As the winter months start to fade to memory and the warmer months of summer approach, many pet owners, like many people the world over, will be looking forward to a weekend getaway, a relaxing trip to a tropical destination or lazy days of lounging on the beach. What makes pet owners' vacation plans different? While most of us will be packing our bags with sunscreen and flip-flops, pet owners may be searching for an easy-to-tote water bowl and petfood packaging that will keep sand and sea water out.
The tourism bureaus of US cities like St. Louis, San Francisco, Austin and Ann Arbor all tout themselves as "Pet Friendly Destinations!" and offer pet travel guides with restaurants, beaches and national parks that welcome dogs and cats. Hotel chains like Marriot, Holiday Inn and Choice Hotels not only invite their guests to check-in with their furry companions, but offer specialty pet services, package discounts and custom-made, room service delivered meals and treats. It's about time our industry created innovative packaging, treats, food and branding to capitalize on this growing and economically ripe trend.
Imagine you have an empty suitcase laid open in front of you the night before a vacation you've been looking forward to (and saving up for!) for months. As you prepare a mental checklist of the essential items you need to travel with, you allow yourself to daydream about just what you're looking forward to on your trip. Maybe your perfect getaway includes being in the outdoors, solitude and picnics. Perhaps you're looking forward to a little self-indulgence, shopping and nightlife. Now imagine you're taking that dream vacation with a friend with four paws. How does that change the travel essentials list? And how can your company help those consumers fill that suitcase with items that are convenient and fun?
To-go packaging for petfood and treats should be researched, developed and implemented easily -- there are already many pet accessory products available that would easily translate into a marketable package for travel-size portions of food and water. Take for example, the Gamma 2 Vittles Vault Jr. Pet Food Travel Container. The container is designed to keep petfood fresh and keep outside contaminants (remember that beach sand?) out, according to Gamma 2. The container's compact size, airtight lid and durable, high-impact resistant plastic makes it ideal for traveling. The Vittles Vault Jr. also has molded handles, making it easy to transport and comes with a measuring cup that can be stored within the container, making portioning meals while on the go simple for pet parents.
Wow Bow, a company that describes itself as designers creating clever products and intelligent solutions for dogs, offer a credit card sized water bowl called Acqua BÃ¶l. The bowl is described as convenient, reusable, durable, leak-proof and stylish -- just like any set of luggage should be. The Acqua BÃ¶l allows pet owners to hydrate their pets anywhere, anytime, since the water bowl fits in a purse or pocket. The reusable bowl also has a two-year guarantee and is made of a latex impregnated, waterproof material.
But even with the most easy-to-travel-with packaging, you still need a product to put inside! One suggestion I have, after reading multiple traveling with your pet online tips and published guides, is to develop food and treats that make the experience of travel more comfortable for pets. The Humane Society of the United States talks about motion sickness -- something pets are prone to experience during the bumpy car ride or disorienting flight -- and its website suggests that ice cubes will keep animals hydrated and calm and are gentler on the animals' stomach than a large amount of water or a small meal. Bottled water products for dogs, cats and small mammals have already been having success in the market -- could canine and kitty flavored ice cubes be the next niche?
How about that pet owner whose dream vacation involved hiking and the outdoors? Maybe his tail-wagging travel companion needs a granola or energy bar too! And what about the pet parent who wants bright lights and the big city on their trip? Why not market kitschy mini-fridge treats or help develop a gourmet petfood menu for a pet-friendly hotel chain? By the time you've finished brainstorming new ideas for products, packaging and marketing for these to-go, travel-sized, easy-carry petfoods and treats, you should have a very full suitcase!