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Products Take Center Stage at GPE

Colleen Murphy//March 20, 2018//

Products Take Center Stage at GPE

Colleen Murphy //March 20, 2018//

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With more than 343,000 net square feet of exhibit space, Global Pet Expo is massive. Included in that space is the 30,000-square-foot New Products Showcase, which looks to recognize the best new products and point-of-purchase displays.

According to Sarah Bopp, manager of booth sales and operations for American Pet Products Association (APPA), exhibitors will display more than 1,000 products in the New Products Showcase. But that’s just a fraction of the number of new products being released throughout the trade show floor this year. Bopp says APPA expects there to be over 3,000 new products exhibited at booths throughout the show floor this year.

Fresh Ideas

Aquapaw, a first-time Global Pet Expo exhibitor, will be displaying two products at its booth (#6166) and in the New Products Showcase, according to the company’s founder, Daniel Lentz. The first is the Aquapaw, a two-in-one sprayer and scrubber pet bathing tool.

Aquapaw started delivering to its customers in August 2017 (he will be debuting five additional colors at the show), and Lentz was told that if the company had more products, more retailers would want to carry the brand. And so after seeing some videos of owners who put peanut butter on the shower wall in order to get their dogs to stay in the tub, Lentz knew what he wanted Aquapaw’s second product to be, and he developed the Aquapaw Slow Treater, which will be launched and shown to the public for the first time at Global Pet Expo.

“If it helps make bath time easier, why don’t we make a simple slow feeder that suction cups to the wall, and then you’re not smearing peanut butter on the side of your shower,” Lentz recalls thinking about seven months ago, when the idea first came to him. “For one, it keeps your shower clean. And second, your pet’s not licking your shower wall, which could have cleaning chemicals or soap on it.

“We thought about doing a tether, but as far as our company, its mission, we don’t want to make bath time a time when you tie your dog into the shower and make it a scary time for your pet, from our point of view,” Lentz continued. “So we loved this idea of the Aquapaw Slow Treater because it incentivizes them to stay in the bath, to get in the tub. Ideally, bath becomes a little more enjoyable for owners and their pets.”

The Aquapaw Slow Treater can also get dogs to stay put as owners dry them, preventing wet dogs from drying off throughout the house.

Aquapaw’s goal at the show is to get an even bigger foot in the retail space door.

“We’re excited to expand and that’s what we hope to do in the coming year,” he said. “We’re looking forward to growing and being a resource where people can go to make bath time easier.”

Just like Aquapaw is attempting to make a splash in the at-home grooming sector at this year’s Global Pet Expo, MidWest Homes for Pets (Booth #2825) is hoping to do the same for pet habitats— delving further into the “small” small animal space.

While MidWest most often builds habitats for larger small animals like rats, chinchillas, degus and sugar gliders, the company’s Critterville line offers five new cages that are made for smaller pets like hamsters, dwarf hamsters, gerbils and adult mice, according to MidWest Homes for Pets Director of Marketing and Communications Tara Whitehead.

“The distinguishing feature of the Critterville line is the playful and fun interaction afforded between pets and pet parents,” Whitehead said.

The Critterville Hot Rod, Butterfly, Race Car and Ladybug “are decked out with fun themed decor and accents, an accessorized exercise wheel, and clip-on art. The exercise wheels are adorned with external tires and flowers that spin when the hamster is on the wheel,” according to Whitehead. The Critterville Arcade features a Vertical PlaySpace with a clear, removable cover for visibility, easy access to pet and easy cleaning.

According to Whitehead, this launch has been in the works for over a year.

“This timeframe has included concept buy-in and feedback, packaging testing and product testing by both humans and our very own Khloe the Hamster. Once the product line was a ‘go,’ we worked on photography and videography, graphics, assembly instructions, and marketing materials. Needless to say, we are ready to debut this super-fun (and Khloe-approved) product line,” Whitehead said.

And while Whitehead says the five new Critterville hamster homes—two of which will be in the New Products Showcase—will be the company’s most exciting launch at this year’s show, MidWest will be launching a slew of additional products.

“We are also showcasing some of our QuietTime Couture pet beds which offer the perfect blend of sophistication and comfort,” Whitehead said. “Also new at our booth will be several new styles of Feline Nuvo cat furniture and Curious Cat Cubes, QuietTime Defender Crate Covers with Teflon fabric protector and our new extra-long Wabbitat Deluxe Rabbit Home.

“We hope people will visit our booth to check out these products and our vast array of other crates, carriers, beds, furniture and accessories,” Whitehead continued. “We hope visitors will take a moment to talk with our reps about our dealer programs, quality assurance commitment and show specials.”

Adding to the Line

The Hydor Group (Booth #4573) first introduced its Wi-Fi-based Aqamai brand at last year’s show. This year, Aqamai is unveiling its third product to the line—the KPM Wi-Fi Controllable Wavemaker.

“It’s a circulation pump that will have a volume of 1,050 gallons per hour to 2,700 gallons per hour, and it’s a DC pump,” Hydor National Sales Manager Brian Shavlik said. “It works with all the different programs that are built into the app so you can really [control] what’s going on in your aquarium. You can bring in high tides and low tides and any kind of different circulation effects that mimic what’s going on in the ocean.

“We know that a one size circulation pump is not a one size answer for everybody—there’s way too many different size aquariums in the market to think that if we just introduce one pump it will work for everybody,” Shavlik continued. “So it’s a larger pump with a larger flow length really for aquariums 50 to 125 gallons in size, whereas the KPS we introduced last year is recommended for aquariums up to 50 gallons in size. We’re just starting to fill in the product selection to make it a product available for everybody and every size aquarium.”

Hydor will have a couple of live displays set up at its booth’s Aqamai section. The freshwater and saltwater aquariums will showcase the new pump, as well as the line’s first pump and lighting system. A tablet will be next to the tanks so attendees can see first-hand how the Wi-Fi technology works within the aquarium. The KPM Wavemaker will also be displayed in the New Products Showcase.

Consumers are using technology more than ever to manage their lives, and after introducing the Aqamai brand last year, Shavlik said Hydor has realized just how much people want to use technology to manage their aquariums. Users can not only control the Aqamai products while standing right next to their tanks, but with the Wi-Fi technology, can also change the pumps and lighting even from the opposite side of the world.

“The consumer that buys these products, they’re well-educated, they have disposable income and they research what they want to buy. They’re looking for that purchase that gives them the control, that gives them a little bit more than ‘I want to plug it in and if I need any control of it I can walk over to the aquarium, get my fingers wet;’ they like the ability that they can pull out their phone, show pictures of their aquarium to their friends and then have the ability to change the programs and fine-tune what their [pumps and] lights are going to do in a 24-hour cycle,” Shavlik said. “You can shape all those parameters whereas with the traditional fixture, you have to stand in front of the aquarium and press a button 50,000 times to get it to the right spot, to get it to do the right thing; and [the app-controlled devices are] just so easy, so intuitive.”

Also adding to its line with new launches at this year’s Global Pet Expo is Fluff & TFluff Tuff 1uff. The company will be unveiling four new plush toys at its booth (#3381) and in the New Products Showcase: Tico the sloth (which the company is particularly excited for and with a name that was given by a customer through Fluff & Tuff’s naming contest), Gordon the stingray (a nod to singer Sting’s birth name), Manny the lobster and Violet the unicorn.

According to Fluff & Tuff’s owner and president, Ellen Lawson, the time it takes for a toy to transition from concept to product is usually six months. Depending on how much tweaking she does with the idea, it can sometimes be up to a year.

“I always have stuff in stages of production, whether it’s just in my brain or if it’s actually something that I’ve actually gone as far as having a sample prototype done,” Lawson said.

To keep her products fresh, Lawson takes several things into account, including color. Fluff & Tuff toys depict animals, and because animals often have earth-tone colors, Lawson has to keep in mind to not let her line become too muted in color.

“This year we seem to have a lot of color which I like,” she said. “And springtime is a great time to bring that out. It helps retailers keep their displays fresh as well, and I know they’d prefer that.”

Fluff & Tuff will also take requests into account when choosing what toys to make. According to Lawson, a lot of people on the East Coast have been asking the company to do a lobster, and so the lobster will be released at the show.

The toy’s intended purpose is also a factor that inspires Lawson to create a toy to resemble a certain kind of animal. Fluff & Stuff chose to make a stingray in order to provide customers with a toy with less stuffing. Because a stingray is naturally flat, it’s the company’s version of a flatty toy.

Showcasing the new toys at Global Pet Expo is important to Fluff & Tuff, especially because the company does not work with distributors—this is one of the only times people can stop by and see the toys in person on such a large scale. But what Lawson says is most valuable about Global Pet Expo for her company is the opportunity to connect with retailers and hear how they’re doing and what they need from Fluff & Tuff.

Spectrum Brands (Booth #4751) also uses Global Pet Expo to not only launch products, but also listen to consumer feedback for future product development.

According to Stacey Harbour, Division Vice President of Pet Marketing for Spectrum Brands, the company’s FURminator brand—which will be unveiling a revamped, sleeker look—will be launching an ultimate hair reduction system that teaches the consumer how to groom.

“Our consumer feedback told us that consumers wanted a more DYI approach to grooming, but they don’t really understand what that entails or how to do it and what the right tools are,” Harbour explained. “And our four-step approach walks them through that, simplifies it, and we have new products that we’ll be unveiling to fit that regime nicely.”

The same goes for Spectrum Brands’ aquatic brands.

“There’s a lot of consumer research that is driving [product development],” Division VP of Aquatic Operations John Fox said. “Understanding what consumers are looking for, what they need to be more successful to improve the aquarium-keeping experience drive most of what we do.”

The company’s aquatics division will be showing more than 20 new SKUs at this year’s show, and Spectrum is especially pushing five of them: GloFish Sharks (which launched late last year), Tetra Branded Goldfish Program, Tetra Whisperer IQ Filters, Tetra Stay Clean Cartridges and Marineland lighting.

The GloFish Sharks broaden the GloFish experience. They’re a bottom feeder fish, so they inhabit the bottom of the tank, swimming in and out of the ornaments and so, Fox points out, they have a different behavior than other GloFish.

The Tetra Branded Goldfish Program is a kit that will be available in 10 and 20 gallons that will include items such as goldfish nutrition and water care to make goldfish-owning simple. The kits will be available in 10 and 20 gallons.

“The whole program is really focused on making the consumers’ purchase at retail really easy, making them confident that they’re picking the right products for their fish,” Fox said.

Spectrum Brands will also be providing attendees a hands-on experience at its booth, allowing retailers to tinker with the new Tetra Whisper IQ Filters, a line of quiet power filters; Tetra Stay Clean Cartridges, which have a slow-release tablet in the cartridges to help keep tanks clean; and Marineland lights.

The GloFish Sharks can be found in the GloFish Gallery, a darkened room built into the booth that allows Spectrum “to highlight and accent the brilliant florescent colors of the GloFish,” Fox said.

“Global is a great opportunity to really get in front of a huge group of retailers. We look at Global Pet as our big platform for the year,” Fox said. “This is where you’re going to see the most new products—and you may see something new at another show, but this is where we bring it all out.”

Winning at the Showcase

While retailers and other qualified decision makers can peruse the show floor for all these new products, they can also head to the New Products Showcase to see a selection of them and vote for their favorite ones.West Paw Jaunts

West Paw (Booth #2543) won top honors in the Dog New Product category for its Qwizl toy at last year’s show, and earning that award has had a great impact on business.

“We saw an increase in interest in the toy from existing retailers as well as new partners,” West Paw CEO and President Spencer Williams said. “The demand for Qwizl was so great, in fact, that demand outpaced our domestic production capabilities—which was a good problem to have. The success of Qwizl has only grown over the year since it was launched and fortunately we have built up the capacity in our Bozeman, Montana, factory to meet the needs of the consumers.”

According to Williams, the success West Paw experienced because of the Qwizl’s New Products Showcase Best in Show win has made the company approach this year’s show a bit differently, increasing its forecast for this year’s product launches—the Strolls and Jaunts collection. He adds that West Paw “may have another winner on hand.”

The names of the new collection of leashes and collars underscore that the line is easy enough for customers to use on a casual daily outing but rugged enough and designed for the longest of adventures, Williams explained.

The Strolls Collection includes a waterproof, easy on/off Leash with Comfort Grip; a Leash with Hemp, which is made of strong, naturally odor resistant hemp; and a Collar with Hemp, which has a durable, quick-connect loop for tough pullers. The Jaunts Collection has a collar with contrasting fabric colors for a modern look and a Leash with Comfort Grip that has a quick tether feature and release and an adjustable handle.

“We consider the launch of Jaunts and Strolls a real evolution of the West Paw brand,” Williams said. “When we began manufacturing fabric cat and dog toys in 1996, we had about five employees. Then in 2004, we began manufacturing our Zogoflex durable chew and play toys and hired about 20 more people. Here we are over 20 years later launching our first line of leashes and collars and 85 people strong.

“Collars and leads have been the most requested addition to our products,” he added. “We realize that our customers are the experts and know what they want, so with this line we studied dog owners’ habits and designed solutions to help with some of their daily needs. Customers want products that look good, are safe and come with the durability of U.S.-made products. We know our retail partners and consumers will love the design, durability and functionality of these leashes and collars as much as we do, and the fact that they’re made in Montana by our incredibly talented employees excites us, too.”

Fellow 2017 New Products Showcase Best in Show winner Kaytee (Booth #2101, under Central Garden & Pet) will also be releasing new products this year. Last year, Kaytee won top honors in the small animal category for its seven-inch Kaytee LED Lighted Run-About Ball. Two of the products the company will be releasing this year stem directly from that win.

“With the seven-inch ball size designed only for use with hamsters or gerbils, the win from last year has inspired Kaytee to launch two more LED lighted exercise ball sizes for 2018,” said Jason Casto, Kaytee’s director of pets international. “The new five-inch Mini Kaytee LED Lighted RunAbout Ball will be for pet mice or dwarf hamsters and the new 13-inch size will be for chinchillas or pet rats.”

This year, the company is submitting its CritterTrail SUPER Habitat and its Color Changing LED Lighted Habitat to the New Products Showcase, two of the more than 20 products Kaytee is launching this spring.

Designed with Syrian hamsters in mind and at 30 inches long by 18 inches wide, the CritterTrail SUPER Habitat is the largest CritterTrail cage Kaytee has ever produced, offering small animals 540 square inches of living space, according to Casto.

“The Kaytee Color Changing LED Lighted Habitat is the first-ever plug-in LED product in the small animal category,” Casto said. “The Kaytee Color Changing LED Lighted Habitat will give the consumer the control to choose from five different LED color settings. The consumer will literally be able to change the color of their habitat with the touch of a button.

“Kaytee will also be launching a Color Changing LED Light Kit that retailers can sell to existing CritterTrail and CritterHome customers,” he continued. “The Color Changing LED Light Kit will include the LED adapter, LED light strip and guard to convert any existing habitat into a color-changing habitat.”

Just like West Paw and Kaytee were able to do last year, many companies yearn to have their product voted as Best in Show in the New Products Showcase Awards. APPA’s Bopp offered a tip as to how manufacturers can make their products stand out in the New Products Showcase and increase those chances: make the display interactive, maybe with a video. And regardless of whether the display is interactive or not, the setup should clearly show how the product can be used, what makes it efficient and how it can make owners’ lives easier. For new products that are being shown in the booths, Bopp says demonstrations are huge.

“[Demonstrations are] always something I suggest because they’re going to allow all the attendees to see what the benefits are and differentiate them from other competitors,” Bopp said. “Because, again, with almost 1,200 exhibitors, there’s a lot of competition, so all of these little things to differentiate the brand and show why you’d be better than another competitor are very helpful.”