PET BUSINESS: What inspired you to start H2O4K9?
BRYCE LIEN: I’m a dog lover, and I live an active lifestyle with my lovely spouse. Our three dogs are a part of our family and go with us just about everywhere. On one of our outings, our puppy, Ryder, got seriously ill from drinking pond water. From that point, we knew that having clean water when we went out was very important. Having tried many of the travel water products on the market, we found they either lacked quality, were messy or otherwise undesirable. With an industrial-design background, it made me want to create the ideal portable dog water bottle for our dogs. After talking to many other dog lovers, I was encouraged enough to continue into real product development. We wanted something that was simple to use, durable enough for our active lifestyle, built from quality materials and would look good. So we started H2O4K9 Inc. and decided that all of our products should be designed with the same principles: simplicity, durability, quality and style.
PB: What separates your portable water bottles from your competitors’ products?
LIEN: Several things separate the H2O4K9 Dog Water Bottle/Bowl from the competition. One, our patented lid, which serves as the dog’s bowl, was designed specifically to fit a dog’s natural drinking style. The twist-off lid has no hinge points that can break if the bottle is dropped, and it also allows any unused water to be poured back into the bottle, so you don’t waste any water.
Another noticeable advantage H2O4K9 bottles have over their competition is their sleek design and vibrant colors. Nowadays, consumers are expecting products that not only function well, but also have the added value of looking attractive. Our bottles are sized to fit into most standard cup-holders, backpacks, strollers and bike cages, so you can take an H2O4K9 bottle anywhere you go with your dog.
A very important advantage the H2O4K9 dog water bottles is that they are very durable. In these tough economic times, consumers are looking for products that provide long-term value in exchange for their hard-earned dollars. Our products are not only for recreational use, they are also used by various working dog groups around the world, so they have to be durable.
PB: What are the latest developments from H2O4K9?
LIEN: In March, we introduced our newest product, the K9 UNIT, a 25-ounce stainless steel insulated bottle. The design was based on feedback from military working dogs, police K9, and search and rescue teams from around the world. The K9 UNIT became a special project, after receiving so many pictures and heartfelt stories from many teams who had been testing our original 25-ounce bottles. We are very proud to have created something that will provide quick access to clean water for those K9 teams who put their lives at risk to save and protect us every day.
PB: How big is the trend toward products designed to allow outdoor enthusiasts to share their adventures with their pets?
LIEN: I would like to think this is more of a response to lifestyle awareness, rather than a trend. Pets have become an integral part of people’s lives. Whether you live an urban or outdoor enthusiast lifestyle, pets are participating at every level. According to recent studies from the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor market grew five percent between 2005 and 2011, with $646 billion spent on outdoor recreation. With the onset of e-commerce and online reviews, the customer is much more educated and demanding of quality products. They are looking for products that are going to complement their lifestyle.
PB: How should outdoors/travel products be merchandised and marketed in a pet store to make the most of the category?
LIEN: To a large extent, I believe this depends on the type of product and the footprint available. That being said, I believe that it’s a good decision for retailers to have a pet travel section, grouping common travel-related items in one section, as you would commonly find waste bags, portable water bottles/bowls, travel carriers, protective seat covers, etc., in a similar area.
PB: What does the future hold for H2O4K9, as well as for products designed for outdoor-enthusiast pet owners?
LIEN: We continue to see opportunities for outdoor products in the pet industry, as well as for pet products in the outdoor industry. We are encouraged by the feedback that we have received from our customers, and we will continue to listen and make use of this information. We are currently in development of two new products that we plan to roll out in Spring 2014.