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Pet retailers looking for organic products

Buying organic food and made-in-America products were on the minds of -- no, not shoppers at Trader Joe's -- but retailers at the Global Pet Expo that started Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center.

In the $41.2 billion industry, manufacturers are trying to find products that will help them come out on top. Pet foods are becoming more specialized to the type of pet and more natural.

Because pet owners are eating organic, they want their pet to do so as well. Several companies are focused on pet vitamins and products that make the pet more healthy so they can live longer, happier lives.

The pet industry is one that is predicted to keep growing in 2008 and 2009, as well -- and retailers want a part of that.

“I don’t think you could go to a retail outlet anymore where you won’t find something pet-related,” said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, one of the associations hosting the event.

Cindy D’auria, a Multipet International spokeswoman called the pet market “recession-proof” because during hard times people generally cut back on other things such as travel, and get a pet because they are staying at home more.

Multipet makes the Loofa Dog Toy, or “Bobo,” that was featured on many PetsMart commercials. Since appearing on the commercials, the Loofa Dog Toy has become one of the company’s biggest selling products, and they have created Christmas and military versions.

More than 800 new products debuted at the exhibition. They included products in the boutique high-end market and pet pampering market that Vetere said are growing because pet owners want to reward their animals like people.

High-end dog clothing, plush beds and grooming products fit to be used in a spa were part of the boutique section. TIGI, which makes Bed Head hair products for people, launched its Pet Head grooming and accessory line at the boutique in the expo. The Pet Head products have names like “life’s an itch” for skin soothing shampoo and “fears for tears,” a tearless shampoo for squirmy puppies.

Some manufacturers, such as ModernAnimal GmbH President Fritz Gross, traveled far to come to the expo. Gross is from Germany and was in town to show his product, which is a disposable diaper made from thin plastic that a pet owner puts on their dog before letting them outside, making the task of cleaning up simple.

Others came from close by. Part-time Coronado resident Ralph Dworman was showing his new Astro Pet Toys that features a ball that will never lose its squeak. A food-chemist, he’s been able to enrich the company’s bone toys with flavor such as grilled steak. Astro Pet Toys is based in Worcester, Mass. -- but Dworman enjoys Southern California’s nice weather during the winter.

Automated products intending to make life easier for pet owners also are becoming more important on the market. Pet Zen showed off its dog treadmill and Littermaid displayed a self-cleaning litterbox that rakes waste into a sealed compartment so odors do not emanate from the box.

The new PetsOff International Inc. product took an old trick for dog training to a new level. Animals will not cross tin foil, and covering items in foil has been a training trick for keeping animals off of furniture. With the company's new blanket with one side shiny like foil and one side fabric to match the home, the blanket is ready to be an accessory and obedience tool.

Send your comments to Natalie.Wardel@sddt.com

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