Change is the only constant in the pet industry and this remains true for 2014.
The industry has not only seen, and will continue to see, dramatic changes in corporate ownership, marketing techniques, shipping, shopping, packaging and other areas.
The pet industry is still the Wild West, a virtual gold rush with lots of room for growth and expansion. It’s an industry that rewards innovative thought and creative approaches to problems. Pets have become a part of the family, and there is no room for error when it comes to a member of the family.
Contemporize and Repackage
Repackaging and contemporizing food brands is first on the marketing agenda this year. Expect to see several major brands rolling out a complete new look.
Pet food and treat manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact packaging has on their success. Treats in packaging that supports freshness and ease of use are important. Resealable packages made of recycled materials, and ease of display is becoming almost as important as what is inside the package.
“We wanted the packaging to evoke a very natural, culinary look and feel that plays up the beautiful ingredients we use in our human-grade foods,” Lucy Postins, founder and CEO of The Honest Kitchen, said. “We’re placing a heavy emphasis on the meat or fish source in each recipe, along with more clearly defining the life stage and differentiating the grain-free from whole-grain diets, to help streamline the shopping process and allow consumers to more easily select the recipe that’s right for their pet.”
Bravo Pet Foods also announced a series of strategic brand upgrades. The purveyor of an extensive, natural line of dinners and treats for dogs and cats is introducing a new logo, slogan and packaging design that will officially debut during Orlando’s Global Pet Expo. The image overhaul was developed with strategic guidance from Matrix Partners to make a compelling connection between the exceptional quality of Bravo products and the emotional reward pet owners feel when serving their pet these nutritious, delicious dinners and treats.Repackaging is not limited to pet foods.
Absorption Corp is now Healthy Pet, reflecting its focus as a pet products company. The Healthy Pet brand has been used by Absorbtion for both cat and small animal products, and will now become its corporate brand as well. Healthy Pet will be an umbrella for all of the company’s pet products, with major category brands such as CareFRESH and Critter Care maintaining strong product visibility to ensure consumer familiarity and loyalty.
A new logo and website recently debuted to reflect the change.
Reducing Carbon Pawprint
Green is in. With green technology and practices being touted by consumers and marketed by retailers, there is an obvious movement toward sustainable practices. Environmentally conscious owners are actively seeking out dog and cat treats that utilize recycled materials, sustainable resources and fair-trade ingredients.
“People want to know where their pet’s food and treats are coming from,” Postins said. “We always choose sustainability over cost. Our free-range chicken and line-caught wild haddock, fair-trade quinoa, non-genetically-modified produce and recycled, compostable packaging.”
Founded in 2013 by Cardinal Pet Care, Kong, Planet Dog, West Paw design, Worldwise, Petco, I and Love and You, and Only Natural Pet, the Pet Sustainability Coalition is focused on accelerating sustainability in the pet industry by encouraging the implementation of best-practices to promote continual and authentic improvement for the benefit of our environment, communities and businesses.
“It is our goal at Pet Age to bring the most important news and information to over 26,000 of our readers,” Craig Rexford, vice president and publisher of Pet Age, said. “Sustainability is an issue we support and we want to be sure industry leaders know what’s going on, how to get involved and why sustainability is important to their business. The Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition is paving a new pathway for improvement in this industry and we are proud supporters of their work.”
Luxury Services for Pets
From freeze-dried lobster tail treats offered by Grandma Lucy’s for cats, to blueberry facials from South Bark for dogs, pets are experiencing luxurious lives no matter what the owner’s income. Elegant packaging is what will attract pet owners, effective results is what brings them back.
Unprecedented growth will be seen across all categories, with the American Pet Products Association predicting that it will reach $750 billion by 2015. These changes will be most obvious in spa services that include alternative healing methods, including the cold laser, massage, acupuncture and other forms of alternative healing, behavioral training and counseling, luxury boarding facilities that mimic a home environment, and upscale pet photography.
High-end, solutions-based product lines for the home will also see continued growth. Celebrity brands like Martha Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Rachel Ray, Bret Michaels and Cesar Milan have long been fixtures in the pet industry. And, as new product lines are being consistently developed by those in the public eye, these celebrity endorsements will continue to bring in millions for the industry.
To entice the discerning pet owner, manufacturers have had to become more creative in identifying more variety when it comes to ingredients for pet food.
Alligator, craw fish, shrimp and crab are just a few of the proteins that characterize the new thought process.
An example of this Delca Corp.’s line of alligator-based dog treats.
“Our team has spent many years in all aspects of the pet industry, and we are passionate about this space,” Fritz Goodnow, partner at Delca Corp., said. “We are always inventing new things, and we believe we’ve really done it right this time. As dog lovers, we look for safe, healthy alternatives for our best friends, and our line of think!dog Louisiana Alligator treats are perfect for pet owners who really care about their dogs’ health and wellness.”
Primal Pet Foods continues to focus their raw diets on lamb, duck, turkey and sardine and more. They are also introducing a new, easier to feed type of raw food. Primal Pronto Formula is introducing a revolutionary way to feed raw foods to pets.
“Small, bite-sized pieces make the frozen formula much easier to portion and it thaws in minutes, negating any reason to leave food out for long periods of time,” Matt Koss, founder and president of Primal Pet Foods, said.
No matter what protein is used, it will need to be top of the line to compete within the competitive pet food landscape.
“Providing the best possible product for pets not only nourishes the health and well being of the animal, it nourishes the relationship between pet and parent,” Rob Cadenhead, vice president of sales and marketing at Spring Naturals, said.
Whole Life Pet treats also understands the value of farm-to-table fresh. Each treat is made from 100 percent human-quality, hormone-free, free range and organic meat, with no chemicals, preservatives, additives or artificial fillers. Powered 100 percent by renewable energy, Whole Life has focused on sustainability and quality.
From apps to keep cats entertained to new electronic monitoring for dogs, pets are joining the e-revolution. Look for Smart Homes to be a reality this year, and expect PetSafe to be leading the pack with the pet-side of this technology. Already, they have introduced the PASSport Pet Access Smart System automatic pet doors, doors which have gotten smarter over the years. They also introduced their Train ‘n Praise and Train ‘n Treat systems, the first which helps an owner remotely treat their pet.
Panasonic and Motorola both joined the pet surveillance category in 2013, and DOGTEK will unveil their new line of bark control devices, remote trainers, electronic fencing systems and pet cams at Global Pet Expo this year. The new line of infrared, wireless cameras allow night viewing of pets no matter where they are.
Petzila Pet Remote Interaction Device also unveiled its newest model at the Consumer Electronic Show earlier this year. The internet connected device let’s you interact with your pets while you’re on the road and is just one of many similar gadgets making its way to homes across America.
Wearables are all the rage, and while Fit Bit hit the stage in the human industry, it’s only natural that a data tracking collar for pets would become popular next. I3C Innovations debuted its Voyce tracking collar, which uses a 3-axis accelerometer to track a dog’s active and resting periods, and radio frequency technology to measure both heart and respiratory rates.
One particularly useful benefit of tracking pets is utilizing the data as a health resource, specifically to address the issue of pet obesity. Pet owners are becoming more and more aware of the problems associated with pet obesity. Now, more than ever, the trend is moving towards work outs with pets. Doga, dogs in yoga, K9 Fit Clubs and dog treadmills are the new status quo.
Fitness is more than a trend to PetZen. Their DogTread Authentic Brand includes a full selection of canine gym gear, including a K9 Fit Vest, and balancing equipment to their Canine Gym at Home and K9 Fit Clubs programs. Kathy Santo, professional dog trainer, and Krista Wickens, founder of PetZen Products/DogTread, teamed up to provide your dog with the Golden Duo—Mental and Physical Exercise, in DogTread’s newest Fitness Program innovation—Canine Gym At Home.
New and improved activity tracking software from Tagg, a GPS tracker and the introduction of other electronic monitoring apparatus helps keep concerned pet parents at ease.
“Tagg has compiled an extensive dataset, and we are excited to embrace the intellectual capital of our current veterinary partners to provide a more enhanced user experience,” Dr. Brailean, chairman and chief science officer who envisions Tagg to be at the epicenter of the wellness movement for pets, said. “These additional features will invite our subscribers to create a more customized experience based on the breed of their pet and specific health goals, helping to further shape and define Tagg’s leadership position within the pet advocacy world.”
Electronic toys will also be a bigger category in 2014, as customers are looking for innovation and active toys for their pets.
Most small businesses have focused on attracting high-end, discerning clientele by becoming a base of knowledge and fun. This is done by taking the time to educate their employees, bringing in external presenters for special tasting parties, yappy hours and other special events focused on the customer and their pets.
More of this is expected in 2014, as the competition becomes even greater.
“Your staff is very important,” Elizabeth Pfeiffer, manager of Bark Avenue Pet Supply, said. “Our employees focus is on solutions for pets rather than the trend of the week. We are always seeking to learn more about pet nutrition and share what we have learned with our staff. We invest in our employees with ongoing training by bringing experts into the store to explain the benefits of their products.”
– Stacy Mantle