Dog Automated Feeders and Fountains
As pet parents are working longer hours and leaving pups at home for extended periods of time, retailers should capitalize on sales of automated feeders and fountains.
Today’s pet owners are often working long hours, but they still want the best for their pets. Some that are away at work all day may have outdoor access for their pets, especially in more temperate climates, or they may utilize dog walkers, but the hours that many pet parents are away from home creates the needs for other means of feeding. Automatic devices are one answer to this problem.
Grocers often place the necessary items of bread and milk towards the back of the store to ensure that customers must walk past other items on the way and make impulse purchases. Pet retailers do the same with dog food, a staple purchase and common reason for pet owners to frequent the store. Many retailers use discussions about food to not only establish themselves as a knowledgeable resource on pet nutritional needs, but also as a springboard into other areas of discussion about pet care. Most pet food itself has fairly slim margins of profit but related categories, such as the accessories for food and water, makes increasing profits easier.
Manufacturers work hard to create the perfect feeder or fountain for every pet parent’s needs. One of the more frequent needs is for products that are convenient and innovative. For example, Our Pet’s DuraPet bowls have a rubber bottom. Not only do they protect floors, keep noise down and prevent the bowl from being pushed around as much or tipped, the patented technique for attaching the rubber is dishwasher safe and will last nearly a lifetime. Some of the company’s bowls are designed to keep hanging ears out of food; others will accommodate a Pug-type face.
The founder of Our Pet’s is the original creator of elevated feeders designed with dogs’ safety and comfort in mind. Geriatric dogs and larger breeds benefit from the reduced strain on joints and muscles, since it’s more comfortable than bending, and it reduces air intake while eating, which reduces gas. Our Pet’s also offers high-tech solutions to feeding problems, according to Britany Hilston, product manager for the company.
“Our Intelligent Pet Bowl only opens when paired with a collar tag. When the pet wearing the tag approaches, it will open,” says Hilston. “If you have multiple dogs with diet issues such as allergies, thyroid [issues] or diabetes, you can prevent them from eating each other’s food.”
Hilston also notes that the bowl tracks when a pet uses it, and alerts the owners so they are aware of their pet’s eating habits even when they’re not around.
“You can see how much and when the dog eats. If the dog doesn’t eat, you’ll be notified,” she says. “It’s a proactive approach to your pet’s health—being able to react quickly to change. If you bring your dog to a veterinarian, the first thing they will ask is if the pet is eating, drinking and eliminating normally, and with the Intelligent Pet Bowl you can pinpoint when the changes began.”
Moderna Products also keeps convenience in mind when creating its products. The company’s Sensibowl is shaped with no corners, making it easier for pets to get at food, and its Slomo bowl has obstructions to slow down bolters. The company also offers raised diners and gravity feeders—ones that are filled with food and as the pet eats from the bowl, gravity causes more to fill the bowl. Gravity feeders work well for dogs that self-regulate their food intake.
“The item we are most fond of is our gravity waterer, the Water Bubble,” says Chantel Saelen, managing director for Moderna. “You can leave a larger amount of water available to your dog when not at home, but without having to leave a big bucket for them to make a mess in.”
She adds that the wide mouth opening of the bottle makes it convenient when cleaning.
“This means you can undo the cap and handwash it whenever you want, making the waterer more hygienic,” says Saelen. All the plastics Moderna uses in its products are food approved and dishwasher safe.
Clean hygienic water is important for dogs. That’s one reason why PetSafe developed its fountains. Dogs, as well as cats, are attracted to moving or running water, and the movement discourages bacteria growth that can be found in stagnant water bowls. The filtration process also keeps it cleaner.
“Adequate water intake is important for your pet’s overall health. Many owners do not realize that their dog needs 1 oz. of water per 1 lb. of body weight daily,” says Sarah Beene, category manager - water and feed at PetSafe. “Using a pet fountain provides pets with a convenient supply of fresh, filtered water.”
She notes that keeping dogs properly hydrated helps prevent urinary and kidney disease, speeds recovery time for sick or injured pets, and helps the body with temperature regulation.
Feeding Across the Spectrum
“Independent pet stores have a lot of flexibility as to where and how they can position these types of feeders,” says Tony Desavia, director of marketing and creative for Ideal Pet Products. “Any of these would be a good fit in the feed or the health section—as they are health related.”
Ideal Pet Products offers a fountain for pets, as well as a gravity feeder and a bowl that has a scale integrated right into it to make portion control easier. The company’s EyeAnimal Electronic Pet Feeder can be easily programmed for up to three meals a day and holds up to 11 lbs. of food.
Desavia adds that if these products are in with the other bowls, they can seem devalued to a shopper. If someone is looking at a stainless bowl for $3.95 and next to it is feeder or fountain for $19.95, the health message can be lost.
“In most cases price is a deciding factor. If marketed as a health and wellness item, the cost has less impact,” says Desavia.
Beene has some insight about marketing these products as well.
“Many customers are still learning about pet fountains and automatic feeders as great alternatives to standard bowls,” she says. “Since the bowl aisle is typically not a destination aisle in the store, cross-selling fountains and feeders in high-traffic locations, such as the pet food aisle or in an endcap, help customers better discover them.”
No matter the reason consumers may look for convenient, safe and unique ways to deliver food and water to their pets, it’s helpful and profitable to have the answers on hand. Retailers should check with manufacturers to see which products might sell well with specific demographics, and for suggestions on marketing these useful items to consumers.
“Point-of-purchase information and sales associate training can help educate customers on the great benefits of fountains and feeders, as well as the different options available to help drive sales,” adds Beene. PB