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12:59 AM   April 21, 2015
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Irresistible Confections

Tempting baked goods remain bestsellers in this tough economy.
By Sandy Robins

A recent survey conducted by the American Kennel Club indicated that, in this tough economy, pet owners are willing to forgo enjoying gourmet coffees and lattés to provide for the needs of their canine companions. The question that remains unanswered, though, is since the icing has come off the top of the economy, are pet owners cutting back on their dogs’ confectionary treats?

“No,” asserts Jackie Oakes, owner of Coastal K-9 Bakery in Wilmington, N.C. “People who consider their pets as family members are still making every effort to treat them as they would their kids, putting them before themselves. That’s why the eye-candy appeal of canine confectionary is so important. When the decision to purchase is a harder one, the choice selection becomes even more important.”

Jennifer Lewis, owner of Petit Four Legs in Seattle agrees.

 “Because it’s people making decisions for their pets, not only must the flavor appeal, but the presentation and packaging is equally important,” she says.

Lewis also concurs with Oakes on the particulars of packaging and display as well.

“Presentation is a strong selling point because a lot of pet confectionary is bought as gifts for others,” Lewis explains. “These days, people will take a box of gourmet dog treats to a dinner party host who has a dog instead of a bottle of wine.”

Displaying Baked Goods

Selling the Goods

  • Promote the idea of dog confectionaries as a host thank-you gift with appropriate in-store signage.
  • Send out newsletters to promote special holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween.
  • If space permits, consider holding pet birthday parties in store and providing the cake, other goodies and take-home party bags. Also, offer a special package for customers wishing to celebrate their pets’ birthday at daycare facilities.
  • Always have samples available. A tabletop glass case works well and will prevent canine” shoplifters” from helping themselves.
  • Let customers know when new baked goods will be in store, either with a sandwich board out front or by e-mail.
  • A central display of packaged treats in store is an excellent way of drawing attention to the variety available.
  • A basket of small, well-priced treats at the register will encourage impulse buys.
Lewis, a former professional pastry chef, notes she regularly sends ideas to boutiques that stock her products on how to display the merchandise to maximize its appeal.

These days, many pet bakeries bake not only for their own stores but also for a wide selection of pet boutiques across the U.S. In addition, when it comes to pre-packaged treats, Lewis recommends setting up a special display in a central location in the store to draw attention to the items and direct customers to the shelves where the bigger stocks are.

“Boxed goods can be stacked in a pyramid design,” she notes. “Baskets and even pet dinnerware make great display props, too.”
A stunning visual display can have a downside if it is too accessible to four-legged visitors.

“It’s also important for boutique owners to ensure the goods are at a reasonable height to prevent canine shoplifters from helping themselves,” offers Maryellen Loeschner, owner of the Canine Snack Shack in Haverhill, Mass. “Smaller boxes of bakery items or attractive cellophane-wrapped treats make great impulse purchases, especially if the price point is under $6. Consequently, placing them near a register is an excellent idea.”

For stores that stock a wide selection of fresh-baked goods, the only way to display them from both a visual and health standpoint is in special bakery cases.

Accordingly, the Three Dog Bakery headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., supplies both refrigerated and dry cases to its stores, as do many other bakery companies.

Information is a Key Ingredient
Julie Tarry, Three Dog Bakery’s director of marketing, emphasizes the importance of manufacturer support.

“Retailers rely on manufacturers’ support that extends beyond bakery cases and basic signage,” she says. “They like information about the goods so they can educate their customers about the ingredients. People are very health-conscious for both themselves and their pets, particularly in the wake of the huge food recall in 2007. Retailers like to inform customers they only stock treats made with human-grade ingredients.

“The other reason why ingredients are so important to consumers is because there are so many mixed breeds and designer dogs with allergies,” Tarry explains. “Not to mention that everyone is counting calories and watching the fat content, too.”

In the confectionary business, fresh doesn’t only apply to ingredients but also to concepts and ideas.

Promotional Ideas During the Year
An excellent way of promoting business is to concentrate on the various holidays people celebrate with their pets throughout the year.

“We focus on Valentine’s Day, spring—usually an Easter theme—summer, Halloween and the winter holidays,” Tarry says. “It’s a great way to draw customers in to a store. Pet bakeries and boutiques that sell pet confectionary are very much destinations for pet lovers who enjoy taking their pets with them when they shop for treats. So this is a great way to encourage them to visit.”

Rob Van Sickle, co-owner of Polkadog Bakery in Boston, suggests another promotional idea.

“A great way to promote ongoing treat sales is to sell products in keepsake tins that customers are happy to display in their kitchens and will continue to restock with either loose treats or refill bags,” he says.

Home-baked Goodies
People who love to bake enjoy baking for their pets, too, and home-baked products, such as oven-ready, refrigerated cookie dough especially formulated for dogs or packaged dog cake mixes, are fast gaining popularity.

“The advantage of buying a premade product is all the ingredients have already been vetted safe for canine consumption,” Lewis explains. “And they are really easy to work with. Baking cookies for the family dog is also a great kids’ activity and a wonderful way of involving children with their pets. There’s nothing to beat the aroma of something baking in the oven. “

Of course, pet bakeries around the U.S. trade on that—their dog customers know exactly how to sniff them out and find them. <HOME>

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