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Biting Off More Sales with Chews

New dog chews on the market reflect customers’ values.


Odyssey Pets

Dog chews are not immune from the trends shaping pet consumers’ buying patterns. In fact, they reflect the same concerns that drive pet owners’ purchases of food and treats.

That’s according to several manufacturers, who said sales of longer-lasting chews are driven by several factors: convenience, value, ingredients and sourcing. In short, dog owners want chews that reflect what they hold dear.

Among those values, manufacturers said, is a demand for natural products. Barkworthies, a Richmond, Va.-based manufacturer, recently changed its tagline to reflect consumers’ desires. “Naturally healthy, naturally happy,” is now featured in the Barkworthies logo, said Bill Chilian, marketing vice president for the company.

“Consumers increasingly are demanding simple, all-natural nutrition,” Chilian said.

The company’s chews—both its long-lasting varieties and its treats—are all-natural and “come from trusted, top-tier suppliers and include minimal ingredients, if not just a single ingredient,” Chilian said, adding that the demand for products with such qualities is growing.

“Our flagship Bully Stick and Antler lines continue to grow in popularity, as [do] our novel protein lines like our kangaroo and crocodile SKUs,” Chilian said.

At Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March, Barkworthies unveiled several new Australian Gourmet selections that are all natural and sourced from down under, Chilian said. The new options include a 5-inch beef trachea filled with ground kangaroo meat, a salmon skin twist, and cow and lamb ears with liver icing drizzled over them.

Travis Smith, vice president of QT Dog LLC in Dallas, also noted that demand for natural, single-ingredient parts is high.

QT Dog will debut Steer Jerky Chews and Buffalo Hornz in July.

Ahdee Abramson, owner of Pet Ventures Inc. in North Hollywood, Calif., which manufactures the Pet ‘n Shape line, said customers “want the least number of ingredients as possible.”

“Body parts are perfect for that,” Abramson said.

Pet Ventures recently began offering some products, such as its Chicken Feet, in larger sizes. At Global Pet Expo, the company launched 1- and 2-pound tubs, he said. The reason behind the new offerings? Value and convenience.

“People are wanting to buy more and stock up,” Abramson said, adding that at Global, demand was there for larger purchases.

“It’s probably a trend in general, with the ubiquity of stores like Sam’s Club and Costco,” Abramson said. “Once we know that we like a particular product, then you know we’re willing to buy more of it at a time, perhaps get a better value—or more convenience—out of that purchase than what you were able to get when it was in a small container.”

While customers demonstrate a growing interest in natural ingredients and simplicity, some manufacturers reported seeing a demand for products sourced and made in the U.S.

“[Customer interest] seems to be consistently about USA products and no artificial ingredients,” said Laura Herr, finance officer for Jones Natural Chews Co. in Rockford, Ill.

Jones Natural Chews recently launched three U.S.-made chews, including the longer-lasting Cutie Qs and Bare Knuckles. The Cutie Q, Herr said, is aimed at customers with smaller dogs.

“It is half the size and half the price of its larger counterpart, the Curly Q,” Herr said. “It is a steer pizzle curled in shape and low in fat, high in protein.”

The Bare Knuckle is a beef crown knuckle with everything removed down to the white knuckle, she said. Intended for medium- to large-size dogs, the chews do not contain any natural smoke or meat but “have that great bone flavor dogs love,” Herr said.

“It is a nice addition to the beef bone product line,” she added.

The demand for domestically (and even locally) made chews is growing, said Scott Freeman, founder and owner of Nature’s Logic in Lincoln, Neb., which produces natural chews made from cattle processed within the company’s home state.

“People are trying to get treats ... made in the U.S. instead of overseas,” Freeman said. “People are really looking for local [and] regional products.”

The trend is fueled by the Internet, which allows people to easily access information about recalls and nutrition.

“With social media, there’s a lot of awareness now about potential issues,” Freeman said.

Some manufacturers reported that sales are flagging among products that don’t have a natural aesthetic.

“We see category declines in products that are overly processed and have ingredients that sound like they come out of a chemistry textbook,” Chilian said.

Traditional chews—like rawhides—aren’t wanting for sales, Abramson said.

“We’re seeing growth in that category as well,” he said.

Regardless of trends, manufacturers said one factor holds constant: variety.

While sourcing and ingredient profiles are important components of consumer concerns, some trends are totally unrelated. Abramson noted that many of his company’s treats are geared to small- and medium-sized dogs.

“Sales of our chews that are more positioned for, say, the small- to medium-sized dogs outsell the products that are specifically geared for large dogs,” he said. “As a whole, the trend is to smaller dogs, and our sales reflect that.”

Regardless of trends, manufacturers said one factor holds constant: variety.

“Consumers always are looking for new and different types of chews to keep their dogs interested,” Chilian said.  

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Pet Product News

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