Snack time has evolved as dog owners increasingly consider the
ingredients and benefits that treats and chews offer their canine counterparts.
BY HILARY DANINHIRSCH
Dogs have an innate need to chew—and who among the canine world oesn’t enjoy a treat now and then? As such, the treat and chew options available for dogs are seemingly bottomless, and manufacturers and pet
specialty retailers report an increase in demand for chews.
Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing at Whitebridge Pet Brands in St.
Louis, said that treats are among the fastest-growing categories.
“Treats are not a static market, and owners are always looking for new and
better options to reward or encourage their dogs,” she said.
Joe Wallington, president of Jones Natural Chews in Rockford, Ill., agreed.
“The future growth looks excellent as millennials and other age groups continue to increase their spending for healthy, natural treats and chews,” he said.
Treats and chew trends have aligned with those in the food category, reported Nichole Nonini, marketing director for Plato Pet Treats in Fresno, Calif.
“If you are conscious about what you are feeding your dog for their meals,
you are going to carry that thought through your treats purchase,” Nonini said,
adding that minimal and functional ingredients panels are key.
As consumers make the connection that it is important to give their pets a
high-quality meal coupled with treats that have the same benefits, many look
for all-natural products that are grain free, made in the USA, and minimally
processed without additives or artificial flavors or colors, said Bette Schubert,
co-founder and senior vice president of sales and education at Bravo Pet Foods
in Manchester, Conn.
Trends in this category also reflect the consumer’s desire to keep their pet
safe while fulfilling the dog’s need to chew and stay occupied, according to
industry insiders. Curt Jacques, president of West Lebanon Feed and Supply in
West Lebanon, N.H., reported that, overall, sales in this category are climbing,
and animal parts such as pig ears, chicken feet and pizzle sticks are popular
with dog owners. Jacques attributed increased sales, in part, to installing a treat
bar at the checkout counter for impulse purchases.
Consumers also are interested in products that are long lasting, said Jamie
Idzi, owner of Yuppy Puppy in Bethany Beach, Del.
Pattie Boden, owner of Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., said,
“We’ve seen a big shift from baked biscuits to training-size treats, any kind of
meat-based treat like jerky or small treats, and chews that are not bones but
longer lasting kinds of body parts.”
The treats and chews category is quite crowded, which can be
tricky for manufacturers that want to keep things fresh.
“You really need to differentiate yourself from the other
‘chicken, beef and fish’ treats,” said Art Nakagawa, president of
Other manufacturers are following suit, such as Plato Pet Treats
in Fresno, Calif., which is adding a vegetable option to its Thinkers
line as well as exotic proteins.
Jones Natural Chews in Rockford, Ill., recently added several
products to its lineup such as bully basted and smoked pork skin,
liver log jerky and beef ligament strap. This month, the company
plans to launch a line of exotic proteins and more, said Joe
Wallington, president of Jones Natural Chews.
This month at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., Whitebridge
Pet Brands in St. Louis will also unveil new proteins such as lamb,
salmon and turkey, with a focus on the meaty treat segment with
jerkies, meatballs and high-protein meat-first biscuits.
It is important for retailers to update their stock, adding new
products while discontinuing slow-moving ones as well, said Curt
Jacques, president of West Lebanon Feed and Supply in West
“If we don’t change the offerings, customers get bored,” he
Sometimes, the addition of a new product can boost sales in
“After introducing Earth Animal’s No-Hide chew line, sales
exploded,” said Jamie Idzi, owner of Yuppy Puppy in Bethany
Another newbie on the shelf at Yuppy Puppy is Icelandic+ lamb
horns, which has similar appeal to customers, Idzi added.
While treats can be an indulgence,
they can also be functional and health-
ful, which is what manufacturers often
aspire to when they introduce new
treats to the market.