Where dogs or cats live, there's dirt, hair and odors. A good reason for Freudenberg Home & Cleaning Solutions (FHCS) to take a closer look at the pet market. Using a design thinking approach, FHCS R&D has managed to come up with promising product ideas.
Pets are a man's (and woman’s) best friend. As research impressively shows in the markets relevant to FHCS, there are around 174 million households worldwide that are home to animal family members. However, market surveys also show that a large proportion of pet owners want more effective solutions when it comes to cleaning up after their furry friends. “Since identifying pets as a potential adjacency, we undertook a consumer centric approach to gain a deeper understanding of this consumer group”, says Juan Rossi, Director Regional Marketing EMEA at FHCS.
“Pet owners are an underserved group with high cleaning needs and brand loyalty who look for the latest in cleaning innovations.” Juan adds: "Strengthening our pet range has become important for FHCS even more so since the pandemic, in which many people acquired an animal companion. It offers great opportunities – also beyond our current cleaning portfolio. The market is very fragmented so far. With small exceptions, there is no supplier offering a special cleaning line just for pets." For FHCS, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate its core competence as a cleaning specialist and to be one of the first suppliers to bring targeted solutions for pet households to the market.
Pet owners are an underserved group with high cleaning needs and brand loyalty who look for the latest in cleaning innovations.
Juan Rossi, Director Regional Marketing EMEA at FHCS
Our goal was to understand where the shoe really pinches pet owners and what exactly they want for their pet and household hygiene.
Uwe Dingert R&D Director Innovation Front End
However, to secure the benefits of early market entry, quick solutions are needed. With Design Thinking Sprints, R&D has a still young but effective innovation method at its disposal for this purpose. It can be used to outline a problem and develop an initial, user-centric product in just five days. "With our knowledge from market studies, we wanted to take a closer look at four issues in this sprint: Pet hair removal, fast and wet mess removal, odor removal and products for pet care and hygiene," says Uwe Dingert R&D Director Innovation Front End. "Our goal was to understand where the shoe really pinches pet owners and what exactly they want for their pet and household hygiene. In the process, we learned interesting things, such as that it's not necessarily the animal itself that smells unpleasant, but the food. Or that washing machines merely distribute the pet hair on the clothes, but don't necessarily wash it out. Problems we weren't aware of in that way."
Creative solutions and initial prototypes
The next step for the team was to find creative solutions to the respective issues and to tinker with initial prototypes. Research into life hacks also proved valuable insights, as Uwe continues: "If you have a problem and there's no suitable product on the market, you get creative as a pet owner. Such a solution also provided us with valuable input for one of our new product ideas." For example, the team succeeded in specifically collecting animal hair in the washing machine and detaching it from clothing. The first prototype of this product idea also met with enthusiasm from test customers. This means that the first hurdle in the FHCS internal stage-gate process has been cleared and the course has been set for promising further development. "With the knowledge and ideas we gathered in our sprint, we are well positioned to serve countries and markets with innovative and consumer-centric products in the coming years," Uwe is certain.