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Beyond Personal Grooming: Spongeables Expands into Pet Care

Spongeables' Haute Dog Bath Buffer

By: Leslie Benson, with input from Lynne Merrill
Posted: November 3, 2008, from the November 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

By diversifying her company’s products, Elaine Binder, president and co-founder of Spongeables LLC—a manufacturer of human bath body buffers, recently emerged in the pet care market via the launch of Haute Dog Bath Buffer, a spa in a sponge for pets. She discusses with GCI magazine the experience of opening up new retail and distribution opportunities through the line expansion.

GCI: What were the benefits to brand line expansion for Spongeables LLC into the pet bath and body care segment?

Elaine Binder: Spongeables LLC is known for producing high-quality body buffers for humans. We have a new patent-pending technology that allows us to infuse ingredients directly into a specific matrix. In the case of our Spongeables and Spongelle products, we use a variety of cleansing gels, skin care ingredients and fragrances that are infused into a body buffer matrix. We can provide a guaranteed number of uses for each product and a specific mix of ingredients with every use. Our technology is so versatile; we’ve always been aware that there are applications beyond personal grooming. Once we established ourselves, we were ready to explore new products and new distribution streams outside of the beauty/bath/personal care arena. As a pet owner, I was aware that the same things that make our personal grooming products appeal to people were exactly the attributes that I wanted in a pet product. By creating Haute Dog Bath Buffers, we were able to develop an entirely separate and independent brand, in a brand new field. We diversified our products and opened up new retail and distribution avenues without the risk of self-competition or forcing any existing products into premature obsolescence.

GCI: What’s the consumer appeal of the pet care segment, and who is buying such products?

Elaine Binder: The appeal of this particular market is its size and eagerness to accept good new products. Dog lovers want the best for their animals. They are informed and enthusiastic, and they tend to be quite product-savvy. If you have a good product, they’ll recognize it, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel explaining your formulations to them. The market isn’t easily defined, and there really is no typical dog owner. Everyone with a dog is a potential customer for flea powders and preventatives, shampoos, breath remedies... the whole gamut of pet care, whether they make regular or just occasional purchasers. They also tend to cross traditional product lines. A cost-conscious dog owner who shops by price will occasionally make the leap to ultra-pampering, high-end products and vice versa. The market is also diverse in terms of retail outlets. Dog products are sold everywhere from the most exclusive canine and human spas, to department and specialty stores and boutiques, supermarkets and chain stores. An exceptional product at a good price point can find its way along that entire highway. We designed Haute Dog to have a lot of marketing flexibility and potential. The price is an affordable $5.99, but the ingredients are high-end, and the formula is designed to give someone’s pampered pet a beautiful coat, clean and healthy skin, an appealing fragrance and as angst-free a bathing experience as possible. We can present Haute Dog at every level without any tweaking or changing the product, the formula or the design.

GCI: What are some challenges that your company has encountered regarding expanding into pet care?

Elaine Binder: We wanted a pet-friendly product that was easy for humans to use. We explored a variety of shapes and sizes before hitting on one that was so obvious and so perfect, we almost overlooked it. The traditional dog biscuit bone shape glides off the animal’s back easily, provides a good handhold for the human and gives us sufficient size to infuse enough ingredients for a cost-effective number of uses. Once we developed a dog-appropriate formula and settled on the appropriate design, we were able to use our existing retail and distribution contacts to open a few doors for us.