BY SANDY CHEBAT
and Captivating Chews
Dog owners are shopping for treats and chews that offer functional and safe
ingredients, with sourced and made in USA items leading the pack.
Sales of dog treats and chews re- main strong, and the category continues to experience robust
growth, according to industry insiders.
“Treats are one of the fastest-grow-
ing categories,” said Ann Hudson, vice
president of marketing for Dogswell, a
brand of St. Louis-based Whitebridge
Pet Brands. “As the relationship be-
tween pets and people continues to
evolve, the desire we have to make
our pets happy continues to increase.
Treats are one way to do that.”
The trends in this category mirror
those found in pet food, insiders said.
“The pet treats and chews market
closely follows the major trends in
pet food overall because many of the
same marketers, brands and formula-
tions are at play,” said David Sprin-
kle, research director of Packaged Facts, a Rockville, Md.-based
market research firm. “Grain-free, natural, functional-ingredient,
novel-protein and U.S.-sourced treats are some of the most sought-
after types of treats.”
Sprinkle attributed the focus on U.S.-sourced and -made products
to previous pet food recalls.
“The threats posed by Chinese-made jerky treats are still impacting the pet treats and chews market, with pet owners in the U.S.
continuing to scrutinize pet products to ensure that they are both
made and sourced in the U.S.,” he said.
Curt Jacques II, president and CEO of West Lebanon Feed & Supply in West Lebanon, N.H., agreed.
“Consumers still want all-natural, domestically produced chews,”
he said. “Durability, safety and ‘lasting qualities’ are top of the list.”
As a result, detailed product labels and company transparency
rank high with savvy pet owners.
“We are seeing a trend in the importance of each ingredient in
each recipe,” said Nichole Nonini, marketing director for Plato Pet
Treats in Fresno, Calif. “Alongside this, consumers want transpar-
ency—to know the origin of ingredients.”
At All Natural Pet Supply, which has two locations in Vancou-
ver, Wash., manager Katia Rossi said her customers desire treats
containing fewer ingredients and labels they can easily read and
“Freeze-dried treats are on the rise; they are selling really well,”
she added. “And training treats still are popular.”
Heidi Liedeker, owner of Meat for Cats and Dogs in Portland,
Ore., said that her customers are looking for “natural, hormone- and
antibiotic-free meats, along with single-protein options.”
Industry insiders also reported a rise in the prevalence of func-
tional treats, including those that provide dental benefits, offer extra
nutrition or otherwise improve pet health. As a result, superfood
ingredients, such as cranberries, goji berries, coconut oil, seaweed,
kale, açai, kefir and chia, are on trend, Sprinkle said.
“Whether treating a specific condition or simply providing a wellness boost, functional treats form a growing segment of the treats
market,” Sprinkle said. “Packaged Facts’ June/July 2017 National Pet
Owner Survey shows that 70 percent of pet owners agree that pet
treats offering functional benefits are an important part of their pet’s
health care. A similar percentage (71 percent) agree that they prefer
to buy pet treats with extra nutrition or that address health concerns
for their pets.”
MANUFACTURERS FOCUS ON VARIETY AND NUTRITION
This year, many dog treat and chew manufacturers have focused their efforts
on launching products with unique proteins, low calorie counts and nutrition
Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn., added three treats to its Bonus
Bites line for dogs: Freeze Dried Beef, Dry Roasted Beef Lung and Freeze
Dried Chicken Hearts. The 100 percent grain-free treats are made from
USA-sourced, all-natural, high-quality muscle protein and organs, and
they contain no fillers, added flavorings or preservatives, according to the
The high-protein, low-calorie treats are also designed to break apart
easily for use in training. The Beef Lung flavor comes in a 2-ounce bag, while
the Beef and Chicken Heart flavors come in 3-ounce bags.
In March, Plato Pet Treats in Fresno, Calif., introduced its Thinkers treats
in a smaller format. The company’s Mini Thinkers contain locally grown
vegetables and come in three recipes: Pumpkin with Turkey, Sweet Potato
with Turkey, and Carrot with Turkey and Peanut Butter.
The manufacturer also launched Wild Caught Baltic Sprat, a whole-fish
treat that contains no preservatives and comes in a 3-ounce bag. The fish
are sustainably caught off the coast of Estonia and slow roasted to retain the
nutritional benefits, according to the company.
In June, Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis relaunched its Dogswell
treat brand, adding four new proteins: beef, salmon, turkey and lamb. The
line was also expanded to include treats formulated to support skin and coat
health. New formats were designed to appeal to picky dogs, older dogs and
dogs with sensitive teeth and gums. These include Dogswell Jerky Minis for
small dogs; Dogswell Tenders, a chewy chicken breast treat in a natural fillet
shape; and Dogswell Skin & Coat, which includes biotin, zinc and vitamin E.
The company also increased the level of supplementation in the treats for
improved canine health, said company officials.