The Story of Ed...

1950s

As his success continued with the cat box filler Ed looked to expand his product portfolio to include a whole range of cat-related products. During this time, Ed bought his first plant for the sole purpose of processing the Fullers earth. Vertical integration was part of the key to Ed’s success.

Getting bigger

Kitty Litter’s popularity increased in the 1950s, and in 1955 cat owners spent $1.5 million for the cat box filler and other Lowe & Lowe products.

Product expansion and savvy marketing helped Ed Lowe win both new and repeat customers. In addition to Kitty Litter, he had introduced a complete line of feline products that included sanitary disposable trays, shampoos, flea powder and cat toys. Ed placed print and mail-orders ads in pet trade magazines, made dealer aids available through jobbers and created incentive programs that offered bonuses to retailers with the greatest sale volume.

National distribution also played a key role in Kitty Litter’s success. In the early 1950s, most cat-box-filler was sold directly to small pet stores through regional distributorships. Yet Ed created an informal broker network that enabled him to scale sales quickly: After establishing 15 to 20 customers in a new territory, he would find a local wholesaler to buy a train-car load of Kitty Litter to supply those retail accounts — and open new ones. This enabled Ed to progressively tap larger markets, from local cat owners to regional pet stores to mail-order customers and commercial accounts across the country.

In 1954 Ed introduced a new brand of cat-box-filler, Tidy Cat®, which was sold exclusively in supermarkets. Kitty Litter was then positioned as a boutique brand for pet stores and veterinarians. Although differentiating a core product through branding is now an accepted marketing practice, it was a novel approach at the time.

To meet growing demand, Ed began to increase manufacturing efficiencies. In 1951 he moved his packaging operation from southwest Michigan to a facility in Paris, Tenn., to be closer to the Southern Clay Co., which provided raw material to his company. In 1958 Ed purchased a manufacturing facility and mining tract in Olmsted, Ill. This was a big milestone that enabled him to engage in vertical integration of mining, process and packaging.

(factoids)

12/1952 — Life magazine mentions Kitty Litter in an article about the largest cat show in the country held in Los Angeles during National Cat Week.

10/1/1953 — Ed forms a new company, Happy Day Products Inc., to overcome pricing problems and profit demands between the pet store market and the grocery industry. A few months later, Happy Day Products introduces Tidy Cat to sell in supermarkets.

1/27/1954 — Kitty Litter ads appear in numerous magazines, including Better Homes and Gardens, Cats, American Family, Sunset, American Home, McCall’s, House Beautiful, Ebony, Modern Romances and Parents’.

7/28/1954 — Ed changes the name of his company from Lowe & Lowe to Lowe’s Inc. The new entity handles all pet items, including its flagship product, Kitty Litter. Offices are established in a house at the southwest corner of York and O’Keefe streets in Cassopolis, Mich.

1/28/1958 — Ed purchases a clay plant in Olmsted, Ill. for $39,000 (minus eight years of back taxes) from the American Charcoal Co. in Detroit and renames the new company “Star Enterprises.”

3/5/1958 — Lowe’s Inc. investigates the use of additives such as sassafras bark and oil, to control odor in Kitty Litter.