Imagine, if you can, a day without snacks. Oh, the unspeakable horror of it all—it is just too much to contemplate. Because the truth is, for most of us, treats occupy a pretty important position in our daily lives. If our dogs could speak, they would tell us it is the same for them. Apparently, humans are nevertheless getting the message because the demand for dog treats is growing by leaps and bounds, driven in no small measure by the dog-as-family-member mindset. After all, if we are loath to deny ourselves a pleasurable indulgence, how could we treat Buster any differently?
Although the recession led people to hold off spending on themselves, they did not cut back when it came to their pets, says Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets Products, headquartered in Cranbury, N.J. Consequently, says Abbey, whose company manufactures pet treats and accessories, the clamor for treats is “greater than ever” and likely to gain momentum.
At the same time, just as folks have become pickier about their own snacks, they are taking the same approach with their pets—not any old treat will do. Of particular importance to a growing number of pet owners is where treats are manufactured, says Chris Bessent, president of Hartland, Wis.-based Herbsmith, Inc., which provides a range of products for dogs, cats and horses.
“We receive many questions about ingredient sourcing,” says Bessent. “USA-sourcing is probably the number-one issue. Consumers are becoming much more conscious of where meat protein is sourced due to all the recent recalls on foreign-sourced protein.”
The healthier-lifestyle trend is also trickling down from people to pets, influencing their treat choices, says Abbey. “Many pet-parents keep in mind that pets can’t choose their own treats, so the responsibility is on the dog owner to make good and healthy choices for them, in order to support a long, healthy and active life.”
Consequently, dog owners increasingly seek out functional treats, as well as ones that are low-calorie, nutritious, and that people feel good about giving their pets, says Chris Meiering, business development director for Zuke’s, a Durango, Colo.-based company that makes all-natural treats and chews.
To see a round-up of some of the dog treats currently on the market, scroll down or click HERE.
Because people are looking at all possible ways to keep pets healthy, they may also seek out treats that help address long-standing or recurring health problems, explains Jennifer Melton, co-founder and president of San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Cloud Star Corporation, manufacturer of Dynamo Dog Functional Treats. For example, if allergies are an issue, grain-free treats may be just the ticket, she says.
Wholesome, natural products also resonate with pet owners, says Marco Giannini, founder/CEO of Dogswell. Located in Los Angeles, the company manufactures low-glycemic/high-protein pet foods and treats for dogs and cats. According to Giannini, growth of the company’s natural treats with added vitamins has been robust.
“More recently, grain-free treats have also started garnering a lot of attention,” he adds. “Health-conscious dog owners are also looking for the absence of negatives like corn, wheat, soy and other fillers; they want to see the presence of positives, such as premium protein sources, fruits and veggies. Just because it’s a treat doesn’t mean it can’t be a healthy addition to a dog’s diet.”
Minding Your Qs
Because treats increasingly play a greater role in a dog’s overall wellbeing, retailers should strive to squash the inclination some customers may have to just mindlessly select treats, helping them make more purposeful selections. The best way to do this, says Bessent, is to engage them in conversation about their pets and to ask lots of questions, such as which proteins the dog prefers, if there any food sensitivities/allergies or health issues, and what kind of food the dog is getting. David DeLorenzo, president of Dallas-based, Vetscience LLC, suggests retailers also find out what role treats are playing in a pet’s diet and what the customer’s expectations are.
“Are they interested in what’s in the treat? Do they pay attention to how many and when treats are fed? And does the pet get other foods/treats in addition to their food—pets that get table scraps, fruits and vegetables may be getting significantly more calories and may be on the path to obesity,” explains DeLorenzo, whose company manufactures the Fruitables brand.
Also inquire about the treat’s intended use, he adds. Is it to provide positive reinforcement for training or behavior and does the pet need a lot of reinforcement? Are the treats intended to supplement the diet or are they simply a treat for a treat’s sake?
Retailers should also ask about the dog’s age and activity level, suggests Meiering, explaining that the needs of a “couch potato” canine are different than those of a “Flyball champion.” With all this information in hand, pointing the customer to the right treat will be far easier, he says.
Still, DeLorenzo points out an additional benefit gained from this gentle inquisition. “Discussing these areas with the pet parent does more than just help select the right treat,” he says. “It sends a message that the store truly cares about the pet and values the parent as a customer, which will be returned with loyalty.”
Merchandising That Moves
In order to help customers make the right choices, retailers should undertake extensive education about pet health and wellness, says Melton. “This knowledge needs to be passed to the sales staff, as well, so they can, in turn, offer assistance to customers. Knowledge is power; it will better prepare staff members to confidently sell quality products.”
One of the best ways to move more treats is by offering a large variety of flavors, sizes and kinds, says Abbey, who points out that just like people, dogs have different requirements. By not providing sufficient choices to cover the range of needs, retailers could be missing out on sales, he says. Abbey adds that retailers should train their staff to listen to customers about the pet’s specific needs, recommending a good match.
Staying mindful of consumer trends will also help keep retailers ahead of the pack, says Lauren Schnieders, director of marketing for Preppy Puppy Bakery Inc., a Wareham, Mass.-based manufacturer of wholesale dog treats and gift items.
“Customers like to give their dogs the same treats that are trending in their own local bakeries and retailers,” says Schnieders. “For example, people love hamburger sliders, so we’ve recently added a look-alike hamburger slider dog treat to our line.”
Locating treats next to food is a given, but don’t stop with this, says Dean Triandafellos, president of Beefeaters Holding Company (BHC). Located in North Bergen N.J., the company provides wellness supplements, chews and treats under the Beefeaters and Nutrivet brands.
“There needs to be more signage indicating the benefit of treats,” says Triandafellos. “Treats should be placed throughout the store on clipstrips and by the register, since most are an impulse sale. Many times, retailers are just doing the same merchandising with treats that has been done for years,” he continues. “But treats are one of the few consumables categories that’s growing aggressively. Retailers should take advantage of their high-quality treats by merchandising them separately whenever they can.”
Stocking the Treat Aisle
BHC (beefeaters.com): The no-meat Beefeaters Sweet Potato Fries treats are produced in Canada from pure, natural sweet potatoes. The potatoes are cut into fries and then oven-baked, preserving the naturally occurring beta carotene and vitamin A. Like all Beefeater products, the fries contain no artificial ingredients, colors or flavors; and they are preservative and additive free.
Cloud Star (cloudstar.com): Dynamo Dog Functional Treats include Hip & Joint, Tummy, and Skin & Coat formulas that contain specially selected vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables and herbs to support joint function, digestive health or skin and coat health. All treats are gluten-free.
Dogswell (dogswell.com): Jerky Bars are high-protein, low-glycemic treats containing real fruits and veggies, including peas, carrots and spinach. Apples, cranberries and flaxseeds provide antioxidant benefits. All recipes consist of 85 percent animal protein and 15 percent fruits/veggies. Proteins include cage-free chicken, antibiotic-free lamb, wild-caught salmon and hormone-free turkey. The bars contain no corn, wheat or soy. Varieties include Happy Hips and Vitality.
Exclusively Pet, Inc. (exclusivelypet.com): Based in Milwaukee, the company manufactures dog treats resembling popular people snacks. Products range from kosher cookies to the new, chewy extruded treats. Jerkeez, jerky dog treats contain chicken as the number-one ingredient. Flavors include BBQ Chicken, Pizza and Taco. Lick-O-Rish Chews are licorice look-alike treats. Flavors include Carob, Strawberry and Cherry. These treats are free of corn, wheat and soy. They are made in the U.S. and are available in 7-oz. packages.
Free Range Eco Naturals Dog Treats Inc. (freerangeeconaturals.com): Located in Shelby Township, Mich., the company provides a complete line of one-or-two-ingredient natural dog chews and treats. Odor-Free Bully Sticks are made from grass-fed, pasture-finished, Argentina Angus cattle. The company recently introduced a new line of Gobble Turkey Tendons under its DogNip brand. They are available in twists, braids, curls, pinwheels and strips. The dehydrated chews are made from humanely raised turkeys, and they contain no added hormones, steroids, antibiotics, flavors, preservatives or colors.
Herbsmith (herbsmithinc.com): The Smiling Dog line of treats consists of meats and complementing fruits/vegetables, with no additives, artificial preservatives or meal. Freeze Dried Duck with Orange is a grain-free, preservative-free option for sensitive dogs, especially those with hot, itchy skin or other allergy symptoms. Treats are available in freeze-dried round disks. Meats are locally sourced and manufactured in Wisconsin.
Jones Natural Chews Co. (jonesnaturalchews.com): Based in Rockford, Ill., the company offers an extensive selection of beef, lamb, jerky and pork treats/chews. The Other Ear is a dog treat made from the pig chin; very similar to a pig ear, it’s less expensive and provides a longer-lasting chew. Ear’s Etc. is a mixed bag of pig ears and chins. All Jones products are grown and made in the U.S. and contain no artificial ingredients.
Loving Pets (lovingpetsproducts.com): It’s So Natural Dog Treats is the company’s newest dog treat line, including items like Beef Jerky Bars, Chicken Tenders and Biscotti Meat Treats. All treats are made from 100-percent, all-natural ingredients. The Biscotti line includes hand-selected ingredients like whole cranberries and chunks of sweet potatoes. All ingredients are sourced and made in the U.S.
Preppy Puppy Bakery, Inc. (preppypuppytreats.com): The dog treats come in a variety of all-natural formulas and flavors including Original Molasses, Pumpkin Puree, Banana Peanut Butter, Chicken and Garlic, and more. Their signature pastry collection includes birthday cakes, cookies, canollis and other bakery-type treats. All FDA-approved treats are wheat, corn and soy free, and are made with human-grade ingredients. Treats are hand-cut and decorated for seasonality, holidays, and special and everyday occasions.
Vetscience (fruitablespetfood.com): Fruitables’ new Skinny Minis Rotisserie Chicken Flavor is skinny in calories (3-1/2 calories) and mini in size. The soft, easy-to-chew treat incorporates pumpkin, slow-roasted chicken and oatmeal, and is gluten-free, low-fat, and rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. The Skinny Minis Chewy treats line offers five varieties.
Zuke’s (zukes.com): The Super line consists of Super Berries, Super Betas and Super Greens. The treats contain nutritious ingredients and antioxidants like berries, beta-carotenes and wholesome veggies like broccoli, spinach, peas, asparagus and green beans. They’re free of corn, wheat and soy, and made from all-natural wholefood ingredients. They are made in the U.S.
QT Dog (qtdog.com): The Churpi Chew line of hard Yak-milk treats now includes Churpi Chew Micro Puffs. QT Dog takes small bits of hard Yak cheese and puffs it up to create a treat that dogs really pay attention to. Churpi is made from Yak milk with traces of salt and lime juice. No artificial preservatives, colors or flavors are used in the formulation of this treat.