In the world of cat treats, consumers are focused on quality ingredients, USA sourcing and manufacturing, and functional benefits. Gone are the days when cat owners were willing to spend only a couple of dollars on their pets, said Glenn A. Novotny, president and CEO of Emerald Pet Products in Walnut Creek, Calif.
"The old method of just buying what is cheap is giving way to the premium segment in cat treats," he said. "Customers are investing in their cat’s health in both quality and quantity as the treat category evolves. Consumers are demanding higher-quality cat treats with premium ingredients."
At Felix & Oscar in Springfield, Va., customers realize that it makes no sense to provide their cats with a quality diet and offer them poor-quality treats, said owner Matt O’Leary.
"Just like they do with cat food bags, they’re now turning those treat bags around to read the ingredient panel," he said. "We’ve found that cat parents are increasingly educated on nutrition, and they want to purchase treats that are in line with the healthier diet that many have already adopted."
As cat owners spend more time educating themselves about their pet’s nutritional needs, several focuses have emerged.
"Customers are researching in-depth in the treat category to really seek out healthy products that align with the healthy foods they are feeding," Novotny said. "Limited-ingredient treats crafted to address specific health concerns such as dental, digestion and allergy sensitivities are continuing to expand."
Overall demand for foods that are both sourced and made in the USA are on the rise, reported Melinda Miller, CEO of Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn. This is coupled with a focus on quality, all-natural products in general.
"This demand is being driven by well-educated consumers who only want to feed foods and treats that are going to benefit the overall health and wellness of their companion animals," she said.
At Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., freeze-dried pieces of meat are among the store’s bestselling treats, said owner Pattie Boden, who added that store shoppers often seek out USA-made products.
"My customers only want USA-made food products with as many organic, human-grade ingredients as possible," she said.
In addition, Novotny said that "as cat treats in the premium segment have evolved, customers are now looking to buy treats in larger bulk containers."
In response to these consumer demands, manufacturers have developed treats that address owners’ specific concerns. For example, Emerald Pet Feline Dental Treats are sourced and made in the USA and formulated to help with dental health. The company also offers a line of feline health treats in Urinary Tract and Hairball formulas "to address these common cat health issues through the use of natural ingredients geared towards a holistic approach," he said.
To encourage cat customers to try new treats, Kalei Lewis, nutrition consultant for Only Natural Pet in Boulder, Colo., said that rotating specials on these products really helps.
"We have a lot of success running various specials on cat treats," Lewis said. "A special sale on a particular cat treat is a great way to get people in the door and checking out something they might not have tried before. We’ve found it’s the best way to open people’s minds to trying something new—such as raw treats."