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Presentation, Variety Pays Off with Baked Pet Treats

The key to merchandising delectable bakery treats lies in display and variety.
By Lindsey Getz

Natural Pet Product MerchandiserBaked goods can be a successful category with a little bit of attention. While baked goods always are popular around birthdays and holidays, meeting the needs of customers year-round is possible by paying attention to trends like nutritional content and offering a large assortment of sizes and options. Those who do well with the baked goods category reported that putting effort into the presentation really pays off.

Because baked goods are an impulse item, it helps to make a few easily accessible to customers. Many retailers opt to put them up front, but no matter where they are in the store, the display is important.

“The display definitely makes the difference in selling baked goods,” said Ashley Dickerson, owner of The Spotted Dog Boutique and Bakery in Pensacola, Fla., who lays out various packaged treats on a multi-tiered platter to present them to customers.

Baked holiday pet treats
“They automatically assume their dogs will love them based on how appetizing they look on the platter,” she added. “In fact, a lot of customers say they look so good they want one!” 

Without having a display for baked goods, it’s easy for them to get “lost,” reported Jessica Talley, CEO of Bubba Rose Biscuit Co., in Boonton, N.J.

“They can’t just be tucked on a shelf somewhere because as an impulse item they won’t get any interest,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of success with stores that have baked goods displayed on elevated cake platters with domed lids or store smaller products in glass jars.”

Bubba Rose recently released cake pops and macaroons to its line of gourmet goods. The macaroons are a stacked color cookie available packaged or in bulk. The colors change seasonally, so retailers can keep their displays fresh throughout the year; and the cake pops have a cookie stick so that the entire product is edible, the company reported.

“Our products are made with all organic ingredients,” Talley said. “There are three different color palettes year round for the cake pops. Winter pops will include a snow ball, a jingle bell, an ornament, a snowman and a snowflake. We find that the baked good trends for pets take its cues from the trends for humans, and cake pops are a hot item right now.” 

Seasonal Trends
Seasonal items are certainly always a big seller as the baked goods category tends to spike around the holidays. To help meet this surge, Exclusively Pet in Milwaukee, recently added a holiday package that is a four-pack assortment from each of the company’s top treat lines, which are 100-percent natural, made in the USA and kosher, reported Scott Corsi, managing director. The package includes a wafer cookie, a sandwich cream cookie, Buddy Bones, and Buddy Bits.

“It’s a snow or winter theme so that the product can survive past December 25,” Corsi said. “We also didn’t do anything to change the packaging of the items within the four-pack, so retailers have the option at the end of the season to pull the packages out of the box and just put them on the shelf individually. We know that retailers don’t like having to pull everything winter-themed and mark them down for clearance. It’s only the box that creates the theme and that can be removed.”

Industry Voices
What are your most creative tips for baked goods displays?

“We’ve seen retailers have some success setting up the smaller products in glass jars that are evenly priced. It’s like a candy store set up. The customer can say ‘I want two from that jar, one from that jar…’ and have some fun with picking out the treats. That’ s a great way to play up the category.”
 —Jessica Talley, CEO of Bubba Rose Biscuit Co. in Boonton, N.J.
“The retailers who do the best with this category are those that give it a little extra attention as opposed to just sticking them on a shelf. They often put them up near the register and might group some items together with a little ribbon or a bow. It takes a little bit of extra time, but it can mean a lot more sales. The idea is to make it ‘gift ready.’ Maybe even put some gift bags near the register the way Hallmark does, so that the customer can buy a toy and a treat, and slip it all in a gift bag and be ready to go. It’s all about making it easy for the customer.”
Scott Corsi, managing director of Exclusively Pet in Milwaukee

“Even though we don’t bake on site, we really get into this category by having an entire bakery section. Our customers get such a kick out of it and almost always comment on it. We have treats behind the glass just like you would at a bakery, and customers love coming in and picking something out. It makes the items seem so much more special when they’re behind glass, and we definitely get a lot of interest.”
Starla Pellegrino, owner of Pooch N Paws Boutique and Bakery in the Atlanta area

In Wilmington, N.C., Coastal K-9 Bakery is busy making its holiday cookies and are doing Santa’s face for the first time ever, said Jackie Oakes, owner. Oakes also is looking to produce more gluten-free treats in the New Year.

“We have a honey ginger carrot stick that we already do which is gluten free, but I’m planning to add more gluten-free options in 2013,” she said.

Ma Snax Dog Treats in Santa Rosa, Calif., also recently added some holiday shapes in addition to adding a “Cookie Plate” sampler to its lineup.

“We plan to create holiday and gender-specific samplers as well as a sports-themed sampler, a nautical sampler, and more—it’s endless,” reported Mary Ellen Oertel, founder and owner of the company. “We’ve had requests for smaller shapes of decorated cookies as well as larger shapes. The trend seems to be to treat with either a really big cookie or a teeny bite of goodness. We’re also exploring new packaging ideas.”

An Assortment of Sizes
A range of snack size options is another important detail to attend when offering baked goods. Starla Pellegrino, owner of Pooch N Paws Boutique and Bakery with two locations in the suburbs of Atlanta did not have baked goods to complement every size of dog when she first opened. It wasn’t long before she started getting a lot of requests.

“We’ve really expanded our bakery section to include everything from bigger cookies and cakes to itty bitty cookies,” she said. “You definitely have to have something for every dog if you want to reach all your customers.”

The bite-sized trend also has created interest in little pieces of “candy” for manufacturer Claudia’s Canine Cuisine. Dogcandy is the company’s newest line of premium gourmet dog treats—a mix of baked and non-baked goods that includes Pastel Yogurt Drops, Canine Mint and Peanut Studded Bark Bark.

“The Dogcandy line also offers baked items, including scones that are small, bite-sized treats topped with bits of apple, strawberry and blueberry,” said Debbie Bohlken, president of the Maumelle, Ark.-based company.

The Nutrition Factor
Like other food products, there’s been a noticeable interest in healthier choices of baked goods and treats, so it’s not surprising that many manufacturers are focusing on all-natural ingredients.

In Austin, Texas, Bark ‘N Purr’s customers definitely pay attention to the ingredient lists of their pets’ food, even when it’s a treat, reported Carol Floyd, co-owner.

“Ninety percent of our store is organic, and we look for baked goods that at least have no wheat or corn or are totally organic,” she said. “My customers are very conscious of what’s in the products they buy and they appreciate that organic is a focus for us. They’ve come to trust us for that very reason.”

Dickerson also gears the food and treat products in her stores to all-natural with no added artificial preservatives, colorings or flavorings.

“We find that customers are becoming a lot more aware of what’s in their dog’s food and treats, and they specifically want all-natural products,” she said. “We have had a good response by sticking with the all-natural theme throughout the store.”

More owners are starting to realize that healthy pets make happy pets, Claudia’s Canine Cuisine’s Bohlken said, adding that retailers should become better educated on the products so they’re always able to answer questions and offer information.

“Retailers who know their customers can easily spot the pet owner that wants the best for his or her pet,” she said. “Purchasing treats that are made with ingredients you can read and understand and that are baked free of preservatives and fillers says, ‘I love my pet.’ The more a retailer knows about their products, the deeper the bond between the pet parent and their retail business becomes.”

This story originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Natural Pet Product Merchandiser.

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Reader Comments
Boy, I wish you guys had contacted us about this article. You are always welcomed to. Bag of Bones Barkery has been in business since 2007 and is first and foremost a pet bakery, since we make -- right in our 5,000 sq ft store every day -- more than 35 different types of pet treats. Everything from gourmet Snickerdoggles and Parmesan Tailwaggers to three sizes and 8 flavors of Barkery Bones, fruit based Bitty Blossom flower cookies and so much more. We package and label everything right in house, and our seasonal stuff is awesome. We bake tons of cakes including ones that are personalized and custom-made. We do gluten free as well as "anything-else-free" that customers want. Packaging and display most DEFINITELY make a difference in the sales of pet treats of any kind. We started off in a 2100 sq foot location with about a dozen recipes, and the astounding growth and popularity of our baked goods pushed us into our current location, which is 5,000 sq feet and allows us to bake nonstop as well as offer more than 120 lines of natural pet food, toys, treats, collars, leashes, beds and everything pet related! - find us on Facebook too!
Gregg, Bernhardt, NJ
Posted: 12/7/2012 9:21:34 PM
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