More Than a Treat
Pet owners are on the hunt for nutritious, entertaining and innovative treats, chews and toys for their small animals.
BY E THAN D. MIZER
The small animal segment is growing, and with it, so are sales of treats, chews and toys, accord- ing to pet specialty retailers. These products
help bring customers back in-store for repeat purchases and offer retailers a way to help pet owners
connect with their small pets.
Increasingly, customers are seeking products that
both encourage interaction with their small animal
companions and keep pets occupied when alone.
“The treats and toys [customers] can give pets
for training or interaction are doing well,” said Nate
Infurna, manager of Pratt’s Pets in Glendale, Ariz.
“Foraging treats and chews also seem to have taken
off. It gives the animals something to do when the
owner is not home.”
Treats and chews that are both healthful and stim-
ulating are particularly in demand.
“It isn’t just a consideration from the health stand-
point anymore,” said Kathy Sunvison, manager at
Gallery of Pets in Austin, Texas. “We try to get [cus-
tomers] to offer treats and chews that will help keep
Interactive products that serve multiple functions
are increasingly popular, too.
“[Customers] like knowing that they are giving
their animal something healthy,” said Katie Freres,
small animal senior associate brand manager for
Kaytee, a brand of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Cen-
tral Garden & Pet, adding that retailers and custom-
ers are looking for “two-in-one” products.
“Treats that can also be used as a toy or hideout as
well as food are in demand right now,” Freres said.
Lucas Stock, communications manager for Oxbow
Animal Health in Omaha, Neb., also noted the growing consumer interest in treats, chews and toys that
accommodate small animals’ need for stimulation.
“Toys that challenge and engage pets by triggering their natural instincts are very popular with retailers and pet parents who understand the value of
providing enrichment in a pet’s daily life,” he said.
Another growing trend in the treats and chews
category is the demand for items made from natural
ingredients, said industry participants.
“Wholesome chew treats are very popular—
[treats] made from natural, nutritious ingredients
like alfalfa hay, compressed to promote clean,
healthy teeth,” said John Gerstenberger, vice president of product development and sourcing for
Ware Pet Products in Phoenix, adding that customers are looking for treats and chews that humanize
them, such as those that mimic the appearance of
Stock added: “Treats made with natural, wholesome ingredients such as hay, herbs, freeze-dried
fruits and veggies are being requested and purchased
at a strong rate.”
AWARENESS IS KEY
Pet specialty retailers have reported success with emphasizing
education to help boost sales of treats, toys and chews for small
“Education helps us drive sales,” said Kathy Sunvison,
manager at Gallery of Pets in Austin, Texas. “Most of my staff are
trained to take people to [our treats, toys and chews] section,
especially when they first purchase their animal.”
Informational product packaging is among the chief tools
used by retailers to help keep their shoppers in-the-know.
“We explain what these products are a little bit more in
depth,” said Nate Infurna, manager of Pratt’s Pets in Glendale,
Ariz. “It helps if we have information to give them, such as in a
trifold that includes care information. We find a product that we
want to recommend—whether it’s a foraging treat, yogurt rounds
or if it’s a healthy topping product—and then we show customers
the packaging, which usually has a little window to show off the
Having well-informed staff members who can effectively
educate customers about the benefits of offering treats, toys and
chews to their small animals is also key to promoting sales and
“Educating your employees is so important,” said Katie
Freres, small animal senior associate brand manager for Kaytee,
a brand of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet.
“When they can talk about the importance of treats, toys and
chews, especially to new animal owners, you will see them
Offering treats, chews and toys is one way for
retailers to help owners connect with their pets.