Water may be the very essence of life, but dogs and cats have been known to lap up that essence right from a toilet bowl or curbside puddle. Pet owners, thankfully, usually have slightly higher aspirations for their pets and generally keep their dogs hydrated with tap water served in a bowl. There is a movement underway, however, to encourage pet owners to think above and beyond the water bowl.
Inspired specifically by the increasing number of pet owners who travel with their animals, manufacturers have responded with products designed to keep on-the-go pets well hydrated. The general realization that pet owners are more conscientious than ever about the care of their animals, however, has also propelled enterprising businesses to devise new ways to hydrate cats and dogs. From collapsible and reusable water bottles that make it easy to quench a pet’s thirst on the road to bottled water formulated to supply dogs and cats with important nutrients, hydration products are gaining momentum and offering retailers a fresh opportunity to appeal to doting pet owners.
There are several new manufacturers on the scene that are intent on promoting the virtues of portable, convenient water products, and even water itself. Elizabeth Hanson, for example, is on a hydration-education mission. Hanson, the founder of the Troff Pouch, introduced her reusable and freezable plastic water pouch for dogs this spring with her sights set on spreading the word about the importance of keeping pets hydrated when on the go. Her main objective during the three years she took to develop and test the product was to “create something that is so easy to use and flawless that it would be difficult not to hydrate your dog.”
Hanson adds that the company’s website is populated with information on hydration, including links to various online resources on the subject, as well as a “hydration calculator” that estimates how much water a dog needs based on weight. In addition, as part of the support Troff Pouch offers retailers, Hanson will provide in-store clinics for retailers.
“My huge goals is to really lead the hydration revolution so that people never leave [home] without water,” she says.
As it becomes more common for people to travel with their pets, the message may be more relevant than ever. Travel is becoming increasingly pet friendly, as even some hotels and restaurants adopt open-door policies for their guests’ animal companions. Travel, however, is not limited to vacations. It can include a trip to the vet or a walk in the park—tons of pet owners are on the move.
H2O4K9 had these shoppers in mind when it introduced a high-grade stainless-steel water bottle that comes with a lid out of which a dog can drink. The company debuted the 25-ounce bottle in 2008, and quickly expanded the line to include a 9.5-ounce bottle and the Neosling, an insulated carrier case for the bottles.
“Pet parents are looking for products that are convenient for traveling with their pets—whether it’s a quick trip to the dog park or a week long camping trip,” says president Bryce Lien.
All Bottled Up
Meanwhile, Alkaline Water, Inc., is banking on the idea that some pet owners will be just as discerning about the quality of the water their pets are drinking as they are about what they are drinking it out of.
Purity Plus Pet Water, launched by Alkaline Water earlier this year, is not only bottled water made for pets—an idea that may seem radical in and of itself—but it is a fortified mineral water, containing nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus and sodium. It is also pH balanced to suit dogs’ physiology.
The water is an adaptation of a mineral-infused, pH-balanced line of bottled water made for humans and sold in grocery and health food stores, says Joel Gonzalez, CEO of Alkaline Water. The company developed Purity Plus for Pets after people began questioning whether it was safe to share their own bottled mineral water with their pets. The product was tailored to meet the specific nutritional needs of dogs.
“All our animals have to drink water, so why not make it contaminant free and nutritious for them? That’s the concept we came up with,” Gonzalez says.
While pet owners can also just turn on the faucet to fill pets’ water bowls basically for free, Gonzalez says the benefits of buying bottled water far outweigh the cost—Purity Plus retails for approximately $3.99 per gallon or about $2.50 to $2.99 per gallon with an introductory in-store coupon.
How much water a pet owner needs to be buy will vary, he adds, based on how much the dog eats. “If you have a 15- to 20-pound dog that eats eight ounces of food [daily], it will drink about 20 ounces of water—so basically, a gallon will be almost a six-day supply. If you do the math, it’s not breaking the bank,” Gonzalez says.
The success of these relatively new products, however, may first depend upon on whether or not pet specialty retailers see value in them. A primary step for many of these pioneering companies will be convincing retailers of the benefits the products they offer.
“Retailers need to know that this is a high-margin category that can provide significant add on sales if correctly merchandised,” Lien says.
He adds that it makes sense for retailers to carry a wide variety of hydration/watering products at different price points in order to appeal to the broadest segments of the market. Products such as the water bottles, he points out, are also a good fit for “travel sections,” which can include other travel-oriented, high-margin products such as car restraints, poop bags and wipes.
Perhaps the most effective way for retailers to get customers to take notice of hydration products, however, may be simply to put these items where shoppers cannot miss them.
“Most consumers are not necessarily looking for these types of products upon entering the store,” Lien says. “They discover them while shopping for destination products like food. As they make their way to the checkout, they discover the need for a convenient water source for their dog while on the go.”