Bringing Life to Pet Stores
Having developed a formidable presence in the world of pet fashion, Pet Life is branching out into new product categories such as pet tech and nutritional supplements.
Pet Life is a company on a mission. Not content with the already broad lineup of products that it has developed over less than a decade in business, the full-line pet product manufacturer has its sights set on becoming one of the largest vendors—if not the largest—in the pet care market within the next five or six years.
With 2,200 SKUs under its belt, Edison, N.J.-based Pet Life is off to a very good start. Of course, the company still has a long way to go to reach its lofty goal, but CEO Joseph Braha is quite bullish in his expectations for rapid growth. “We have plans to grow to 10,000 SKUs in the next year and half,” he says, noting that all of the company’s current and future products are or will be manufactured in house. “We’re not looking to license; we’re strictly looking to develop our own brands.”
So far, the company has built a base of five distinct brands, including Pet Life, Touchdog and Helios Dog, three labels that comprise fashion-forward products such as pet accessories, apparel, beds and carriers. These represent Pet Life’s initial focus within the pet care category and reflect Braha’s background in the fashion world, where he was involved in young men’s apparel, women’s swimwear and fashion merchandising.
While all three brands cover similar ground, in terms of the types of products that they encompass, each collection occupies its own unique position in the marketplace.
Pet Life is the company’s broadest line and is described by Braha as the company’s mid-tier, “everyday” brand. Products under this label are highly functional and include features such as 3M Thinsulate Insulation and Dupont nylon in their construction.
Helios Dog is the company’s premium, outdoors-inspired brand. Here, Pet Life focuses on products like camping beds, pet tents and “outdoorsy” leash and harness combinations.
Pet Life’s newest premium pet fashion brand is Touchdog, which Braha compares to the Hollister Co. human-fashion label. In fact, the company actually employs a former Hollister designer on its product development team, which has put together a high-end collection of jackets, sweaters and leashes, and other fashionable items. “We’re working with designers who have a lot of experience developing human-grade brands,” he says. “So we have the right team in place.”
With the Helios Dog and Touchdog brands, Braha says Pet Life has created “the first true collections of designer, premium branded pet products.” However, in order to keep those fashion-oriented labels on point with consumers’ evolving tastes, the company is continuously evolving as well, looking for inspiration outside the pet world. “All we do is look and see what’s going on in the human-fashion world,” he explains. “So, we’re always adding new products.”
According to Braha, while Pet Life’s premium fashion brands are new to the North American market, they have already been met with a warm reception in Europe. “Helios Dog and Touchdog have been the two largest premium [fashion pet] brands in the U.K. for the past 10 years,” he says.
The success that Pet Life’s brands have long enjoyed overseas, which is following the company in the U.S., is driven not just by fashion, but also by function and high quality. “The quality of the fabrics we use in all of our lines is very important,” says Braha. “For example, we use Blackshark technology as an inner liner that is waterproof and wind proof for our dog jackets. It retains warmth and is breathable at the same time.”
While its early success was in the world of pet fashion, Pet Life’s quest to join the upper echelon of pet product manufacturers has the company branching out into new and diverse product categories such as pet tech and nutritional supplements. In both cases, Pet Life’s approach revolves around building strong brand identities, similar to what the company did with its fashion-forward Pet Life, Helios Dog and Touchdog labels.
In supplements, the company has introduced Vitawag, a line of all-natural liquid supplements that pair four flavors with specific nutritional benefits. The potassium formula is banana flavored, B-12 comes in strawberry, the antioxidant formula is blueberry, and the electrolyte formula is mint flavored. Designed to be added to a pet’s drinking water, each formula comes in a two-ounce bottle that contains a 24-day supply.
“They’re all natural-grade products; there are no added preservatives or food coloring,” says Braha, noting that 80 percent of dogs that were presented with both plain and supplement-infused water gravitated to the flavored option. “Dog’s love them.”
Also included in the supplement line are Vitawag Pro-biotic Chewable Tablets, which debuted at last month’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla. The tablets pair probiotics with other beneficial nutrients and come in four flavors that both cats and dogs find appealing. They are available in 30-, 60- and 90-day supply bottles.
“Unlike other probiotic formulas, our formulas are entirely natural and offer side benefits,” says Braha. “Our beef flavor is our chondroitin formula, which is great for joint support; our salmon/fish flavor is our omega-3 blend for healthy skin and coat support; our chicken flavor is our anti-oxidant formula; and our sweet potato is our vegan straight probiotic formula.”
These products represent just the beginning of Pet Life’s venture into the supplement arena. According to Braha, retailers can expect to see the company continue to leverage its own unique brand of innovation to develop an expanding lineup of these types of nutritional products.
“We’re going to be rounding out the line even further at SuperZoo with further line additions. What we’re doing is looking to see what other manufacturers are doing in the market, and improving upon that,” he says.
This is the same approach that Pet Life is taking in the pet-tech segment with its new Petkit brand. The company’s initial offering in the category includes activity trackers, video monitors and “smart” pet bowls, all designed to apply the latest technological advances to ensuring the well-being of companion animals.
“Our products are unique from what other manufacturers in the market are doing in that they are geared toward social sharing, and we have a more robust back end,” says Braha, referring to the apps that connect with the various devices in the Petkit line. “We want to become the Apple of the pet-tech world, and we have the capabilities to do that.”
Petkit products include unique features such as WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and can actually be coordinated with one another. For example, pet owners can pair their dog’s smart bowl, which measures the volume of food the pet ingests, with the activity tracker. “Those two applications can talk to each other,” says Braha. “So, now you know how many calories your dog is eating, and how many it’s burning off.”
Petkit video monitors also have some unique features that make them stand out in the pet store, including HD panoramic cameras and remotely controlled laser pointers incorporated into the devices.
Pet Life’s move into high-tech pet gadgets makes a lot of sense, given Braha’s expectation that this will be one of the most explosive categories in the pet industry. “Everybody is gravitating toward smart pet products,” he says. “At CES [the Consumer Electronics Show], everybody was talking about pet tech, and I believe it will be a major topic of conversation within the pet industry moving forward.”
With this in mind, Braha says that Pet Life will continue to develop new innovations in the pet-tech category—including “smart” pet toys—and beyond, all in service to reaching that lofty goal of becoming the biggest manufacturer in the pet industry.
“We have a very big research and development department,” he says. “And each and every year, we are going to be launching new products and improving our current products.”