Capitalizing on the booming pet care industry, North Hills-based pet product manufacturer Bamboo has registered 100 percent growth over the last year and has recently expanded its international distribution to include new retailers in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. Launched just 18 months ago as a division of baby care product manufacturer, Munchkin Inc., Bamboo has already managed to get product placement at prominent pet chains such as PETsMART, Petco, Pet Value, and Pet Supermarkets as well as various local and regional pet specialty stores. From its inception, Bamboo knew it would have to take a different approach to ensure that it would stand out in the space. Accordingly, the company’s products often utilize multiple functionalities, such as a three-in-one dog grooming brush, that comes equipped with built in, flea and fine combs. “We take basic products and add additional features and benefits that we know would allow the consumer to benefit. We take basic products and make them more convenient and safe,” Cynthia Neiman, Bamboo’s vice president of marketing, said. “The growth is really attributable to this kind of innovation. We’re exceeding people’s expectations.” But the fact that people are increasingly spending more money on their pets is not lost on Neiman. According to a recent study conducted by Packaged Facts, the publishing division of Marketresearch.com, U.S. retail sales of non-food pet supplies totaled approximately $8.5 billion in 2004, up 6.6 percent over 2003. During the five-year 2000-2004 period, the market increased by a total of 19.4 percent. The study then predicted that, “numerous signs point to continued good growth in sales of pet supplies for the foreseeable future, including continued retail expansion for the products in both traditional and nontraditional outlets; an ongoing surge of new premium products; and the industry’s success in playing up the human-animal bond to drive product sales.” Bamboo is no stranger to playing up the aforementioned human animal connection, strongly emphasizing the bonds that people today are forming with their pets. “There’s been a real rise in things like interactive toys. People are developing stronger bonds with their animals and the types of toys that we make allow them to really increase the time that you’re spending with your pet,” Neiman said. “People today are looking for all kinds of ways to pamper their pets. That’s where all of this new product development is coming from.” As for the immediate future, Bamboo’s plans for growth include a heavy emphasis on its fledgling international business. The company’s products have already been available in Canada for several months, but in the last month, it has begun rolling out its line of products overseas. Robin Grant, a managing partner for United Kingdom-based Sharples & Grant and one of Bamboo’s overseas distributors, had high praise for the company’s products. “The concept, packaging & uniqueness of the products initially was instrumental for us. We always look for innovation and Bamboo’s concepts certainly fit that description,” Grant said. “The toys help to fill an area of demand that has not been properly fulfilled. Bamboo helps to raise the bar by creating higher spending levels and cash profit within the industry. This is very rare to find and achieve.” While the pet food industry is historically dominated by well-entrenched major companies, the burgeoning pet care industry is more open to new challengers. Neiman says that this environment is conducive to the company’s long-term future. “I believe that the sky is the limit for our future. The reception that we’ve received to date is really encouraging. There’s a wide open field out there,” Neiman said.