TWEETS ABOUT TREATS
With so many choices available in the treats and chews categories, independent pet specialty
retailers can expect consumers to have questions, said industry participants.
Online education, particularly through social media, is a popular method of educating the
consumer, and in support of their retail partners, many manufacturers, such as Artvark Pet
Products, are doing just that.
“We believe telling our story to as many end consumers [as possible] will drive them to their
local pet store,” said Art Nakagawa, president of the Van Nuys, Calif.-based company. “This,
ultimately, helps both the end consumer and our independent store and distributor partners.”
Treats are not a complicated story, said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing at
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
“But while most people think of them as just a pure indulgence, they can be yummy and
functional at the same time,” she said. “That’s where we differentiate ourselves from the
others. Owners don’t want to feed junk, so we talk about ingredient sourcing, the manufacturing
process and the nutritional benefits.”
Manufacturers often work in tandem with retailers to enlighten the consumer about the
products they sell.
“It really comes down to matching pet parents with the best-fit products, and that can only
be done if retailers are familiarized with their inventory,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder and
senior vice president of sales and education at Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn.
While social media is an ever-increasingly popular means to educate the consumer, the
personal touch goes a long way, too.
“Our team is very hands on when working with a customer, so many times the purchase
is because of our recommendations,” said Pattie Boden, owner of Animal Connection in
At West Lebanon Feed and
Supply in West Lebanon, N.H., the
store provides signage to help
consumers distinguish between
the types of chewers their dogs
are, such as passive grazers
and gulpers, for example, which
enables consumers to make the
correct choice for their dog, said
president Curt Jacques.
At the Yuppy Puppy in Bethany
Beach, Del., owner Jamie Idzi
makes it a point to learn about
the products she stocks through
suppliers, personal experience
and her own research—and she
uses that knowledge to help
select the best products for her
“An educated consumer is
an engaged consumer,” Idzi said.
“Education makes a brand-new and ‘foreign’ product more
approachable, it builds trust and
loyalty, and allows consumers to
make product decisions with
LET THE DOGS CHOOSE
Sometimes the best market
research can be conducted in-
store by the target consumer: the
dog itself. Stores such as West
Lebanon Feed and Supply in West
Lebanon, N.H., offer treats at the
checkout counter to visiting dogs.
“We typically will get 75-plus
dogs in our store a day, and it’s a
great chance to ‘test’ in action,”
said president Curt Jacques.
The retailer also uses social
media and asks its customers for
input before introducing a new
product, Jacques said.
“Facebook is a good way
to get the word out, and most
of our brick-and-mortar retail
partners have pages too, so it’s
something we can partner on,”
said Ann Hudson, vice president
of marketing of Whitebridge Pet
Brands in St. Louis.
“Inside the stores, we are
starting to cross-merchandise
treats with the food,” Hudson
added. “People don’t always
realize that a brand they trust
for nutrition also makes great