SodaPup is a veteran-owned business committed to the revitalization of American manufacturing. Founded by Adam Baker, SodaPup manufactures its line of dog products in the U.S.A. from safe and durable FDA-compliant materials. Pet Age recently spoke with Baker to learn his views on dog products and how he connects with consumers.
Why did you choose to manufacture SodaPup products in the United States?
Being made in the U.S.A. is a pillar of the SodaPup brand. We produce everything in the U.S.A. We do this for many reasons. First, we believe it’s the right thing to do. It creates jobs in our communities as well as tax revenue that supports our communities. Domestic manufacturing is a better choice from an environmental standpoint. Since the U.S. is our largest market our carbon footprint is reduced by producing where we sell, rather than shipping goods half-way around the world to save a few cents. It also reduces our transportation costs. U.S.A. manufacturing also shortens lead times and allows us to build inventory on a just-in-time basis. We also have greater visibility and control over the manufacturing process because auditing factories is easier. Finally, and — most importantly — both retailers and consumers prefer U.S.A. made products, for many of the reasons listed above: they want to support businesses that help build the American economy. They want to buy products that they believe are well made and safe for their dogs. Given all the supply chain challenges of the past couple years, domestic manufacturing also offers retailers a more reliable supply of inventory.
How has your background been a benefit to you in the pet industry?
My background is in the sporting goods industry, having worked in product management and product creation for Nike and Under Armour as well as Crocs footwear. The sporting goods industry is focused on relentless innovation and reinvention. It does this through deep consumer insights that inform what products are made. It thrives on newness throughout the year to keep consumers excited and engaged in the brand. I have tried to bring these disciplines to SodaPup. We have segmented consumers, looked deeper at what makes them tick and tried to build innovative products that will resonate with these different consumer segments.
The other advantage of my background is that I was well schooled in the product development process. At SodaPup, we’ve worked hard to dramatically compress the new product development timeline so that we could identify opportunities and act on them quickly.
What is your strategy when it comes to the frequency of new product releases?
Our strategy is to constantly release new items into the marketplace to keep consumers energized by the brand. Traditionally, the dog toy aisle has been stagnant, defined by the same brands and products everywhere you go. Some products are 40 years old. What other industry offers consumer products that were created 40 years ago? At SodaPup, we introduce a new product at least every 30 days and at some times of year even more frequently. It keeps us front and center in the retailers’ minds and therefore in the consumers’ minds as well.
This strategy is informed by my background in the footwear and apparel industry which has a fashion cycle. In order to keep consumers coming back into stores, you have to show them new items and new innovations. Even if they don’t need new running shoes or a new tennis outfit, you can increase their spending by showing them cool new things. That’s what we try to do at SodaPup. We evolve product types over time so that consumers can come on the innovation journey with us. The beauty of a faster pace of product introductions is that you also compress your learnings. By iterating products quickly, we can learn quickly and apply lessons to our next products. As a result, our products get better and better quickly.
What’s your advice to retailers on maximizing revenue from the dog toy category?
I think retailers need to understand that consumers are no longer just looking for things that they need. Shopping is also a form of entertainment, so to maximize revenue from the dog toy category you need more than just the basics. While a retailer might assort the “stable stars” (the steak) you also need to flow in the “sizzle” to keep the assortment looking fresh and interesting. Our design ethos at SodaPup is to create “OMG” moments at retail where consumers buy our products not because they need it but because they want it. By engaging their hearts as well as their minds, you can keep them coming back to see what’s next.
What part of your SodaPup success story has been most gratifying?
There are many things that are gratifying about building the SodaPup business, but I will focus on two. First, it’s exceptionally satisfying to see our employees grow and develop at SodaPup. We are a business but, in many ways, we are also a family, and it is great to see how working at SodaPup has become a meaningful part of their lives and their professional development. SodaPup’s success is really their collective success.
The other incredibly gratifying part of this journey is watching how consumers engage with our products. Social media is a giant feedback loop that we study to see what resonates with people and to see how people use our products. With our enrichment products, it’s fascinating to see how people have elevated their enrichment creations using our products. It’s as if our “out of the box” designs have stimulated their creativity. We repost user generated content on Instagram (@sodapupdogtoys) every day and each day I am blown away by what people are doing with our enrichment products. It’s really, really fun and creative.