“We attribute the growth to forward-thinking
NOVOTNY, president and CEO of Emerald Pet
and searching out the next evolving product
offerings. We aim to be on the cusp of market
shifts and are prepared to adjust our product
offerings accordingly. What is ‘it’ today may be
gone tomorrow, so we look to find the next big
thing, while continuing to offer our customers a
large variety of products on a daily basis.”—JEFF
REIBERT, buyer for CountryMax Stores, which
has multiple locations in New York state
“People are busy and often leave their dogs unattended. They want to find
ways for their dogs to have interaction and stimulation when they’re not
around.”—PETER TOOLAN, founder of Benebone in New York
“Soft chews and alternative chews are seeing
the most growth in the pet category, which
can be attributed to pet owners’ desire to pro-
vide items that are easy for their pet to break
down in the mouth and stomach.”—GLENNA.
Products in Walnut Creek, Calif.
“Overall, the human-focused flavor trend is definitely
driving growth in the category.”—JOEMCIVER, brand
manager for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis
What do you attribute to the increase
of dog treats and chews sales?
TWO TRENDS PULL AHEAD IN NEW INGREDIENTS
Manufacturers are paying attention to what’s already
popular on the human side as they develop new treats and
chews, according to industry insiders.
“The same ingredients we see trending in the human
side is trickling over to the pet category,” said Glenn A.
Novotny, president and CEO of Emerald Pet Products in
Walnut Creek, Calif. “Ingredients like chia seeds, quinoa
and pumpkin continue to gain popularity. As pet owners
experience benefits from specialty ingredients, they want
their pets to be able to share the same experience.”
Peter Toolan, founder of Benebone in New York, agreed.
“There has been a growing trend for people-friendly
flavors—blueberry, pumpkin, banana, sweet potato—
because we’re making this connection between human
and dog,” he said. “It seems that natural flavors are …
appealing for dogs as well as humans.”
Ingredient combinations that resemble human dinner
favorites are also catching on, said Joe McIver, brand
manager for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
“Combining quality proteins, [such as] beef with bacon,
or proteins and vegetables and fruit, [such as] turkey and
cranberry, seems to be resonating with pet parents, and
brands are catching on,” he said. “I see more innovation in
treat flavors emulating popular human food meals, possibly
with international twists or USA-focused flavors.”
The second major trend in treat and chew ingredients
is cannabidiol (CBD) or hemp products. Art Nakagawa,
president of Artvark Pet Products in Van Nuys, Calif., said he
doesn’t see the trending slowing any time soon.
Jeff Reibert, buyer for CountryMax Stores, which
has multiple locations in New York state, said he sees
this segment of the category growing steadily as
clients become increasingly knowledgeable about these
“CBD and hemp-infused products are hitting the market
hard as pet owners become more aware of the benefits and
effectiveness of these treats,” he said. “These products are
designed to aid conditions such as arthritis, anxiety, joint
pain, seizures and a variety of other ailments that occur in
our four-legged friends, especially as they age.”
4 WAYS TO PROMOTE DOG TREATS AND CHEWS
Industry insiders recommend that pet specialty retailers use a combination
of techniques to market dog treats and chews. Here are four strategies that
retailers can employ:
1. DIGITAL MARKETING
“You Tube videos and social media are the two things we do to support retailers from
an information standpoint,” said Art Nakagawa, president of Artvark Pet Products in Van
Many companies spread the word through digital channels, such as e-newsletters,
website banner ads, videos and social media.
“We send emails to our subscribers the day our new sales circular starts, and it links
to our current ad on our website, where customers can view the complete ad,” said Jeff
“In particular, we’ve increased the number of posts and added a mix of fun, light-
hearted posts with new product announcements and product knowledge posts,” he said.
“Recently, we added sales videos highlighting several products in our current circular,
and we’ve seen an increase in our reach and interactions.”
Connecting with consumers on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook is also
effective, insiders said.
“Bundling products—buy food, get X-percent off treats—with a special code you
promote on your social channels is a great way to entice pet parents to make a visit,
and drive them to actively interact with your social channels,” said Joe McIver, brand
manager for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
Because treats are an impulse buy for many shoppers, McIver said, “eye-catching, in-
store signage highlighting the benefits of treats can help persuade a customer to make
The primary way staff members at CountryMax Stores inform customers is through
colorful sales circulars and corresponding in-store signage.
“We select several treats and chews to focus on each sale, and we include eye-
3. SPECIAL PROMOTIONS AND EVENTS
catching images and descriptions to educate and encourage customers to purchase
products,” Reibert said. “We highlight new products and offer introductory savings to
encourage customers to try.”
Placing treats near the registers or in secondary displays also effectively boosts
sales, McIver added.
Nashville Pet Products, which has stores in Tennessee, has found success with Treat of
the Month promotions.
“We always encourage our customers to bring their pup in for a treat, and the Treat
of the Month is what we offer them,” said Keefer Dickerson, marketing and outreach
manager. “This gives us a chance to talk about the same product over and over for 30
days to about half of our daily customers.”
Peter Toolan, founder of Benebone in New York, recommended adoption and holiday
weekend sale events, which he said helps independents compete in a crowded market
with big chains and e-commerce.
Making connections with the local rescue or shelter is another way to get the word out
while also benefiting animals, Toolan said.
“It’s good to do, and it’s good for business,” he said. “[Rescues and shelters] always
need things to keep dogs occupied while waiting for their new homes. You also can find
the most committed and passionate pet parents at these places, and they look for quality
and care for their animals.”