BY STACY N. HACKETT
As humans continue to scru- tinize their own nutritional choices, more small animal
owners have turned their attention to the ingredients that appear in the food and treats they
feed their diminutive pets.
“Today’s consumer is seeking
out more nutritious fare for their
small furry companions,” said
Jane Wasley, brand manager for
Carefresh, a brand of Healthy
Pet in Ferndale, Wash. “Mirror-
ing human health trends of pro-
moting health from the inside
out, small animal owners are
trending toward selecting small
animal foods that contain real,
Noel L. Gonsalves, marketing
and analytics manager for Rum-
ford Pet Center, which has stores
in Rhode Island and Massachu-
“We see a lot of customers
looking for anything that is natural and promotes environmental
enrichment,” he said.
Along with natural, premium
ingredients, customers consid-
er factors such as “price, brand
recognition, veterinary recom-
mendation or endorsement,
and purchasing/feeding conve-
nience,” said Lucas Stock, com-
munications manager for Oxbow
Animal Health in Murdock, Neb.
“We continue to see consumers
seeking out foods … that come
highly recommended from var-
ious sources (veterinarians, pet
owners, online reviews).”
At Dan’s Feed and Seed Inc.
in Temecula, Calif., rabbit own-
ers seek convenience from brands
they recognize, said store manag-
er Mike Barnes. The store stocks
50-pound bags as well as smaller
sizes of popular rabbit foods by
Kaytee and Star Milling Co. It also
offers treats for different sizes and
species of small mammals, from
hamsters to guinea pigs to rabbits.
Treats and foods formulated
for the different needs of small
animals, particularly ferrets, remain important to customers,
said Holly Sher, president of
Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co.
in Wheeling, Ill.
“These pets are not one size
fits all,” she said. “Ferrets are obli-
gate carnivores and … need foods
specific for their very unique di-
This sentiment was echoed by
Paul Juszczak, director of sales
and marketing for Marshall Pet
Products in Wolcott, N. Y.
“Ferret owners always are
looking for higher-protein treats
that are made in the USA and
not sourced from foreign coun-
tries,” he said. “Products that are
healthful, organic and made in
the USA are top trends.”
Top Nutrition for
Food and treat trends trickle down
to formulas for small animals.
HOW DO YOU EDUCATE
When it comes to small animal food and treats, one of the best exercises retailers
can do to educate customers is to first educate themselves, manufacturers said.
“Really familiarize yourself with the different food packages across the category,”
said Lucas Stock, communications manager for Oxbow Animal Health in Murdock,
Neb. “Compare and contrast the guaranteed analysis, ingredients and other information. In doing so, you’ll begin to notice similarities and differences between foods.
This is a key step toward becoming an expert in the aisle and a trusted informational
resource for your customers.”
Employee knowledge often comes from personal experience. At Wolf and Lion
Pet Supplies in San Francisco, store associate Daieny Chin offers advice based on her
experience as a small animal owner.
“A lot of our customers are guinea pig and rabbit owners,” she said. “I try to steer
them to the more nutritious foods for their pets, the foods I feed my own pets.”
At Rumford Pet Center, which has stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts,
employees receive training from manufacturers’ reps, said Noel L. Gonsalves, market-
ing and analytics manager.
“There is a lack of resources and education on keeping small animals as pets,”
he added. “We would love to see more companies advocate for small pets and help
restore their popularity.”
Oxbow Animal Health produces educational materials for new pet owners to
help address the need for customer education.
“We offer Pet Care 101 guides that provide essential, species-specific information
on nutrition, housing, behaviors and health,” Stock said. “These guides are available
to retailers to distribute in the store and are available to download from our website.”
THIS ARTICLE IS BROUGHT
TO YOU IN PART BY
WHAT’S NEW TO
As small animal owners seek natural
and premium-quality food and treats for
their pets, manufacturers introduce new
formulations and ingredients. Healthy Pet
of Ferndale, Wash., revamped its Carefresh
line of diets to offer small animal owners
complete species-specific foods for mice
and rats, rabbits, hamsters and gerbils,
guinea pigs and chinchillas, said Jane
Wasley, brand manager.
“Carefresh complete and balanced reci-
pe features 10 real fruits and vegetables like
apples, carrots, zucchini and peas,” Wasley
said. “Combined with nutritious crunchy pellets, it’s guaranteed to deliver complete
nutrition and dental health.”
Marshall Pet Products of Wolcott, N. Y., recently introduced Bandits Freeze Dried
Ferret Treats, said Paul Juszczak, director of sales and marketing.
The treats are “made with 100 percent whole raw animal protein,” he said.
“They’re created by a delicate freeze-drying process that locks in the natural nutrition and taste of fresh meat.”
For years, oxbow’s diets have set
the standard in essential daily nu-
trition for small pets. Packed with
wholesome, nourishing ingredients,
oxbow essentials foods help pet
caregivers ensure the daily health
and wellbeing of their beloved pets.
the new essentials packaging re-
flects all the premium qualities of
the food it contains. Featuring warm
imagery that evokes the family farm
setting and improved product and
feeding information, the outside of
essentials is now just as premium
as what’s inside.
the new essentials packaging
doesn’t just stand out from a visu-
al perspective, either. In addition
to premium imagery and graphics
that help tell a compelling brand
story, the new packaging features
new and updated nutritional infor-
mation to help educate customers
about the important role a uniform,
fortified food plays in the overall
diet of small pets. Whether feeding
a diet for the first time or transi-
tioning from an existing one, the
information on every bag of essen-
tials will help pet parents feed their
companion with confidence.
key features of the new essen-
tials packaging include:
• New front panel graphics clearly
communicate key product attributes
• Product-specific color coding im-
proves product identification
• Imagery conveys family-farm quali-
ty/care and contributes to a premi-
um brand story on shelf
• “The Oxbow Way” statement differ-
entiates oxbow foods from others on
• Updated nutrition wheel details all
components of the ideal small pet
• Updated, easy-to-follow feeding
charts and transition guides
Learn more at