Treat Dogs With Love
The dog treats and chews categories are bursting with new flavors and formats that are sure to please every owner and pet.
Treats and chews are the stuff of dreams for dogs. They can serve training and functional purposes, be a reward for good behavior, or just a way to say ‘I love you’ to man’s best friend.
While there is no shortage of treats on the market, many pet owners today value quality over quantity. In fact, manufacturers and retailers agree that all-natural, limited-ingredient and protein-rich treats are topping the sales charts.
“Our research suggests that choosing natural products with easily understood, whole-food ingredients will continue to be a huge selling point for customers,” said Tim Fabits, vice president of sales at Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif. “In addition, ingredients that serve specific functions to aid in pet health needs will be sought after.”
Key ingredients known for their health benefits may indeed be on consumers’ radar, yet sometimes, less is more.
“The more ingredients you start tacking on to food products, the higher the risk for complications from the various ingredients,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management at MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio.
Another significant trend driving sales is the humanization of pets. Health-focused shoppers often want their pets to eat as well as they do.
“In treats and chews, this means interest in non-GMO ingredients, clean ingredient labels, natural products and specific diet issues such as gluten free,” said Derek J. Archambault, director of marketing for FoodScience Corp. in Essex Junction, Vt., adding that, because customers seek convenience, pet supplements in a chew format are becoming popular.
Laura Jones Lang, president of Jones Natural Chews based in Rockford, Ill., pointed out that dog treats that are made in the USA also are extremely popular with pet owners, because consumers often infer a great deal from this distinction, including a sense of confidence in the safety of the products.
Also trending are alternatives to many of the traditional products that have been on the market for decades.
“As far as chews go, many companies are trying to break into the ‘rawhide alternative’ market,” said Samantha Henson, clinical pet nutritionist at Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich. “Earth Animal’s No-Hide Chews have been extremely popular here; they are easy to digest and well loved by even picky dogs.”
Henson added that marrow and rib bones do well, as well as raw, meaty bones, while bully sticks and antlers remain bestsellers; freeze-dried treats are also popular.
Other trends to watch include long-lasting chews and animal body parts, such as horns and antlers, said Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which has stores in Georgia. He added that functional treats addressing skin and coat, digestion, calming, and joint health are on the rise.
Treat Them to What’s New
Variety is spicing up the dog treats category these days, as manufacturers continue to develop new flavors and formats. From lip-smacking flavors inspired by human taste preferences to treats boasting functional ingredients, there is something for every dog.
Long Beach, Calif.-based Redbarn Pet Products recently introduced three flavors of Redbarn Bully Slices: Peanut Butter, French Toast and Vanilla coatings for these all-natural, grain-free rectangular pieces of beef ear and hide.
In addition to adding some combination proteins in its bully sticks, Jones Natural Chews, based in Rockford, Ill., has released the Frank N Woofer, a chicken sausage wrapped in a beef patty, a high-protein treat.
Meanwhile, just in time for the holidays, Plato Pet Treats in Fresno, Calif., released a seasonal gift pack, featuring its Farmer’s Market, Small Bites and EOS lines.
At SuperZoo in Las Vegas this year, MiracleCorp of Dayton, Ohio, debuted its all-natural Stewart Pro-Treat Freeze Dried Chicken Breast treats for dogs.
“They are fresh, single-ingredient treats that are conveniently freeze dried and diced into reward-sized treats,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management.
Retailers always are on the lookout for new treats that capitalize on the latest health trends.
“With the use of cannabidiol oil on the rise, we have recently brought in Pet Releaf’s Edibites,” said Samantha Henson, clinical pet nutritionist with Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich. “They are an incredible treat for dogs with chronic pain, arthritis, anxiety and a variety of other issues as well.”
Freeze-dried treats also are big this year, including products from Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, Sojos and Pure Treats, said Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which has stores in Georgia.
Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California, has had great success with crocodile bones from Barkworthies, which she said are a great alternative to traditional pork, beef and chicken treats.
“They are naturally high in glucosamine, chondroitin and antioxidants, and dogs are loving them,” she said.
Zakrajsek also has high hopes for the newest release from Bixbi: Bark Pops. They’re crunchy puffs in three flavors made from beans, rice and sorghum, which she calls “a total differentiator in the pet treat category.”
Educate Customers About the Differences
With so many new dog treat options popping up on retailers’ shelves, many consumers need extra guidance when making purchasing decisions. Pet specialty retailers, of course, are perfectly poised to be the resource that pet owners are seeking. Thus, educating staff on how products differ is essential.
“It is critical for consumers to understand the difference between treats and supplements, especially since there are increasing numbers of functional treats that have low levels of active ingredients,” said Derek J. Archambault, director of marketing for FoodScience Corp. in Essex Junction, Vt. “It is important for consumers to know that these functional treats don’t have the same impact as supplements and, at the same time, that supplements aren’t chewable treats which can be given as freely as they want.”
In order to make the best choices for the pets, shoppers must be able to identify the differences in the many options available. Easy access to information is crucial.
“Smart manufacturers will put their most important selling point information on the front of the package,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management at MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio. “While its important to look at the front of the packaging, manufacturers can choose what to leave out, as well, so, ultimately, what matters is what the ingredients list says. Looking at the back of the package, at the ingredients, is one of the best tips retailers can give a consumer.”
It also is key that consumers understand that not all dogs chew in the same way, and this is something to keep in mind when choosing treats for a pet.
“The more the consumer understands their dog’s chewing habits, the better they will be at choosing the right chew or treat for their dog,” said Laura Jones Lang, president of Jones Natural Chews in Rockford, Ill. “Educating the customer on the different types of bones and chews and which types of chewers will do best with that particular chew is a huge benefit.”
At Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich., the staff often talk to customers about how many treats a pet should be eating and advise them on such matters as supervising pets while eating a chew or at what age it is appropriate to give certain chews. The more customers know about which treats to choose and why, the better.
Make Merchandise Pop
When it comes to merchandising, industry insiders said creativity and product visibility are key.
Tim Fabits, vice president of sales for Long Beach, Calif.-based Redbarn Pet Products, suggests featuring educational materials with displays of chews.
“Redbarn recommends using innovative displays, made from natural materials like wood when possible, to help customers better see the product,” Fabits said.
Setting aside a space where products can shine also is a good strategy.
“Having a separate USA section or organizing the treats and chews by dog size or protein type are effective ways to merchandise treats,” said Laura Jones Lang, president of Jones Natural Chews in Rockford, Ill.
Samantha Henson, clinical pet nutritionist with Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich., recommends placing treats in high-traffic areas so that customers will pass them on their way to the food.
It also is important for retailers to merchandise treats in ways that make it easy for shoppers to find what they are looking for. For example, Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management at MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio, suggests displaying treats by category to make it easier for the consumer due to the sheer volume of choices on the shelves.
The best customers are the animals themselves, so TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which has stores in Georgia, offers a treat and chew bar at the entrance, said co-owner Jusak Yang Bernhard.
At Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California, bulk treats, chews and bones are displayed in candy-type jars, while packaged treats are best merchandised by type or brand, said co-owner Janene Zakrajsek.
“We also regularly feature at least two different brands/treats for in-store sampling, which has been a very effective ‘try it before you buy it’ sales technique,” Zakrajsek said.
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Pet Product News.