Ten years ago, Cambridge physicist, Dr Nick Hill, decided to solve an ongoing problem. His cat, Flipper, was being terrorised by neighbour’s moggies who entered the house through the cat flap. Nick created SureFlap along with a new cat flap, which could be linked to pets’ unique microchips. Other cats were left outside when Flipper entered.
Nick knew other households were faced with the same problem. In 2008, he launched the SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap at the BSAVA Congress to widespread positive feedback. The first cat flap was only the starting point, over the last decade the company has produced a range of technology-led products. Sure Petcare now employs 60 people and exports around the world – to Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, China and South Korea. Nick says: “With our ten-year anniversary next year, it’s an incredibly exciting time for us. We’ll be celebrating in house and using it as an opportunity to communicate our achievements through the press and social media.”
The company’s flagship product, the Microchip Cat Flap, has been developed since the original launch. Nick says: “Problem solving and customer support have been important to us from the very start. We produced the best product we thought we possibly could and we launched it with strong customer support, then listened to our users and added changes and updates. The cat flap that we’re selling today is recognisable as the one we were selling ten years ago but it has undergone about seven alterations, all small changes suggested by our customers. That’s been our business model right from the beginning.”
After the first successful launch, Sure Petcare set about expanding the range and capabilities of the cat flaps. Cat owners can choose from larger versions with customer-driven additional features, from timers to indoor and outdoor controls. The biggest models are suitable for smaller dogs as well as cats. As the company continued to grow Sure Petcare started to diversify, moving into the market for feeders and bowls. The company identified a way to use microchip technology to prevent cats from eating each other’s meals. As well as only opening for certain cats’ microchips, the bowls keep pet food sealed away, and therefore fresh for longer. Nick says: “This is something we wanted to create right from the start. It was a case of building the business until we had chance to expand into another sector. The SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder has been a global success, particularly in the USA, where sales overtook those for the range of doors.
Then, in spring this year, Sure Petcare took another step forward. The company revealed its first ever ‘connected’ product, the SureFlap Microchip Pet Door Connect. This new flap links to the Sure Petcare app via a Hub. Owners can remotely monitor use of the flap and easily make changes from their phone, adding curfews, removing locking or receiving entry alerts.
Nick predicts that the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected products will be a growth area within the pet sector over the next few years. Sure Petcare are already planning ahead and will be launching more connected products throughout 2018. Nick explains: “With the trends, consumer requirements and the way technology is going I think the next ten years will be even more transformative than the last ten.”
“It’s not just technology for technology’s sake,” he adds. “What the Internet of Things can actually offer us is an enhanced pet care experience, so owners are staying connected with their pet when they’re not at home and monitoring them using technology. We see the future of pet care as bringing all of these pet products, whether they’re pet doors, pet feeders or activity monitors, together under one umbrella.”
In the future, Sure Petcare believes that connected products will support better welfare, allowing owners to familiarise themselves more closely with pets’ behaviour. New levels of monitoring could help families to spot changes in routine, from food and water intake to unusual activity, that could be early indicators of medical conditions. Nick adds: “Beyond this, one thing we should all be conscious of is how are pets are in themselves, basically, their mental health and their levels of engagement with life around them. The last thing we want is for pets to be bored because that can affect their welfare. Pet monitoring will start to enrich these areas, look at pet engagement and link that into pet welfare. Over the next few years this will be a transformative area in pet care and have a positive impact.
“Our success to date has come from solving pet related problems and doing it a way where we’re trying to produce the best product. Where we position ourselves now is certainly in the connected space. We launched our first connected product earlier on this year and we have more connected launches planned for next year, including the SureFlap DualScan Microchip Cat Flap Connect”
“We try to produce products that respond to a genuine need and keep striving for ongoing improvement. We’re grateful for the support we’ve had from within the industry and from all of the pet owners themselves over the last ten years. We’re very happy to have helped so many cats!” Dr. Nick Hill
SUPPORT FOR RETAILERS
Sure Petcare products are designed to be simple to use. Information on the box explains what the item does and helps people understand the features, how the product can help them and identify the differences between each door. Retailers who would like to stock Sure Petcare products and need further details can get in touch directly with Sure Petcare’s sales team. Nick says: “All of our sales team are very clued up on the product and also on the materials that we can provide. We’re very happy to support retailers and provide everything staff need to sell our products to pet owners, including point of sale and product training. It is quite a straight forward set up, but contact our sales team and they can provide details.”
For more information go to www.surepetcare.com.