Domestic friends and foes

In Features On

With one in two households in Britain owning a pet and 20 million Brits suffering from allergies, these two groups constitute a very large market with specific needs. They have been well addressed by electrical products manufacturers in such sectors as floorcare, laundry and air treatment, and as both segments are going to grow in importance in the future, it is essential that retailers get to know these markets better if they wish to capitalise on the opportunities they present.

Domestic pets – market facts

In 2009, there were around 8 million domestic dogs in the UK and the population of home cats was almost the same (source: TNS). Although the main reasons why people have them are: love (31%), companionship (27%) and easy maintenance (7%), keeping these furry friends at home has its price.

With 16 million cats and dogs and around 1.8 million rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and gerbils “it’s a lot of pet hair being moulted in our homes – and it’s not the easiest of things to remove,” comments Charles Gordon, Bissell international markets director.

Keeping homes with pets clean is not an easy task as “domestic pets generate a great deal of hair, mud and fluff around the home – on carpets, upholstery, stairs and, with cats, on the back of curtains as they  sit on the window ledge to look out,” adds Elizabeth Farmer, marketing manager at Electrolux Floorcare.

Moreover, “allergens in a dog’s and cat’s saliva are deposited onto their fur when they groom themselves.  These allergens are very sticky and as the dog sheds its hair they transfer easily from the home to the office to the school. It’s possible for someone who hasn’t come into contact directly with a dog or cat to suffer from pet allergies,” added Dyson’s spokesman.

Managing pets at home

To minimize health dangers and inconvenience created by domestic pets, appliance manufacturers have worked very hard over the last decade to provide customers with products which help them to manage the presence of their furry friends at home.

Almost all leading floorcare brands now have product aimed specifically at pets. In addition to HEPA filters which ensure that the air coming out of the cleaners is 99% free not only of dust but also of animal allergens, some of these vacuum cleaners are also equipped with active carbon filtration to eliminate animal odours. All have special floor heads to pick up pet hair.

“All BSH vacuum cleaners feature the AirSafe System which means that our motors, filters and seals work together to control air flow through the cleaner and the motors are hermetically sealed. The new BSGL3015GB has a  AirFreshFilter which uses natural particles to neutralise the air in the vacuum cleaner. Siemens vacuum cleaners also offer turbo brushes – excellent for pet hair pick up and deep cleaning on carpets,” explains Jane Lee, category manager at BSH Home Appliances.

“Uprights are best for dealing with hair on carpets, but always advise an upright with a fitted turbo nozzle for the upholstery and stairs,” suggests Electrolux’s Elizabeth Farmer.  “Certain models, like the Electrolux Velocity Pet Lover feature this Turbo Nozzle accessory. The rotating brush roll helps loosen and clean away stubbornly stuck pet hairs – while its riser visor allows you to easily clean vertical surfaces (like stair risers or back of sofas).  Odour can often be a problem in homes with pets. Electrolux features the Arm & Hammer filter on certain models to help eliminate odour.”

Dyson has a range of Animal vacuum cleaners, such as the DC31 Animal handheld and the DC22 Dyson Baby Animal for people with less storage space, which have been designed to pick up pet hair efficiently and are equipped with HEPA filters. The pivotal soleplate of the DC31 rotates to keep the cleaner’s head in contact with upholstery at all times and pick up stubborn pet hair.

Miele offers pet lovers the Cat & Dog Turbo 5000 vacuum cleaner. It has a  turbo brush and rotating bristles to clean up after pets. It is also equipped with the Active Air Clean filter, which is a charcoal casing designed to absorb pet odours.

SEBO has a range of cleaners developed with pet owners’ needs in mind – the Felix Pet, a light upright with very efficient S-Class filtration system, the K1 Pet  with a powerful 2,100W motor, and the latest X4 Pet with S-class filtration system and multilayer, sealable filter bags preventing the finest dust particles and allergens escaping into the air.

Also Samsung’s Fido range has been designed for pet owners. The products have a special brush system which picks up cats’ and dogs’ hairs effectively. The Fido Plus range also features the manufacturer’s patented Silver Nano technology which prevents the build up of bacteria and odours.

Bissell, the leading deep cleaning brand not only has a collection of powerful machines designed to clean the most stubborn of pets’ mess, including Lift-Off Pet Spin Power, QuickWash Pet and  Pet Hair Eraser, but also supports them with an armoury of pet cleaning formulae.

The allergy scene

Allergies affect approximately one in four people in Britain at some time in their lives. Allergy UK reports that each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%, with approximately 50% of them being children.

“Recent research shows that there are 20 million allergy sufferers in the UK.  The most widely recorded conditions, eczema and asthma, account for an estimated 5.8 million patients each.  There are approximately 2.3 million people with multiple allergies (asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis together) and the prevalence has increased by 48.9% between 2001 and 2005,” comments Ray Isted, head of training at Whirlpool. “However, in the UK pets are the second most important cause of allergy in the home; 50% of asthmatic children are sensitive to cats, and 40% are sensitive to dog allergen,” continues Ray.

In recent years a great progress has been made to develop a variety of solutions to help allergy sufferers keep their illness at bay. The large capacity laundry appliances not only allow for frequent washes of bulky duvets and pillows (to a large extent eliminating allergens and dust mites) but also cater for dog, cat and horse blankets.

“The new Maytag Premium Super Capacity washer (MWA1112FBS) with a drum that can take an 11kg load; this is ideal for bed linen and duvets, as well as washing other bulky household items to maintain an allergy-free home. It also comes with the benefit of a Steam Hygiene cycle that will de-sensitise allergens by injecting steam to maintain the temperature for longer during the wash cycle to hasten sanitisation,” explains Mike Martin, head of product, Maytag UK.

Whirlpool laundry offers help to allergy sufferers with their large capacity washers (such as the SCW 1112 WH AquaSteam with a 92 litre drum and a ‘BIG Duvet’ programme) with AquaSteam technology and the antibacterial programme.

The ‘Sanitisation’ programme injects steam into the drum at the end of a wash programme producing an anti-bacterial effect even on garments that have been washed at low temperatures. The antibacterial programme adds a further hygienic option; at a temperature of 80° C or more it will eliminate 99% of bacteria. Whirlpool’s washing machines are also equipped with Microban – a special treatment applied to the detergent dispenser and other selected areas to reduce the growth of bacteria and mould, and the development of odours.

Meanwhile Ewbank has developed a solution which tackles dust mites directly. “The house dust mite and allergens found in their faeces are one of the major causes for allergic rhinitis and asthma. The prime habitat for dust mites is our beds, where we provide a warm and damp habitat for an average of 2-10million dust mites to live and feast on our dead skin,” explains Ge
mma Cooper, marketing manager at Earlex UK. The company’s hand-held Raycop, an anti-bacterial vacuum cleaner is designed to clean beds and bedding. It uses UVC technology to kill 99% of bacteria and helps eradicate dust mites using a vibrating pad that agitates the surface and releases dust mites that are hooked in the mattress.

There are also air cleaners, such as The Electrolux Oxygen Air, which remove odours and the tiniest particles from the air, which are ideal for homes with pets. The Electrolux Oxygen combines active carbon for smell reduction and washable HEPA filters which remove 99% of hazardous particles. 

Informed advice

All the societal and health trends indicate that these issues will continue to grow in importance in the future. “People are increasingly health conscious. They want a healthier home environment, and pet hygiene is a key area, where consumers are seeking the right cleaning products with the performance, features and benefits to help them achieve this simply and effectively,” remarks Bissell’s’ Charles Gordon.

Moreover, people with special health and home needs are very appreciative, and loyal (!), to the retailers who can recommend them products which will help them manage their lives better. In relation to pet owners, this means the floorcare products with the right features and accessories, ie filters and specialised brush heads or cleaning formulae, air purifies or large capacity laundry.

Allergy sufferers may benefit from the advice to vacuum their mattresses frequently – with the help of suitable tools. However, it also worth bearing in mind that their needs may significantly differ from these of the population as a whole. “The industry has been under strong pressure to reduce energy and water consumption, which has resulted in temperature reductions and minimising rinsing to meet the increasingly stringent standards. This is great for the environment as it reduces pressure on our finite resources and our utility costs, but for allergy sufferers it’s not the best option.  So ensure that you can steer customers towards models with options that allow for extra rinses, higher water levels, high temperatures and sanitisation cycles,” suggests Maytag’s Mike Martin.

Home hygiene facts

  • On average, there are 1000 dust mites living in a square metre of household carpet.
  • Humans shed up to 28 grams of skin cells every week; the weight of a bag of crisps.
  • House dust can contain a mixture of potentially allergenic materials such as pollen, fungus, fibres, bacteria, food particles, chemicals, bits of plants and insects, and pet dander.
  • Carpets are one of the biggest reservoirs of toxic substances.
  • Over 8 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives. Up to 85% of people with asthma are sensitive to house-dust mites, and many more people are allergic to dust without suffering from asthma.

Source: Dyson research

Pet owners statistics

43% of Brits own a pet – in total 23 million

  • Dogs: 23%
  • Cats: 20%
  • Indoor fish: 10%
  • Rabbits: 2.8%
  • Guinea pigs: 1.3%
  • Hamsters: 1.3%

Source: TNS research

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