Innovation and design for pet accessories: bane or gain?

New materials and new legislation are increasingly driving the accessories market. Developing new products requires investments, but can also bring considerable benefits: to both pet owners and accessory manufacturers.

When innovation and design team up

When speaking of product innovation, we often think of products that have been developed from scratch to support us in driving change and progress. For a long time, design was considered as being subservient to innovation: a mere matter of aesthetics. However, increasingly, the awareness is growing that innovation and design are closely linked. When both are given sufficient attention, they become invaluable in helping solve complex problems. Together they help create new products that re-define the world around us. 

Smart, high-tech, efficient, ethical, sustainable and optimised…

Innovation and design in the pet accessories market is comparatively new. The demand for specific, value-adding products for pets’ cohabitation with their human owners has, in fact, emerged only recently. But, demand is growing fast and constantly evolving. Not only are pets acquiring more relevance in our lives, there are many locations – where pets hang out with their owners – that do not cater to the needs and requirements of pet visitors. It is here where there are many opportunities for the accessories industry. 

Take travelling and associated locations and transportation methods – both public and private – frequented and used by pet owners and their pets: cars, trains, planes and hotels and restaurants. Such locations were previously ‘no go’ areas for pets. In the meantime, though, they have been declared pet friendly and are much-loved research topics for designers the world over. Already, in the US, airport toilets for dogs are mandatory by law! So, developing new, innovative products is not only a must, but also an opportunity to step into new, evolving markets. 

New legislation as trigger

New legislation is not only limited to airport dog loos. It has, in fact, triggered the production of products such as the first poo bag holder: United Pets’ Bon Ton. This innovative, design product was created at the end of the nineties and became an instant hit. Well before the law which came into effect in March 2009 regarding the removal of dog poo

The more recent law of February 2015 establishes a guideline for dog owners when walking their four- footer: as one cannot forbid the dog to pee, the guideline suggests owners carry a small bottle of water to rinse away the pee. The Bon Ton Pi, a small bottle designed by Jannu Carrillo for United Pets, fits the bill to perfection.

Knowing what pets need 

The growing awareness of pet needs has also resulted in new products that are focused on offering best solutions to problems possibly faced by our pets. 

Take for instance, the innovative design of the Green by Northmate feeding bowl. This slow-food bowl inhibits the dog from eating too fast thanks to the bowl’s characteristic, charming and functional fake straws of grass.


Innovative aid accessories

A recently launched, innovative, adjustable dog support harness helps owners to provide physically impaired dogs with the necessary support to go out for a walk. Impairments can include: poor stability, painful or broken joints or another mobility impairment. 

In fact, we can say that design is no longer about creating an attractive and unique shape. It is also about creating the best solutions to help solve everyday challenges. It involves extensive research into product requirements and optimisation, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. In fact, manufacturers who fail to invest in product design are likely to fall off the present-day pet accessories bandwagon where compliancy and lean production methods are key. 

Going one step further: manufacturers who are successful in streamlining product design to also reflect their brand strategy are bound to come out as winners in a highly competitive market. Pet owners are willing to spend more on products that fulfill their expectations and are bound to return for repeat purchases. So investing in product design might cost you now, but will sooner than later result in increased brand loyalty and increased sales. 


Monica Ferrigno

Owners of ildoppiosegno
Year of the salmon, special Southern Europe, Zoomark