To counter these challenges, our Healthy Weight recipe is lower in calories than our other recipes and is made with specific levels of quality protein, fat and fiber to help achieve weight goals and promote lean muscle mass.”
“Our Wellness Complete Health Indoor Health recipe is a well-rounded, solution-focused diet of meats, grains and fruits for cats that live indoors,” she added. “It’s been formulated with specific amounts of nutrients for cats that lounge more, groom often and live indoors. These cats tend to gain weight because their lifestyle is more sedentary. They also experience dry skin from continued exposure to indoor air and heat, and have increased hairballs from constant grooming and hair loss from dry skin. This recipe includes Omega-rich ingredients to help reduce shedding and hairballs and less fat and fewer calories to help support weight management.”
The formula is available in a deboned chicken and chicken meal recipe and a salmon and whitefish meal recipe.
Merrick Pet Care is also promoting feline weight management with a grain-free recipe called Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe.
“Cats thrive on a grain free diet high in quality protein with moderate fat levels and low levels of carbohydrates,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parents relations for Merrick Pet Care. “This natural, 100-percent grain-free formula cat food sourced locally is ideal for adult cats one to seven years old with a focus on maintaining a healthy weight.”
“Deboned chicken is the first ingredient and, along with chicken and turkey meals, helps comprise the 70 percent protein level of meat-sourced ingredients that are highly digestible and rich in essential fatty acids,” he said. “Fresh produce like sweet potatoes and peas provide easily digestible carbohydrates that offer the benefit of sustained energy without upsetting grain-sensitive digestive systems.”
With the growing trend to add toppers and meal mixers to kibble recipes, Halo, Purely For Pets has introduced mix ‘n mores, a tasty protein-packed treat that can be added to the food bowl to satisfy a cat’s ancestral craving for raw protein.
“Mix ‘n mores are made of whole meat that is pasteurized, crumbled, flash frozen and freeze-dried to lock in the natural nutritional value,” said Dr. Donna Spector, a consulting veterinarian for Halo, Purely for Pets. “Freeze-drying provides the ultimate preservation of the whole real meat nutrition along with the aroma and taste that cats love.”
“However, with the popularity of toppers, care must be taken to avoid overfeeding, even when the topper is a low-calorie option like mix ‘n mores,” Spector warned. “No more than 10 percent of a pet’s daily calories should be fed as a topper. When toppers are fed, the amount of dry or wet food must be reduced to prevent overfeeding and unnecessary weight gain.”
As a rule of thumb, Spector suggested reducing a pet’s canned or dry food amount proportionally with the amount of toppers added.
According to Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Co., cat owners should give their cats more canned food then dry food.
“Many cat owners are unaware of the benefits of a canned food for weight management,” Sher said. “Dry foods are high in carbohydrates, whereas many canned foods are nutrient dense and can be a smarter alternative for weight control.
“Canned recipes not only have more moisture and protein then dry foods, but they also have fewer calories from carbohydrates and starches,” she explained. “All Evanger’s and Against the Grain canned recipes such as the Chicken and Pumpkin Samba, the Captain’s Catch with Sardine and Mackerel, and the Aloha Tuna with Seaweed and Crab meet these requirements.”
Play Away the Pounds
While food is one part of the weight management equation, exercise and general play are equally important. There is a growing selection of interactive feline toys to keep cats moving. Motion toys with erratic movements are cats’ best friends when it comes to revving up play and promoting exercise.
Made from recycled plastic and featuring a quiet motor, the Petlinks Dizzy Thing is a spinning, feathery toy that captivates cats with the unpredictable movements they instinctually adore.
Many cats also respond to catnip-induced toys that awaken activity. Apart from catnip, the Asian plant silver vine that also stimulates a cat’s pounce-and-play drive is growing in popularity in the United States. Worldwise Inc. has produced a proprietary blend of catnip and silver vine called HyperNip scheduled to launch this fall.
Ever Popular Plush
Plush dog toys are always financially rewarding sales for retailers. Consequently, competition remains fierce among manufacturers to stay on top of trends and bring new products to market.
“Knotties remain consumer favorites,” said Allure Pet Products co-founder Julie Krauss, whose company will be adding new characters to their HuggleHounds line. “Consumers are bombarded every day with visual cues on new trends and styles, and it’s our job to respond to those influences and keep our entire line as fresh and inventive as possible. The newest additions are a spotted Knottie Pony and the most ‘ferociously friendly’ king of the jungle Knottie Lion.”
According to Ryan Wills, director of toys at Petmate, there’s an assortment of products for ”soft mouth” dogs that have a tendency to pick up and gently hold or carry their toys.
“Plush toys are the perfect style of toy to provide comfort for such dogs,” he said. “The trend is to keep styles and designs fresh so they are appealing to pets and their parents. We have found that by incorporating stimulating sounds that appeal to dogs’ natural instincts, these toys are more engaging.”
Such engaging plush toys from the company include the MuttNation patchwork football designed for both games of fetch and snuggling. They are made from mixed materials such as faux suede, feature the MuttNation logo and are ideal for dogs of all sizes.
The MuttNation line has been produced in association with country singer Miranda Lambert and a portion of the sales of this line benefit her MuttNation Foundation that runs adoption and rescue programs. Because of Lambert’s music association, a popular toy in the lineup is the MuttNation Faux Suede Guitar, as the guitar shape is a natural fit for endless entertainment during fetch, tug and play.
Ethical Products Inc. is launching a new line of plush toys called Soothers that feature a heart-shaped pouch filled with lavender-infused beads to help calm and relax dogs.
“Soothers are aromatherapy for pets and perfect for pets suffering from stress and anxiety,” said Susan McCann, national marketing manager.
McCann added the company’s Skinneeez stuffing-free dog toys remain their most popular line due to their durability. The company recently introduced Skinneeez Extreme, which are stuffing-free dog toys that are also ultra-durable.
Until now, Hyper Pet toys have been sold primarily in the mass channel under the Hyper Pet brand. However, at SuperZoo 2016 the company launched an exciting new brand targeted specifically for the pet specialty channel.
“We are excited to unveil this new brand called PetLogix at the show,” said Sarah Bell, vice-president of sales for Hyper Pet. “We’ve taken the durability of the fire hose material we use and made it into fun characters and shapes. Apart from being plush and durable, the toys are also interactive, as the material floats and is also easy to fetch.”
Patchwork Pet has expanded its popular Pastel line with the addition of a Lavender Rabbit and Grey Koala. Both are available in two sizes for small and big dogs.
The company’s latest line is called Nautical and features crab, lobster, seahorse, walrus and a shark character as well as anchor and life preserver shapes. All of the toys offer multi-functional play options, as they have squeakers, grunters and braided fabric ropes for tugging and pulling. The toys are in a waffle corduroy fabric in colors that complement nautical home decor accent trends.
Multipet International is in the process of finalizing the product launch of its Dream Works Shrek line.
“The toys will feature Shrek, Donkey and Puss n’ Boots,” said Leslie Yellin, executive vice president. “We are excited about the new licensed products as our existing line of licensed toys are so well embraced by pet consumers.”
The company is also working on a line of toys called the Rescue Me Collection inspired by renowned journalist and animal advocate Jill Rappaport. The toys are set to launch in the fall in collaboration with a new TV show.
Worldwise Inc.’s popular goDog Dragons continue to be top sellers, according to Cristen Underwood, director of research and product development, canine toys and accessories.
“The collection ranges from goDog Skinny Dragons in two sizes, to the goDog Dragon Flats and grunters, and the traditional winged colorful dragon characters,” she said.
Another popular evergreen plush toy is the company’s goDog FurBallz, also available in a selection of bright colors and sizes.
Waggish is the latest product line from the R2P Group Inc. designed for small dogs.
“Options for small dogs are increasingly popular, especially in plush,” said Nancy Waters, the company’s marketing manager. “Instead of just shrinking down regular sized dog toys, we focused on creating a line that actually caters to small dogs’ needs such as to chew, tug, fetch or cuddle. Mixed materials are also very popular right now. Combining plush with ballistic nylon, rubber or rope not only increases durability, but also adds to its playability. Why just cuddle when you can tug or fetch, too?”
The company’s popular Hush Plush line of dog toys has an innovative on/off mechanism that allows pet owners to control the squeaker in the toy. The line caters to both big and small dogs and features colorful designs such as the Shhhark, Rattlin’ Snake, Doggie Duck, the Flappin’ Flamingo and the Pippin’ Parrot.
Changes to the Hi-Tech Market
According to a recent report produced by the market research firm IDTechEx, the wearable tech market for pets is set to be a $2.6 billion industry by 2019. And this in turn is part of the bigger human wearable tech picture, which the same report predicts will be over $150 billion by 2026.
One person who can attest to the rapid growth of wearable pet tech in the US market is Ben Jacobs, co-founder and CEO of the Whistle activity tracker and GPS system. Mars Petcare recently acquired Whistle for $117 million, a purchase that highlights that pet industry leaders understand what the future holds.
“Wearable technology taps directly into the pet parent’s desire to be connected to their pets 24/7 and there are many more ways that this technology can be used to enhance this bond,” he said. “We are just getting started.”
Since its introduction in 2014, when it was an activity tracker, Whistle has added GPS features. The company acquired the GPS Tagg system created by Qualcomm and integrated this technology into the product.
“What’s interesting is that the growth in such products is not limited to Millennials who understand the technology well,” Jacobs said. “Our surveys show growth nationwide and across both urban and rural areas, which leads us to believe that it’s not linked to a particular age demographic.”
Also the price of wearable technology has dropped making it more affordable to a larger audience. Whistle for example started out at $119 and now sells for $79 with a three-month free service program.
Another product that has undergone changes and dropped in price is the StarWalk Pet Collar. This non-GPS activity tracker sets a goal of 8,000 steps for your dog as a baseline of how much activity to aim for when first starting out. The smart phone app tracks a dog’s activity as well as calories burned and temperature.
“Wearable technology like StarWalk is also being used to deal with other issues that pet owners have to deal with on a daily basis such as stress and anxiety issues,” said Kerry Sutherland, publicist for the company.
The Calmz Anxiety Relief System developed by Animal Health Technologies (AHT), a veterinary technology company is another product that deals with anxiety and stress problems.
The system comprises an adjustable vest that cradles a device that delivers calming frequencies that the dog can hear and feel, over specific acupressure points on a dog’s spine,” explained Buddy Snow, CEO of AHT. “This NeuroSync Technology, has been clinically tested by leading animal behaviorists and has demonstrated statistically significant reduction in negative behavior associated with common canine anxiety.”
When it comes to containing pets, Petsafe’s Stay and Play wireless containment system covers ¾ of an acre.
“It’s also an excellent solution for people on the move,” said Category Director Jason Hart. “We designed our wireless systems to overcome the concern people had with in-ground set ups as installation is much easier than an in-ground solution. Once activated, all it requires is a few short training sessions to create a secure boundary for your pet.”
Since French company Eyenimal Inc. first introduced their Eyenimal pet cam about six years ago, the company produced several more models for both dogs and cats and also has an extensive range of tech gadgets that are now available in the United States.
The newest version of the Dog Videocam comes with a harness attachment and is waterproof so it can be worn during outdoor activities. It has three video recording modes namely continuous, when the dog is moving, when it is pointing and has a battery life of two-and-a-half hours.
“We saw the need to create different modes to best meet the needs of both cat and dog pet parents,” said Joëlle Thomas, the company’s export manager. “The latest advancements include, HD definition, night vision with LED lighting and motion detection activation, so people know what their pets are up to at night and stay connected 24/7.”
The company has also produced a lightweight No Bark collar solution that has a microphone to detect barking and then triggers a mist of spray essential oils such as lavender and citronella.
PetHub Inc’s Signal Tag allows pet owners to track a missing pet and bring them home again as quickly as possible.
“At a time when one in three pets will go missing at some point in their lives, PetHub’s Signal Tag’s technology provides a more advanced tool to get pets home safely and quickly,” says PetHub, Inc.’s Founder and CEO Tom Arnold. “The versatile, durable tag is water resistant, has Bluetooth technology, a 3D motion sensor and a battery life of up to two years.”
A new company called PetHealthlocker, has produced their SMART Pet Tag designed to track and store a pet’s health and licensing information.
“It works via a mobile app on any smartphone to create a public profile page for each pet. Each tag has a web address and ID on the front and a QR code on the back that links to the PetHealthlocker app,” explained Chris Rotberg, CEO and founder of the company. “Unlike a microchip that can only be read by a vet or pet rescue, the SMART Pet Tag can be scanned and the information read from any smartphone, increasing the chances of your pet being identified and returned home quicker. Once the SMART Pet Tag has been scanned or the ID number has been entered on the website, the pet’s public profile can be viewed and a message can be sent with the GPS coordinates of the location so the owner knows exactly where their pet is located.”
Smart Pet Love’s snuggle pets feature an insertable pack that has a soothing heartbeat to de-stress animals, particularly puppies and kittens. The company uses the same technology built into their Safe & Sound Harness so that the canine wearer can feel a real heartbeat located in a pocket in the front of the harness.
New from Gen 7, Inc. is the SonicGuard, an ultrasonic tick and flea protection device that emits a series of ultrasound pulses that are harmless and imperceptible to humans and animals, but repel ticks and fleas. The device can be used for pets of all sizes, and the operating range is nearly 5 feet. The pendant does not include the use of any chemicals. The built-in lithium battery lasts up to 12 months.
Who’s a Good Boy?
There is a wonderful arsenal of training tools for dogs that deal with a variety of issues, whether it’s simply learning to walk on a leash or how to remain calm in certain situations.
Leashes and Harnesses
The Company of Animals, creators of the original Halti head collar, recently announced their new Halti walking range. This extensive collection was created to offer practical options for people and pets from every walk of life.
“Just like every behavior and training product we’ve ever launched, they’re all designed to promote harmony between people and pets,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ US subsidiary.
Products in this new line all feature a reflective 3M strip for walking visibility and includes the Halti Retractable Lead designed to let dogs enjoy the freedom of walking but simultaneously offers dog owners reassurance that their pet is safe and secure. It is available in four colors and three sizes and features a comfortable, gel-padded handle and one-click thumb lock to adjust lead length. The Halti All-In-One Lead has a padded neoprene handle and super-strong elastic shock absorber for walking comfort. It can double as a tie-out tether or belt for hands-free use.
Dog travel experts Kurgo offer a variety of practical products that work as both training tools as well as practical accessories for well-mannered dogs on the go such as the Tru-Fit Smart Harness that features a halt ring on the chest plates.
“If your dog attempts to pull on a leash attached to the halt ring, it will just turn him around, effectively training him that pulling will get him nowhere,” explained Kerry Sutherland, the company’s publicist. “The chest pad is designed to reduce stress on the trachea and sternum while dispersing kinetic energy across the chest.”
The Springback Dog Leash is designed to deal with a dog that makes an unpredictable pull or directional changes as it will stretch and bungee him back into place.
“It’s a great training tool to teach your dog to enjoy the outdoors while limiting his freedom and keeping him safe,” Sutherland said.
The Safe & Sound Harness from Smart Pet Love includes a device that offers the feel of a real heartbeat located in a pocket in the front of the harness. It’s a great training tool to curb anxiety.
“It’s the same technology used in our world famous Snuggle Puppy,” said Bob Thorne, the company’s president.
“A high percentage of dogs end up in shelters because of unresolved anxiety issues that manifest as really bad behavior, thus their owners give up on them,” Thorne said. “Our harness provides a natural solution by providing a pack animal (dog) the feel of another pulsing heart. It offers dogs reassurance and allows them to build confidence.”
PetSafe offers a variety of training harnesses, such as the Deluxe Easy Walk Harness designed to gently discourage a dog from pulling on the leash.
“The chest strap rests across the dog’s chest so there’s no choking or gagging, and the front-chest leash attachment helps you steer your dog to the side and redirect his attention toward you,” said Jason Hart, director of marketing for PetSafe. “It also features neoprene line straps and reflective strips, visible up to 1,000 feet.”
For pet owners who like to combine fashion with functional training, the PetSafe Bling Easy Walk Harness features a fun, sparkly ribbon overlay on the nylon harness. The Bling Easy Walk Harness utilizes silver quick-release buckles and four adjustment points to provide maximum comfort and a reliable fit, and is available in three different colors and four sizes.
There is also a new harness from Gold Paw Series.
“Our new Crossover Harness was created with comfort in mind,” said company president Rebecca Gadd. “It provides a stretchy yet durable feel that allows for better breathability without compromising safety. It’s designed to remove pressure from the throat and direct it onto the shoulders, where it belongs, and is especially great for larger dogs that have a pulling tendency.”
ThunderWorks has had a lot of success with their ThunderShirts, in various styles, and their ThunderLeashes. The standard leash mimics a dog training trick called the Dutch half hitch that involves looping a leash around the flank or belly and tightening it to distract and help settle an overactive or leash-aggressive dog that may pull hard or become very agitated at the sight of other animals or strangers.
“The tractable leash has surprised a lot of people with its effectiveness as a ‘no-pull’ leash,” said Todd Cantrell, the company’s vice president of marketing.
Rewarding Good Behavior
When it comes to dog training and positive reinforcement techniques, training treats are undoubtedly a must-have training tool.
Bravo’s new training treats are made with 100 percent muscle meat, poultry protein, cheese and organs, and are sized to serve as the perfect reinforcement reward. They are freeze-dried and not messy if kept in a treat pouch or pocket.
PetSafe also has an item called the Treat Pouch Sport as part of their arsenal of training products. The product features a special hinge that allows the pouch to stay open, making training with multiple treats easy. The divided inner pocket is convenient for separating treats, while the front storage pocket is perfect for carrying cell phones or other personal items.
The Treat Pouch Sport includes a belt clip and detachable/adjustable belt and also features multiple elastic loops as well as a carabineer for attaching keys, clickers or other training tools. It’s made of waterproof, stain-resistant material and is available in black, red and blue.
Dishing up Something New
There has been a lot of recent innovation in the cat bowl category with the spotlight on functionality that takes into account certain specifics pertaining to felines, from feline whisker stress to their finicky eating habits and penchant for leaving food in their bowls to nibble on later.
And, much of this innovation was fueled by the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention.
Combating Whisker Stress
Loren Kulesus, cat owner and designer of the Dr. Catsby’s cat bowl, came up with the design of his stylish cat bowl after watching his own cat consistently pawing food out of the bowl to eat on a flat surface.
“I discovered that he didn’t like his whiskers touching the sides of his cat bowl and further learned that this was a common cat problem,” said Kulesus at this year’s Global Pet Expo, where he introduced his design to the industry at large.
Kulesus went to work with a 3-D printer to formulate his design, which features a slightly curved stainless steel bowl which allows gravity to “focus” the food in the center of the bowl (instead of being pushed over the sides in the course of eating). The bowl sits on a rubber mat to prevent its sliding around and has a special “finger hole” for easy pick up off the mat.
Beco Pets, a Britain-based manufacturer making inroads into the American market, has produced a selection of whisker-friendly bowls made from their proprietary plant fiber materials sourced primarily from bamboo and rice husks.
“The wave design helps with long whiskers and allows cats to dip into the bowl comfortably to eat,” said Toby Massey, Beco Pets cofounder and design director, who designed the bowls. “The wide design is tailored to cats’ typically wider and flatter facial features. The natural surface of the Beco bowl also provides a uniquely mottled matte texture making these products a particular favorite with cats, who are known not to enjoy extra shiny or gloss surfaces.”
The bowls are dishwasher safe and ultimately biodegradable.
The Drinkwell Sedona fountain by PetSafe is designed with brachycephalic (flat faced) pets in mind, with its large oval shape making it easy for pets to drink from the water surface as well as the fountain water inlet.
“The large see-through bowl holds 100 ounces of water and the design also minimizes spills and splashes,” said Sarah Beene, category manager of water and feed. “Also, the sound of the falling water is whisper-quiet, making it easily approachable by apprehensive pets.”
“The Drinkwell Platinum remains one of our most popular models amongst cat owners because it offers a falling water stream which, for many cats, attracts them and encourages them to drink more water,” she added.
Preventing Waste and Mess
Sureflap, the British manufacturers of the Surefeed Microchip bowl, have introduced their new motion-activated Surefeed Sealed Pet Bowl to the US market. This compact design opens when a pet approaches and closes when they are through eating, producing a tight seal that keeps food fresh longer.
“We conducted research in the United Kingdom that showed that cat owners waste 33 percent of wet cat food a year,” said Piers Hampson, marketing manager for the company. “Many cats are reluctant to return to eat food that has been standing out. The design of this bowl seals off the food, maintaining freshness for longer periods and keeping it free of flies.”
The bowl is designed for single cat households and doesn’t rely on a cat’s microchip or a collar tag to activate. It has a training mode to allow the lid to open in staggered training increments to introduce a cat to the system, can be used with different colored bowls and the bowl’s oval design takes whisker stress into account. It is even easier to train cats to use than their original design, which has the overhead plastic strip that contains the microchip readers.
For many cat owners who like to create a food station for their cats that offers both food and water bowls, the Loving Pets’ Bella spill-proof mat is an option. The fish-shaped mat has scale-like ridges to contain food spills and is designed for the placement of three stainless steel Bella bowls.
Throwaway food bowls that work within a bowl frame, such as the Kinn Kleanbowl with paper inserts that are removed from the bowl and discarded after each meal, are gaining popularity amongst cat owners. There are several systems now on the market, as well as freestanding biodegradable disposable pet bowls. Currently, many of these designs are sold in channels other than pet specialty. Retailers should keep these in mind and consider adding them to inventory if their popularity continues to rise.
In or Out?
Despite the movement to promote an indoors-only lifestyle for cats, behaviorists and other experts believe that all cats should still wear a collar with an ID tag, even if they are microchipped. Consequently, manufacturers are taking this catcall seriously and producing collars in a variety of new colors and designs along with matching harnesses and leashes to enhance an outdoor experience.
“Breakaway cat collars that are designed to release if a cat gets entangled are our best sellers,” said Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, Inc. “Our newest merchandise includes glow-in-the-dark and magnetic breakaway collars. The Glow in the Dark line charges during the day, even indoors, to glow all night and features a pivoting breakaway buckle. The magnetic buckle breakaway collars self-align and provide a consistent breakaway point for maximum safety.”
“Cats love texture, and so do people,” Thomas said. “Indoor cats in particular can indulge in the luxurious comfort of collars that are fuzzy or made from velvet or suede. Jeweled and glittery options add dazzle to the indoor cat’s wardrobe.”
“Bright colors and festive patterns are in high demand,” Thomas continued. “Many people gravitate toward colors that complement a cat’s coat and even eye color. Blues and greens are particularly popular, and animal prints are traditional favorites. Fish, flowers and fun, fresh designs keep cat owners satisfied.”
“There is increasing demand for leashes and harnesses to have a safe and effective way to take indoor cats outside,” Thomas said. “Harnesses not only allow cats to go for a walk but also to enjoy the outdoors. They are comfortable for the cat and provide the safety necessary when traveling. Our Comfort Soft Mesh harness/leash combo is fully adjustable for the perfect fit; this cozy harness is lightweight and breathable. A metal D-ring helps to ensure outdoor safety. The included leash features our patented E-Z Snap, making attaching to a harness as easy as it sounds.”
According to Tracy McCarthy, marketing manager for Lupine Inc., the company’s range of cat collars with bells remain their most popular items.
“And bright colors remain our top sellers too,” McCarthy said. “I always advise pet specialty retailers to create a cat section in-store, as it generally helps all products in the category. Alternatively, you can cross-merchandise cat collars on a clip strip in the cat food section. Clip strips are a wonderful way to increase impulse buys.”
The company’s Club Collection by Lupine range is inspired by the distinctive look and feel of the classic polo shirt. The collars are available in six rich color combinations, such as purple and green, pink and orange, and pink and lime green. They are made from recycled plastic bottles. The upper layer is a soft woven material with a luxurious silky feel, embellished with the Lupine logo.
McCarthy added that the company has noted that sales of walking harnesses increase during the summer months.
PetSafe is now marketing all their nylon cat collars under the Come With Me Kitty brand.
“Previously, we had a variety of collars under the Premier brand,” said Mandie Sweetman of PetSafe. “We made the switch because they are more in line with our very popular Come With Me Kitty harnesses and bungee leash. The Come With Me Kitty harness has been such an important and successful harness to cat lovers everywhere. We felt it was an added benefit to release a matching collar that provides added safety features.”
“The collars are one size and made of snag-proof nylon with breakaway buckles and also include a bell,” Sweetman said. “They are available in six colors, namely red, royal blue, electric lime, lilac, dusty rose and black that match the Come With Me Kitty Harness.”
The FriendshipCollar line is the world’s first PETA-approved vegan pet product.
“The FriendshipCollar adapts the tradition of giving friendship bracelets and extends the symbol of love and trust to our pet friends instead with matching collars,” said Alessandra Moscucci, American publicist for the British-based company. “They are available in a variety of colors and patterns and are made from animal-friendly and vegan materials. They come packaged together in pouches.”
Finally, the Glow In The Dark range from Petmate also combines fashion and additional functionality.
“At Petmate, we take safety seriously,” said Emilye Schmale, corporate communications manager for the Texas-based company. “Our collars feature multi-directional patented breakaway buckles to make sure that, if the collar gets snagged in a tight spot, the cat is still able to get free.”
Nighttime visibility is becoming a popular selling feature and this line combines this functionality with a variety of fun fashion colors and trendy designs.