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HugX – Targets American Pet Care Market

Derry firm HugX has signed a major deal to sell its mess-free pet feeder on, one of the largest catalogue and online retailers in the US. The deal will give the company direct access to a client base of some 83 million consumers in the US, where the lucrative pet care market is valued at US$45 billion annually.

Building on this momentum, HugX founder Jane Grant hopes to secured investment to take the business further afield in the global marketplace. Grant established the business in 2004 to develop a pet feeder that eliminates mess.

The HugX bowl sits at a curved angle above the floor on a sturdy aluminium frame. Grant worked with designers from The University of Ulster to model the product. Derry firm Trufflepig designed the branding. The HugX bowl has already received international recognition, winning the Lifestyle Innovation Award at the 2008 New York Pet Fashion Show, under the Pet Dinnerware category. As well as private investment, Grant has secured funding from Invest Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Business and Innovation Centre, to develop the product. Now, she is ready to take the business to the global market. “The next stage is either belonging to another company or looking at a joint venture or investment,” she said.

“We know the kind of sophisticated buyer we have because the product is very high end.

“It is a good product, and our design is so unusual that we had to make it of human quality. It’s an investment piece rather than a disposable item.”

The HugX bowl costs from stg£39.99 (e46.74), and is marketed as a gift or home accessory rather than a pet care item. Grant believes this approach has been integral to the success of the product.

“Marketing is so important these days for any brand,especially if you are going to compete in a global marketplace,” she said.

“The branding of HugX by Trufflepig, the imagery and in-store videos by [freelance video director] Mark Mc Cauley, as well as the product design, are all key to getting you recognised and have to work seamlessly.”

In addition to the deal, HugX has signed agreements with Japanese and US distributors and online retailers in Britain. Grant is in negotiations to have the product placed on the duty free product catalogue in Dubai International Airport.

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