06/06/2017 - 11:44

Pet project pays off

06/06/2017 - 11:44

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Businesses are chasing down opportunities in the pet market, worth an estimated $12 billion in Australia. 

Linda Taylor is planning to extend her gourmet treat range into Asia next year. Photos: Attila Csaszar

Businesses are chasing down opportunities in the pet market, worth an estimated $12 billion in Australia. 

Linda Taylor has tapped into the growing trend towards humanising pets with a range of animal treats she says are so good even their owners can eat them.

In just 18 months, Pure Pet Products has established business ties with more than 50 vets, cafes and retail stockists across the state, including Taylor Road’s IGA and South Fremantle’s organic store Manna Foods.

Coupled with increasing online sales, Ms Taylor is exploring logistics and distribution for the east coast where the brand has just launched.

And she’s planning on expanding into Asia next year. 

Ms Taylor left the corporate world five years ago to travel to New York and study dog grooming, securing a contract with Claremont Vet Hospital on her return.

The business went well, but she was frustrated that many pet owners were so concerned about what their animals ate she wasn’t allowed to give them treats (due to the preservatives and additives).

In response, Ms Taylor created her own range for dogs and cats – Pure Pet Products.

“You can eat it just like they can,” Ms Taylor told Business News.

“There are no preservatives, salts, additives, fillers; and it’s restaurant-quality meat.

“I wanted something that was of the purest form for all those people who want the best for their pets.”

Cosmo’s Calamari, Ted’s Liver Tempters and Oska’s Kangaroo Krisps are just a few of the treats on offer, each flavour represented by a Perth dog ambassador. 

A selection from Linda Taylor's gourmet range, see photo gallery of Pure Pet Products in the making 

It is no surprise Ms Taylor’s business has been so well received, given Australians spent an estimated $12.2 billion on pet products and services in the 12 months to November 2016 – an increase of 42 per cent compared with 2013 figures.

The Animal Medicines Australia 2016 Pet Ownership in Australia report further revealed that pet owners spend $4.2 billion on food products annually, noting an increasing trend of preferences for food products made with natural and organic ingredients.

Another area of expenditure growth in the pet sector has been insurance, especially for dogs, which has increased by 72 per cent since 2013.

For more than a decade, this part of the market has been dominated by major players Petplan and PetSure, which have administered all brands in the Australian market.  The RAC Queensland recently entered the space with the launch of its own pet insurance policy.

Ms Taylor said the success of the pet industry could be attributed to the rise of ‘fur babies’, a term that was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2015.

“A lot of us never get married, or have children, so there are avenues where that dog or cat has become our surrogate something,” she said.

“A confidante, someone to go to the cafe with; they’re a big part of our lives so we want to give them what we have ourselves.

“Pure Pet Products is a heartfelt-based product and that’s with the pet industry in total; it’s emotionally driven.”

A Real Insurance survey of 1,000 pet owners last year revealed that 40 per cent of Australians admitted to humanising their pet in some way, while 44 per cent agreed that owning pets was a substitute for having children.

The movement towards humanising animals extends to the workplace where, according to CoreData Australia 2016, pet-related leave accounted for $600 million in wages over a previous 12-month period.

Pure Pet Products is not the only WA business to have sniffed out opportunities in this growing market.

Mica Soltysik, who is a manager at K9 to 5, a specialised dog day care and grooming centre based in Osborne Park, said the majority of customers dropped their dogs off while on their way to work.

“It just seems like the normal thing to treat your dog like your child,” Ms Soltysik said. 

In 10 years, the business has grown from looking after 15 dogs a week to more than 200 now, and has a long waitlist, despite there being two other centres 500 metres down the road, which Ms Soltysik said were often fully booked.

K9 to 5 also hosts birthday parties for dogs.

Osbourne Park dog day care provider K9 to 5

Locals are celebrating their pet’s life in more ways than one, with Lee Cassell offering funeral services, held at the Garden of Rest inside his business, Passing Paws Pet Cremations.

“The mentality is changing,” Mr Cassell told Business News.

“I think there was belief back in the day that it was foolish to mourn for the loss of a pet.

“The old saying that used to go around was ‘don’t worry you can just get another one’, but the answer to that is ‘no, you can’t really – they are family members’.”

Mr Cassell said Passing Paws had experienced 350 per cent growth in the past 12 months, which he attributed to the niche services on offer, including tailored grievance counselling and a large range of urns to help capture the personality of the pet.

“Previously all people could do was just leave their pet at the vet and wait for the ashes in a few weeks’ time,” he said.

“We go out to the vet, give them (pet owners) a cuddle if they need it, they can follow us back to the crematorium, like a human service following a hearse.

“We hold a service at our Garden of Rest, and while the cremation takes place they have light refreshments in the ‘comfort room’. We were the first in Australia to introduce this.”

Passing Paws offers its customers the option to hold a funeral service at its Garden of Rest Photo: Courtesy of Passing Paws.

The local startup scene has also recognised an opportunity, with the launch in the coming months of Pet Topia, a platform developed by students from Sacred Heart College (with the help of Perth software company Lateral) that connects families with pet sitters.

Other local pet-focused businesses include designer dog clothing brand Huskimo, Perth Pet Taxis and Margaret River Pet Retreat’s suite accommodation, which offers piped music and climate-controlled air (among other things) to its pet guests.

Based in regional Western Australia, Jahna Trethowan and business partner Zoe Ednie-Brown are also chasing a share of the lucrative pet industry.

The Kojonup pair launched a suite of bereavement products through vet clinics in April last year, including biodegradable pet caskets and ‘forever beds’, which are now available to more than 2,800 vet clinics nationally, and will soon enter the New Zealand market.

“We’ve priced our products as a consumable to vets, so they are able to incorporate our product into their service and make their business look better, and more compassionate,” Ms Trethowan said. 

“We’re finding we’re taking products to market and they’re basically selling themselves.”

Ms Trethowan said the idea for Orchid Valley Creations came about after her friend’s guinea pig had a near-death experience.

“If it died it would have been wrapped in a towel or old rag,” she said.

“We thought there should be something that the vets could use to return these pets to their owners in a more dignified way.

“We wanted vets to be able to use it as part of their service, so we got a few prototypes together then trialled it at two vets in WA and one in NSW.”

Jahna Trethowan (left) and business partner Zoe Ednie-Brown, founded Orchid Valley Creations, its suite of bereavement products are now stocked nationwide.

Ms Trethowan said the business targeted crematoriums next and found the body bag market was largely made up of blue tarp products.

“We made a Forever Bed - a white cadaver bag, with natural hemp handles and a beige coloured zip, so it’s tasteful to look at,” she said.

“It’s basically the same product; it’s just had someone put more thought into it.”

Orchid Valley extended its range to offer a mix of other end-of-life products; a keepsake box, a card with an Everlasting seed, keychain and temporary grave marker.

“We want every single animal that dies to have one of our products, whether it’s going home for a burial or being cremated,” Ms Threthowan said.

“So we’ve made sure we’ve got the complete range to suit clients on any budget.”

Ms Trethowan said Orchid Valley was also looking at developing retail packaging.

“If the cat dies you madly run around looking for a shoebox – imagine if we could get our cardboard pet casket into pet stores,” she said.  

“It would be nice to sell hats and pretty dresses but with the amount of people owning pets, and the amount they’re spending on them, paired with people wanting everything eco-friendly and biodegradable… the caskets and Forever Beds just make sense.” 

The biodegradable pet casket Photo: Courtesy of Orchid Valley Creations

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