By Julia L. Rivera//August 1, 2023
By: Julia L. Rivera//August 1, 2023
With fall around the corner, the winter holiday season isn’t far behind, and retailers are preparing for those customers looking to spoil their beloved pets with presents. As pet companionship continues to thrive, animals are considered part of the family now more than ever, which means being a part of holiday celebrations.
Holiday products make for cute Instagramable moments, a fun twist on a TikTok trend and a way to get in the holiday spirit. For the first time this year, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) reported that the number of Gen Z and Millennial pet owners, those who are driving social media, equals the number of Gen X and Baby Boomer pet owners across the country. Buying gifts for a companion animal isn’t reserved only for holidays as today’s pet parents are typically purchasing presents to celebrate birthdays, “gotcha day” celebrations and sometimes, just because they’re adorable.
Retailers should be capitalizing on all generations of pet parents wanting to celebrate special occasions, says Megan Hulse, chief merchandising officer for Pet Palette Distribution. Based in Maryland, Pet Palette Distribution is a national distributor of premium pet products and offers a wide selection of holiday offerings in its Fall and Winter Holiday Prebook. More than 20 of the industry’s top brands are featured, including Multipet, which had products go viral in 2021. The brand’s Lamb Chop, affectionately known as Lamby on TikTok, is a beloved toy among dogs of all sizes. The plush toy, which comes in a variety of themes, gained popularity when people began making videos of their pups enjoying their toy collection. Hulse jokes that the distributor can never order enough of the plush toy and goes on to explain the range of options they offer.
“In our fall assortment we’ve got 12 different brands made up of cat and dog toys, treats and chews,” she said. “For winter, Hanukkah and Christmas, we’ve got 18 brands and the same categories with tons of accessories and giftable items.”
This year the distributor also introduced Pet Shop by Fringe products for the fall, Halloween and winter holidays as well as Oktoberfest-themed plush toys from Bark.
“Breweries and dogs obviously go hand in hand [and] are a winning combination. Adding that into the seasonal niche is going to be successful. We’ve already seen people are subscribing to that mindset,” Hulse noted.
Bocce’s Bakery, another company in Pet Palette Distribution’s portfolio, was born more than a decade ago in a small kitchen in the heart of New York City. The company creates delicious simple, natural ingredient treats for cats and dogs. Although the company has grown since its inception, it remains committed to making small batches and using quality ingredients. This holiday season, Bocce’s Bakery is offering products catered towards Halloween and Christmas: Scardy Snacks Cat Treats, soft and chewy treats with U.S. salmon and cream cheese.
Travel north of New York City and you’ll find Polkadog’s kitchen in Boston, Massachusetts, where the company creates handmade cat and dog treats. This year the company is offering Holiday Mini Tubes in four options: Love you Latke, Stocking Stuffer, Yappy Howlidays and Feliz Navidad. The company worked with artist Melissa Meyer, who hand-illustrated each of the designs with bright colors and thoughtful details.
“Gifting can often be about sharing what you love with others,” said Deb Suchman, co-founder of Polkadog. “It’s about finding that special unique feel-good item and, of course, beautiful packaging.”
To add to the aesthetic of the Mini Tubes, Polkadog is offering two holiday promotions until December, both of which include a wooden display that fits perfectly on a retailer’s countertop.
Retailers who want to ensure that they have a wide variety of pet products for every holiday need to look no further than Mirage Pet, which boasts approximately 13,000 SKUs for Christmas, 4,000 for Hanukkah as well as 7,000 for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Mirage Pet started in 1957 as a small factory in southern California. Now located in Missouri, the pet company is a six-generation, family-owned manufacturer that, as owner/CEO Stephanie Davis describes it, is focused on “improving the quality of life for pets and their owners through safe collars, fun play and functional while fashionable apparel.”
Mirage Pet has been making holiday-themed pet products since 2004, and the company has recently expanded its manufacturing capacity to custom print plush toys, bowties, apparel, ornaments, collars and stockings.
“This will allow retailers to buy from our standard products or design their own unique lines that they can be assured will be found exclusively in their stores,” David explained. “The holidays are a fantastic time to increase sales and finish the year strong. We do 70 percent of our business from September through December – which is mostly on Christmas and Halloween products – so we love to encourage our retailers to capitalize on the ‘season of spoiling.’”
Eye-catching products are more likely to stick out to a consumer browsing store shelves whether that be in brick and mortar or online. Kelly Ison, founder and CEO of Einstein Pets, explains that the company’s limited seasonal items are big sellers and sell out quickly.
Einstein Pets makes 100 percent natural organic treats with ingredients people will recognize. With only human-grade ingredients, Santa’s Helper and Ugly Sweater Party are two festive, yet healthy treats on the market. Made with real sweet potatoes, all white turkey and cranberries, Santa’s Helper not only sounds good, but looks the part as well. Red, white and green packaging featuring a pup/ tree hybrid is sure to make any shopper look twice.
Ugly Sweater Party is winter-themed with snow covered trees and a pup in a sweater as the name suggests. Sourced and made in the U.S.A., this low-calorie treat features fresh cranberries, cinnamon and honey.
Pet parents are looking for holiday themed products this season, and most don’t want to compromise on quality. Consumers are turning packages around, studying ingredient lists and often choosing what to buy based on the health and wellness of their pet.
“Next generation pet parents want treats that are equally as nutritious as they are festive. It’s important that the treats they are selecting during this special time of year still treat their dogs well with nutritious recipes that support real health benefits,” explained Dr. Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Pet Company.
The company’s brand, Old Mother Hubbard, are dog biscuits full of fiber from natural sources and packaged in festive holiday shapes. Perfect stocking stuffing size, Old Mother Hubbard Winter Fun P-Nuttier Biscuits Baked Dog Treat are made with real peanut butter and cane molasses, then slowly oven baked to preserve the natural flavors and add extra crunch.
Holiday celebrations often mean gathering around the dining room table and sharing a delicious meal and exchanging stories. Pets are a welcome member of the family, but Bernal explains that it’s important to leave the food for the people and offer something more pet-friendly to include them.
“Pet parents want to celebrate the bond between them and their pets. Healthy and delicious treats designed with dogs in mind can help avoid unwanted upsets that may come when dishing out human goodies,” Bernal said.
WHIMZEES by Wellness can do just that. This line of dental chews is designed to help clean teeth and reduce plaque and tartar with more grooves to get in smaller spaces between teeth. Not only are they beneficial to a dog’s dental health, but the chews will also keep them entertained. Available in small and medium sizes, the Holiday Variety Packs feature snowman and tree shapes.
When Lucy Caprez, vice president of Natural Cravings USA and Barking Buddha Pet, and her team study trends in the market, they “noticed that the biggest demand nowadays is for long lasting chews that are also beneficial for dogs. Although there’s a white variety of options out there, we have always found success with our Holiday Gift Pack, which includes a little bit of everything for every size dog that needs to be spoiled by Santa.”
As Caprez says, it’s fun to put something under the tree for pets to open alongside the rest of the family. After a few years of gift giving in her home, Caprez decided to spread the joy to other dogs and make it an affordable deal for retailers.
“The results have been magical and both retailers and customers post their ‘unboxing’ videos on social media platforms,” she added.
With Deck the Paws advent calendar from Barkworthies, each day has a mini unboxing moment. The 25-day calendar features carefully crafted, healthy and festive dog chews. “From tasty holiday-themed biscuits to savory jerky treats, your pup will be eagerly awaiting each new day to discover what’s behind the door,” said
Heather Anderson, B2B marketing manager for Barkworthies. “The Deck the Paws advent calendar is the perfect way to make the holiday season even more magical for your four-legged companion.”
A consumer favorite last year, the advent calendar sold out almost immediately, and Barkworthies urges retailers to place an order quickly this year.
Treats are one way to show appreciation for a furry member of the family. Pet owners will also be looking for interactive toys that are durable and come in festive designs.
Adam Baker, founder and president of SodaPup, says he expects sales of enrichment products like lick mats and slow feeder bowls to continue to grow “as more and more people understand the benefits of food puzzles and slower eating.
“This category is heating up which means that the consumer will have more choices than ever, including SodaPup’s new products that celebrate the holiday season,” he added.
With toys, treat dispensers and lick mats that boast designs for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the brand is releasing two new holiday designs this year.
“The first is a lick mat called Autumn, and it features a fall foliage pattern, and the colors will be a blend of orange and yellow. The second product is a treat dispenser in the shape of a gnome made from our new PUP-X durable synthetic rubber material,” said Baker.
Dogs aren’t the only pets that deserve to be spoiled this holiday season. This fall, Shameless Pets is launching new Halloween-inspired cat products including Catnip is My Boo, a tuna and catnip flavor crunchy treat, and Chick or Treat, a chicken and pumpkin flavor crunchy treat.
The company also makes “a ‘naughty’ and a ‘nice’ flavor to gift to all the pets in their lives based on their type of behaviors,” said Allison Sparks, head of marketing. For nice cats, there is Kitty Kane in a cranberry and chicken flavor, while naughty cats get Tasty Tinsel, a pumpkin and white fish flavor. Both treats are made in the U.S.A. with upcycled ingredients to prevent food waste.
The mission of Shameless Pets, as a treat brand, is to spread the joy of a better life for pets and the planet. Sparks encourages retailers to reach out to Shameless Pets or their distributor representative for more information on holiday promos so they can spread the joy together.
Catnip is a great way to bring amusement to cats. Nepetalactone is the key ingredient in catnip and is part of the same family of plants as mint. The chemical is believed to mimic a cat pheromone that triggers sensory neurons in the brain, leading to heightened behavior after sniffing and rolling in it. DuckyWorld Products manufacturers YEOWWW! Catnip, cat toys that are made in the U.S.A. and stuffed with 100 percent premium, organically grown catnip. The company works with private farmers to grow, manage and harvest catnip to ensure it offers the highest quality based on freshness, color and aroma. This year, the packaging for holiday gift bundles has been redesigned.
“They now come in a festive gift bag and gift tag. They are the perfect holiday gift for any feline friend and include festive toys as well as a few of our most popular items,” explained Kris Kaiser, digital marketing specialist for DuckyWorld. She also points out Yeowww!-loween Pumpkin and Yeowww!-tide Candy Cane are two of the most popular seasonal toys.
Products like dog mom/dad shirts, mugs and hats are stocking stuffers for any pet parent. Back in 2005, John Plausse, of Spoiled Rotten Dogs noticed there wasn’t anything on the market that spoke to him, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“People like it because the quality of the shirts is great, but also from a design perspective it’s something they wear all the time,” Plausse explained. “Our vibe is very vintage and so a lot of people have referred to us as Lucky Brand for dog people.”
Paying attention to the types of customers that come into stores is a way to know how to buy holiday products. Plausse offers advice and says buy products based on the recipent. “For instance, most of our shirts fall into two categories: humorous or sentimental. So, pay attention to who the person is and which they are most likely to want,” he added.
For pet parents looking for festive scents to keep their home clean and smelling good, holiday room sprays can come in handy. That’s where One Fur All comes in.
“For the autumn season, our top sellers are anything Pumpkin Spice or Apple Cider. Other popular autumn fragrances include Falling Leaves, Pecan Pie and Caramel Latte,” said David Neuwirth, founder of One Fur All. “For winter, Evergreen Forest is our top selling fragrance. Other popular winter fragrances include Fireside, Sugar Cookies and Holidays Fur All.”
Produced in the United States, the Pet House by One Fur All portfolio is full of candles, wax melts, room sprays and car fresheners. With 100 percent natural, dye-free soy wax, the company’s mission is to “make products that help create a more-loving environment, contribute to finding homes for rescued animals and spread the joy of being a fur family.”
This fall season, One Fur All is releasing a new fragrance, Cherry Crumble, that will be available in two candle sizes and a wax melt, an Apple Cider Room Spray and a new winter holiday fragrance. Retailers should contact the company as it will be offering promotions with its distribution partners, but the exact promotions may vary slightly from distributor to distributor.
Across the industry, manufacturers and distributors are echoing the same predictions and insights on holiday spending and products. Retailers can expect excited consumers who are ready to spend, therefore it’s imperative to place orders sooner rather than later.