Pet Treats are a Multibillion-
Dollar Business—and Growing
BY DAVID LUMMIS
One day in the mid-1800s, James Spratt, an American liv- ing in London, fancied he could do better than the biscuit scraps he observed being wolfed down by stray dogs in a
shipyard—and he did. Visionary that he was, however, he probably had no idea how much impact his commercial dog biscuits
would have. By the end of World War II, dog food, including
treats, was a $200 million business, and more than 70 years later,
U.S. pet owners are laying out upward of $6 billion per year on
pet treats alone, with 92 percent of dog owners and 80 percent
of cat owners purchasing them.
Given those numbers, it is perhaps not surprising that Spratt’s
dog biscuit epiphany embodies several key trends at play in the
pet market of the 21st century.
Human-style: In Spratt’s day, packaged human foods were
already widely available, whereas packaged foods for pets were
unheard of, so his dog biscuits represented a big human-style
jump. Today, human-style products are an extension of the
“pets as family” trend, with pet owners highly receptive to products similar to the ones they use for themselves. In the treats
market, humanization plays out in product formulation (e.g.,
limited-ingredient products, “superfood” ingredients, human
grade), product appearance, (e.g., toothbrush-shaped treats) and
Health: Spratt’s dog biscuits were almost certainly viewed as
more healthful than the shipyard scraps he improved upon, and
in today’s pet market, healthfulness is arguably the No. 1 product success factor. As of 2017, more than two-thirds of pet owners ( 70 percent) agree that pet treats offering functional benefits
are an important part of their pet’s health care, and 52 percent
of dog owners and 28 percent of cat owners use dental treats.
Superpremium: Simply by virtue of their commercialization,
Spratt’s dog biscuits were no doubt considered top quality. Be-
yond the basics, today’s pet owners are increasingly demanding
pet products that are on par with, if not even higher quality than,
the products they purchase for themselves, and they are willing
to put their money where their mouth is. As of 2017, three-quar-
ters of pet owners agree with the statement “I am willing to pay
more for pet food products that are healthier for my pets.”
Looking ahead, these trends—all still going strong—would
be enough to ensure a bright future for pet treats, but several
other factors also contribute to a healthy outlook. Among these
are the relatively simple formulations of pet treats (unlike pet
food, they do not have to adhere to the Association of Amer-
ican Feed Control Officials’ much-stricter requirements for a
complete and balanced diet, making it much easier for treats
to capitalize on trends such as natural/organic); the relative-
ly small size of treats, which makes them far more nimble in
terms of placement in the myriad channels that now cater to
pets and greatly reduces shipping costs for online orders; and
the “anytime/anywhere” appeal of treats, making them ideal
for pet pampering and gifting and, thus, more likely to be un-
planned, impulse purchases. The sum total is good news for the
pet product progeny of Spratt, with projected annual sales gains
averaging 6 percent lifting the U.S. market for pet treats and
chews to $8 billion by 2021.
David Lummis is the lead pet-market analyst for Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, which
recently published Pet Treats & Chews in the U.S.,
2nd Edition. The survey data cited here are from pet
owner surveys conducted by Packaged Facts in 2017.
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