Little Treat, Big Reward
Pet owners seek out flavor-packed treats with wholesome ingredients. REDBARN PET PRODUCTS
BY LINDSE Y GE TZ
Treats might be a quick reward, but most dog owners are still ooking for something that delivers. Aside from flavor, pet owners are concerned with nutrition and ingredients. The
treats category continues to be incredibly popular. Rashell Cooper,
marketing director for Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif.,
said that the category has grown exponentially over the years. But as
pet owners become more educated, they’ve also become more particular about what they want out of a treat. The grocery store variety
of treats no longer cuts it for many owners.
Carmen Alcalde, co-owner of Bad Dog Frida in Madison, Wis.,
said that owners are looking for quality, safe ingredients—continuing
the trend seen in food purchases. Shoppers also want to give their pets
something that they’ll enjoy.
“Our criteria for a good treat is one that is soft, smelly and small,”
said Carmen Alcalde, co-owner of Bad Dog Frida in Madison, Wis.
“Many treats we carry are small, but some pet owners do buy bigger
ones and break them into smaller pieces. The idea is to give the dog
something that they can eat really quickly—without losing sight of
why they’re receiving the treat, such as a training task—but that is
still really delicious and rewarding.”
Lisa Gay, co-owner of H3 Pet Supply in Stratford, Conn., agreed
that quality is key for pet owners.
“The trends we see in treats are in line with what we see in food
purchases in general,” Gay said. “Pet parents are looking for a healthy
treat with safe and natural ingredients.”
Consumers want treats made from unique protein sources and
with simple ingredients, and they will turn the bag over to read the
ingredient list on treats they purchase, said Laura Lang, COO of Jones
Natural Chews in Rockford, Ill. Lang said they also are looking to see
whether the product was not only made in the USA, but that ingre-
dients were sourced in the USA. Any time you can highlight those
facts, you are going to draw more attention to a product, Lang said.
Lindsey Testerman, general manager of Lizzi and Rocco’s Natural
Pet Market, which has stores in Columbia, Mo., concurred.
“Many dog parents are interested not only in USA sourced but
even locally sourced,” Testerman said. “We’ve started [selling] spent-grain dog treats that are made from local breweries in town, and
they’ve been incredibly popular.”
Consumers want to reward their
pets with healthful, tasty treats.
KNOW YOUR PRODUCTS
Customer education begins at the store and distribution level, said Heidi L. Nevala, president
of Natura Petz Organics in Minneapolis. It’s important that retailers truly understand the
products they’re selling in order to be able to answer questions and educate customers. To
this end, Nevala suggested that pet specialty retailers take advantage of what manufacturers
and distributors have to offer in terms of training tools.
“For all our brands, we offer educational training videos, as well as video or in-store
training options on using hemp and nutraceuticals for pets—which includes our treat
lines and other products,” Nevala said. “We offer detailed FAQ pages for all our brands, QR
code links to educational audio and video files, plus shelf and bottle talkers, brochures,
POS displays, a sample program and research guides that dive deeper into the ingredients
we use in our lines.”
Rashell Cooper, marketing director for Redbarn Pet Products in Long Beach, Calif.,
agreed that retailers should partner with manufacturers for the best possible customer
“Working alongside brands to display educational materials at point-of-purchase is key to
increasing sales,” she added.
Brad Gruber, president and COO of Health Extension Pet Care in Deer Park, N. Y., agreed,
and said that retailers must know their products inside and out—including the ingredients,
features, benefits and nutrition facts.
“The staff should be very conversant and engaging in asking pet parents questions about
their pets in terms of age, breed, allergies, and specific health and dietary issues,” Gruber said.
“Ask what the treat is being used for, such as training, to address a particular problem or just
as a simple reward.”
Gruber said that this information should help retailers narrow down the best choices for
pet owners. It’s not uncommon for consumers to have a lot of questions about treats, and
retailers should know their assortment well enough to be able to answer confidently, he said.