More young cat owners mean new chances for retailers to drive sales of an often-overlooked product category—cat bowls.
Felines are known for being finicky, but oftentimes their owners can be just as choosy. From food, to the bowls it is served in, pet parents want the absolute best products for their fur babies.
Not only is cat ownership on the rise overall, but felines are also increasingly the pet of choice for Millennials. Younger pet owners tend to see pets as members of the family and therefore are willing to spend more on the very best products. This demographic change presents a prime opportunity for pet retailers to drive sales in feline-focused categories like cat bowls, which are often overlooked.
“This category will continue to grow as adults are trending to start families later in life. It is more common for couples to co-own a pet before starting a family,” says Gretchen George, president of PetRageous Designs, based in Wilmington, Mass. “Much like dogs, these pet parents are pampering their fur babies more and more. Pampering cats will be a trend that continues.”
The key to catering to cat-loving customers is variety. Modern cat owners won’t settle for plain plastic bowls anymore; they want choices—and the more, the better. “This was a very limited category lacking an abundant amount of choices in styles. Now that demand is present, retailers want to offer their cat-loving customers the same variety as dog owners,” explains George.
A Paw Above the Rest
Since bowls are such a big category, retailers should try to choose brands that stand out from the crowd in some way, whether it’s the shape, style or material. On the surface, food and water dishes can seem mundane, so when a product is unique, customers are more excited to buy it.
“The only thing that’s going to define your bowl against somebody else’s is to use new techniques and designs. Make it special. Have purpose,” says Paul Pugh, global brand manager for Moderna Products. The Belgium-based manufacturer has a new line of Sensibowls made specifically to prevent whisker fatigue.
“Our new bowls are deliberately not circular—they’re done in an elliptical form. When a cat eats, the wider part actually keeps the whiskers away from the food and water,” explains Pugh.
Not only are Sensibowls a cat-friendly shape, they’re also made with an innovative pet-safe plastic developed by Moderna. “It’s pretty unique in that it’s the first time that this plastic’s been used in any industry,” says Pugh. “Normally, pet trends follow the likes of kitchen utensils and baby toys, but this is brand new. It’s a new technique that’s never been done before.” The bowl line is set to launch at this year’s Interzoo trade show in Germany.
Another way cat bowls can distinguish themselves is with visual appeal. Today’s cat owners won’t settle for plain products; they want cute and clever designs that can be coordinated between food and water dishes.
PetRageous Designs offers a wide variety of stylish bowl designs that will complement modern home furnishings, from understated gray polka dot stoneware to graphic graffiti-patterned cups. “We have some incredibly whimsical cat bowls that have been very popular in our line for many years. Some of our cat bowls rival those in dog for best sellers,” says George. “What makes our cat bowls stand out are their unique shapes and creative patterns that cat owners are drawn to.”
Another advantage of choosing to stock fashion-forward products is the endless possibilities for merchandising. George advises creating endcaps near food aisles to demonstrate what cat feeding and watering areas can look like in a chic and contemporary home.
“Show how a cat’s feeding area can look coordinated with matching bowls and placemats,” she says. “Sell the idea of the cat’s feeding area being incorporated into the owner’s home décor.”
Of course, cat bowls can’t just be beautiful. They should also be exceptionally constructed with function in mind. Pet parents are willing to spend more on a product if they know it’s going to do the job and last.
Loving Pets’ Robusto Bowls, for instance, are made from sturdy, heavy gauge stainless steel with an interior that mimics ceramic. The bowls are so tough, they survived being run over by a 6,500-lb. truck without a dent, so they can certainly withstand wear and tear from overeager kitties.
“Today’s pet parents are seeking out beautiful designs, durable construction and a price point that makes it easy to have multiple bowls and diners,” says Eric Abbey, president and founder of the Cranbury, N.J.-based company. “Also, cat parents seek products that are dishwasher safe, making it easy to keep a cat’s food and water bowls clean.”
Since today’s pets are considered full members of the family, owners are always concerned about product safety, even with an item as simple as a food bowl.
“More and more cat owners want to know what their cats’ products are made of and where they are made. Cat owners have carefully selected the best cat food, but what about the best cat bowl to serve it in?” says Diane Danforth, founder and CEO of Americat Company in Wexford, Pa. “Cat owners have become more concerned about the safety of the products their cats use daily. They search for ‘made in the USA’ because they believe it is safer and higher quality.”
All Americat Company bowls are manufactured with high-quality, U.S.-sourced stainless steel and are certified lead-, mercury- and cadmium-free, so owners can rest assured that their cats are eating from sanitary and non-toxic bowls.
“Stainless steel is frequently used in medicine for safety and cleanliness. We chose stainless steel for Americat Company bowls, because it keeps nasty bacteria out and is dishwasher safe,” says Danforth. “Plastic and ceramic can develop scratches and cracks where bacteria can grow from saliva and leftover food.”
The heavy material also has the added bonus of preventing tipping, which means cats can enjoy every bite and pet parents don’t have to worry about cleaning up any spills.
Dishing Out Sales
In order to get the most out of the category, manufacturers emphasize the importance of having salespeople who can effectively communicate the benefits of different bowls, especially those with higher price points. Customers will assume that all bowls are able to hold food equally, so it’s up to salespeople to explain why that’s not the case.
“We’ve found that retailers with the highest sales are those who are knowledgeable about Americat Company products and can explain the American-made, lead-free and safety benefits to shoppers,” says Danforth.
With no sign of cat ownership diminishing, now is the time for retailers to expand their cat product offerings with new styles and designs that meet the growing demand. Otherwise, retailers may lose the chance to reach cat owners while they’re young and starting to build brand loyalty. PB