With pet owners paying more attention to their dog’s eating habits, bowls and feeding systems are evolving to include sophisticated and attractive options that are changing the category.
Sometimes, the simplest things are actually, upon deeper inspection, not so simple at all. Consider dog bowls: what could be more straightforward? After all, it’s not like these products are particularly advanced or high-tech, right? Well, consider again because today’s bowls and feeding systems bear scant resemblance to those of years past. Manufacturers know that today’s dog owners feel differently about their pets and are putting products under closer scrutiny. In response, these companies have exerted no small amount of creativity to devise bowls and other feeding systems to meet these expectations.
This is certainly what Dana Crosson, director of sales and marketing for Royal Trade USA – Buddy’s Line, has observed. Located in Bristol, Pa., the company offers a variety of dish styles, colors and shapes including bone-shaped double diners, elevated double and single diners, non-skid fashion bowls, stainless steel and glass bowls and more.
“A growing number of pet owners are increasingly more educated and particular about their choice in style and function of their pet bowls,” says Crosson. “In the past, a pet bowl was a pet bowl; no real decision-making was put into the choice. However, as pet owners are becoming more knowledgeable about the importance of their pet’s feeding habits and food choices, the need for a variety of bowl types has become a necessity.”
Crosson says this is translating into a growing appreciation for stainless steel or glass bowls, since pet owners view these as more sanitary and hygienic, therefore safer for the dog. The popularity of fresh or raw diets is also fueling interest in these types of dishes.
The company’s Buddy collection of glass pet bowls and diners is made of tempered glass that doesn't attract, but rather inhibits, bacteria growth, explains Crosson, making these a good choice for pet owners feeding fresh or raw. There are three options available: the Pawsitively Delicious glass bowl, the Denali Diner and the Glacial Diner.
Also, with an eye towards the changing dining needs as dogs grow from puppies to elderly, Buddy’s makes the Multi-Level Adjustable Double Diner that can grow with the pet. The three-level diner is equipped with stainless steel bowls incorporating noise-canceling rubber bumpers.
Speaking of noise-canceling, feeding time can be a rather rambunctious affair, leading to tipping or migrating bowls, thanks to enthusiastic gobbling. This brings to mind some of the more common problems people are hoping to solve with the right bowl, says Melissa Pedraza, general manager for Vancouver, Wash.-based Platinum Pets. The company provides a variety of pet products, including their non-tip bowls, made from surgical-grade stainless steel. Constructed without seams and featuring a wide base fitted with a silicone ring to prevent sliding or slipping, the bowls come in 18 colors and two styles. They’re also scratch, chip and rust resistant.
Another issue is dogs that eat too quickly, says Pedraza, mentioning that the company offers the Modern Diner, a raised, wrought iron feeder that comes with a wide-rimmed, Slow Eating SwitchIN Bowl option to discourage gulping.
“We’ve also found that pet owners are looking for more trendy colors to match their pet’s unique personality,” says Pedraza. “It’s common to have pet bowls or feeders that match individual pets, as well as matching home décor—a pop of color in home décor is very trendy right now.”
QT Dog, LLC also offers a stainless steel slow-feeder called the Brake-Fast, says Mike Thomas, vice president of the Dallas-based company. Eating too fast can cause a range of discomfort for dogs, such as bloating, gassiness, regurgitation/re-eating and aggressive pack feeding. Available in three configurations, the bowl is designed to prevent all those unpleasant outcomes. QT also makes the Barstool Feeder, an adjustable food or water bowl that rises in height from 12 in. to 18 in.
“This provides larger dogs with a posture-appropriate feeding system that keeps the ideal mouth to neck and stomach alignment,” he explains. “This also helps avoid bloat or stomach flip in large, barrel-chested breeds, as well as reducing air intake and the resulting flatulence. The Brake-Fast bowl can also fit into [the Barstool] feeder.”
The fact that pet owners are more and more inclined to take their dogs with them is another trend fueling purchasing in this category, and it’s one that manufacturers like PetRageous Designs are paying attention to.
“We keep it top of mind that, year after year, pets are welcome in more places,” says Gretchen George, president of the Burlington, Mass. company. “And, whether at work or on vacation, pet owners want to showcase their love for their pets with quality feeding and watering products.”
PetRageous offers a broad spectrum of products for dogs and cats, including those intended to help organize pet dining areas, such as stoneware and stainless steel bowls, designer plastic bowls, elevated diners and coordinating placemats. Included in the offerings is the Fiji collection of stainless steel, nonslip bowls and the Maui stainless steel collection, which has a colorful, removable nonslip ring at the bottom. The company also provides the Martinique Raised Wood Feeders, a collection of wood and steel framed feeders. Available in two colors—natural and walnut—and three size options, the feeders have two removable stainless steel bowls, a durable mango hardwood table and steel legs with nonslip footings.
Loving Pets is also targeting dogs on the go. Located in Cranbury, N.J., the company provides products for dogs and cats in a variety of categories, such as treats, chews, bowls and feeding accessories. For dogs, and their owners with active lifestyles, the company offers the Bella Roma Travel Bowls and Diners, featuring integrated locking lids to store food and built-in legs to support the bowl/diner, thus preventing unwanted collapse while the pet is drinking or feeding. The bowls are made of flexible BPA-free silicone, are lightweight, will pack flat and can be hung from a backpack, purse, belt loop or even a leash—the company provides a free carabiner.
“The travel-friendly lifestyle is a hugely emerging category,” says Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets. “Pet parents are including their dogs in more experiences than ever before and seek solutions that make traveling with a pet stress free.”
They’re also looking for bowls and feeders that are compatible with their décor, or at least don’t detract from it, says George, mentioning that as such, pet owners are now looking for coordinated feeding ensembles, such as matching food and water bowls, and placemats aligned with how the home is decorated. Abbey agrees.
“Pet bowls are no longer an eyesore in the corner of the kitchen; they are being incorporated into the more visible areas of the home,” he explains. “Also, in multiple-pet households, different bowls in different shapes and sizes must be used, based on each pet’s unique feeding needs.”
George agrees that pet owners are purchasing for multiple areas of the house. Although the food bowl is generally confined to one location, it’s common for water bowls to be place in various spots within the house as well as outside, she says.
“This certainly causes the owner to purchase multiple bowls,” George says. “The different areas of the home will also influence the purchase of bowls in various materials. The owner may have a matching set of food and water stoneware in the kitchen with a coordinating placement and feeding stand. However, their outside water bowl may be stainless steel to accommodate rough usage.”
Bowling Them Over
Allowing bowls and feeding systems to receive less than their due consideration from customers would be shortchanging the category—and your bottom line—because these items are more than necessities, they’re accessories, says Thomas. They give pet owners a way to add fun to mealtime and to spoil the dog. Just like human accessories where people are seldom content with just one purse or pair of shoes, your customers will likely want to build a collection of bowls or feeders.
For example, Pedraza says they’ve found people are purchasing seasonal bowl colors in addition to a variety of daily use bowls—something pet specialty retailers should capitalize on.
“Retailers can optimize this category by offering a variety of styles, colors and sizes,” says Pedraza. “Highlight the benefits and convenience of having multiple bowls. Additionally, setting up displays to show seasonal colors or corresponding colors to enhance visuals could motivate purchases.”
Educate staff on the selling points of the bowls or systems in your inventory, says Abbey. Since not all offer the same features—such as noise-control, non-skid or slow feeding—it’s important to get a handle on what customers might be looking for and if there’s a particular issue they want to resolve. Also query customers about how many dogs are in the house, their sizes, if they’re fed in the same place and if there’s access to a yard or terrace, which might offer the opportunity to sell another water bowl, says Thomas.
It’s also smart to ask about the dog’s eating and drinking habits, although not every customer may be dialed into this.
“Pet owners may be surprised to learn that not all dogs have the same feeding and watering behavior,” says George. “Owners with multiple-pet households may have two dogs that feed the exact opposite way. Some dogs graze and can always have food in the bowl, but there could be a second dog in the house that is a chow hound and has to use a slow feeder.”
It’s important to understand this behavior, she explains, because it will impact what style of feeder the retailer should recommend. It’s also helpful to know the dog’s breed, George adds. For example, very large dogs may need a nonslip bowl with a bigger capacity, or an elevated feeder. For dogs that are somewhat delicate eaters, the pet owner may be fine with choosing a more decorative bowl, perhaps one made from stoneware; a dog that eats more aggressively may be better off with a stainless steel or plastic bowl, she says.
As for merchandising these products, create a good, better and best assortment, George advises. Offer plenty of size, style and color options in each price range. Abbey suggests creating a new-puppy section with all the feeding essentials. If there’s a travel section in the store, bowls designed for on-the-go eating and drinking can be located here. And of course, don’t forget to cross-market bowls with food.
“Bowls can also be promoted seasonally based on color or charitable cause,” Abbey says. “For example, you could promote blue bowls for Passover or Hanukkah, and red and green bowls for Christmas. You could promote pink bowls for Breast Cancer Awareness month; purple bowls for Autism Awareness and so on…whatever causes and holidays that matter to the store owners and their customers.” PB