Two companies are introducing liquid nutrition products for pets, and though distribution is limited now, a dogfight may be brewing.
Dr. George Hill Pet Drinks are being unleashed this fall. The beef flavor drinks come in individual formulations for dogs and cats, and can be added to dry food or lapped up as a treat. Both versions are fortified with 12 vitamins and minerals as well as brewer's yeast, commonly used to control fleas.
The Hill products are packaged in 32- and 64-ounce milk jug-type bottles; the smaller sizes carry a suggested retail price of $1.39.
Yes, Fido, there is a Dr. Hill, a veterinarian whose clinic is based in Salisbury, N.C.
"Dr. Hill's feeling is that dogs and cats don't get a balanced diet," said Dean Anderson, chairman-CEO of the Leslie Agency, Greenville, S.C., which is working with Dr. Hill's company to market the pet drinks.
The drinks were tested in Salisbury Food Lion supermarkets; they're now available in all the chain's North Carolina stores, are being tested in Kroger stores in Memphis, Tenn., and will be shipped soon into another Southeast supermarket chain.
"You'll see advertising once there's enough distribution," Mr. Anderson said. Newspaper and radio ads are the most likely vehicles.
"We think this could be an interesting niche," Mr. Anderson said. "But it could be a race to see who gets to the shelves first."
That's because Original Pet Drink Co. has signed up four beverage bottlers to make and distribute its Thirsty Dog! and Thirsty Cat! products.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Original Pet Drink said it's rapidly introducing its vitamin- and mineral-enriched waters-intended to replace tap water in a pet's bowl-into 36 states. A 1-liter bottle of either the Crispy Beef flavor Thirsty Dog! or the Tangy Fish flavor Thirsty Cat! carries a suggested price of $1.79.
Original Pet Drink is running billboards and newspaper ads produced in-house, and working with Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, New York, on a publicity blitz and "Search for Thirsty Dog!" and "Search for Thirsty Cat!" contests to find mascots.
Company president and ex-adman Marc Duke said he's readying two new flavors, plus formulations for puppies, kittens and older pets. He said research showed many pet owners were giving Perrier and Evian to their pets, and predicts pet drinks will be a $500 million category in 10 years.
"Once you give people more than water to drink, they do," Mr. Duke said. "Why shouldn't pets have that option, too?"
But both products are exploring a niche other marketers have sniffed at before, without much success. Alpo Petfoods two years ago introduced Alpo Dairy Cat, a canned, vitamin-fortified milk product. The product had sales of only $2.8 million this year, according to Information Resources Inc.