ORIGINAL PET DRINK BIDS TO LAP UP SALES

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In the dog-eat-dog world of pet products, high-margin novelty items -- like pet drinks -- offer supermarkets their last chance at winning back sales lost to other classes of trade, according to an official at one pet beverage company."Supermarkets are fighting a battle for pet business. To do it successfully they need to provide people with value-added consumable products,"

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In the dog-eat-dog world of pet products, high-margin novelty items -- like pet drinks -- offer supermarkets their last chance at winning back sales lost to other classes of trade, according to an official at one pet beverage company.

"Supermarkets are fighting a battle for pet business. To do it successfully they need to provide people with value-added consumable products," said Marc Duke, president of Original Pet Drink here. "The supermarket needs the pet food aisle because it is the second-largest aisle in the supermarket. You have a real need if you're a retailer to keep that aisle moving. There is a lot of price pressure," he said.

Original Pet Drink manufactures a line of pet beverages under the Thirsty Dog and Thirsty Cat brand names. Made with a mix of electrolytes, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, the products are designed to replace water in the pet's diet. "The supermarket needs to develop the pet aisles in ways that give them some new attractive products. This is one. As far as we're concerned, this is probably the first new pet aisle category in a quarter of a century. It is not another food, biscuit or treat. The only thing that is anywhere near us is this Frosty Paws pet ice cream, but that is not in the pet aisle," he said.

Thirsty Dog is available in Crispy Beef Flavor, while Thirsty Cat is available in Tangy Fish Flavor. Both products are packaged in 1-liter plastic bottles that retail for about $1.79.

Original Pet Drink will introduce four new stockkeeping units this fall: one new dog flavor, one new cat flavor, a puppy drink and a kitten drink. In addition, a 2-liter bottle for dogs will be introduced.

"We market a consumable, high-margin product. Retailers are looking at 30% to 31% margins, compared with 8% or 9% on dog food. There is a tremendous turnover in terms of margin for the space it is taking. It does not replace any other sales; it is incremental, which is very important in the pet aisle today," Duke said.

Duke added that while Original Pet Drink has a patent pending on its products, the company is in discussions with several major pet food companies about producing its product under their labels.