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Dog toys
20th January 2013

by Sandra Pearce

A monthly snapshot and analysis of a different sector within the UK pet industry





The UK dog toys market was worth an estimated £97 million in 2012, up from the £90 million of 2008, according to market researchers AMA Research.

The market is paradoxically on the one hand demonstrating value growth as pet owners seek out premium toys with innovative features, yet on the other facing continued competition from budget, low-cost imports.

Multi-functional toys are sought-after by owners seeking value for their pound. So toys which combine several play behaviours tend to find favour, for example, Zogoflex’s Twiz dog toy (distributed by Collarways) is buoyant, can be used as a tug or retrieval toy, and owners can hide a treat within it.

Hagen’s Paul Trott said: “We have seen more and more interactive toys on the market in recent years, and there is no reason to think this will not continue. With an increasingly health-conscious nation, there will no doubt be further advances in dual-purpose toys that act as a plaything while improving health in some way. An example would be toys that also improve dental care.”

Sustained pet humanisation continues to fuel gift and impulse purchases, and one way companies benefit from this is by distributing toys produced in exclusive partnerships or under licence. For instance, Armitage Pet Care last May launched four Peperami Animal character toys (it will launch a Beano range later this year) and Ireland’s Chanelle Group last February announced it had teamed up with Disney to launch a range of Disney-themed products including beds, collars and toys.

Training aids and toys to alleviate boredom and provide mental stimulation continue to drive interest, especially in households where pets are left alone for periods of time. The Nina Ottosson range of interactive dog games was a pioneer, and owners today have a multitude of activity, intelligence and interactive toys to choose from.

Lifestage toys is a growing sub-sector, with puppies particularly popular – teething issues are well catered for, such as Nylabone’s Puppy Rope N’ Rings and Puppy Rope ’N’ Heart.

The premium end of the market is being driven by innovation, whether it is finding a solution to an old problem – the Skinneez Stuffing Free toys are marketed as the solution to owners ‘tired of stuffing all over the house’ – or simply offering something new and/or with enhanced features. Tough, durable toys are an obvious target as seen in the recently launched Tuffy Toys from the Company of Animals, which have their own toughness scale to help owners select the right product, or the squeak toy Chomper Gladiator. Interpet says it can withstand ‘any game of fetch and tug’ as it uses special machinery to sew through 12 layers of quilted fabric and piping.

With continued public education messages about canine obesity, chances are certain toys will be marketed targeting owners who may be concerned about their pet’s weight. Interpet’s Anh Nguyen said: “Obesity in dogs is a growing concern in the UK and definitely something that needs to be dealt with. This issue is sure to drive innovation over the next 12 months. We believe toys that encourage more physical activity to combat obesity while playing will undoubtedly do well over the coming years.”

Elderly pets is at present a vastly untapped niche sector in the UK and filled with potential for growth. The Kong Senior with gentle rubber to suit aging teeth and jaws is one example of a dedicated toy for senior dogs.

Eco-friendly products continue to find resonance among owners concerned about environmental issues, and companies like BecoThings are strategically positioned to grow their market share. Last year, the London-based company launched the world’s first 100% natural Rice Husk Rubber toy range, made from bamboo and rice husks.