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Treat Them Right


Good behavior pays off big time for Buster Tortorice.

The 2-year-old collie-shepherd mix, adopted by the Tortorice family, of Oak Park, Ill., in May 2014, is usually rewarded two to three times each day with a variety of treats.

“He would eat anything!” notes Kathy Tortorice, who watches the nutritional content of the goodies Buster gets. “I buy only those that don’t list bone meal, propylene glycol, lots of dyes or MSG as ingredients. … Occasionally, he gets an orange section or a piece of real banana. We use an elk antler to satisfy his chewing urges.”

The Tortorices are among a growing number of pet owners helping to heat up the pet treat category.

January 2015 data from Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts show that about three-fourths of dog and cat owners purchase pet treats, which are becoming a significant part of the pet food marketplace, according to Shannon Brown, a pet industry market research analyst who worked on Packaged Facts’ “Pet Treats in the U.S.” report.

“For the dog and cat products market, treats made up approximately 16 percent of the pet food market in 2014, for a total approaching $5 billion across all channels,” says Brown. “Approximately 80 percent of the market is made up of dog treats, but cat treats are now growing at a slightly greater rate than dog treats. Moreover, pet treat sales have been outpacing overall pet food sales over the past several years.”

Information from a Euromonitor report, “Dog Food in the US July 2014,” mirrors Packaged Facts’ data. The report from London-based Euromonitor identifies dog treats as “another significant engine of growth in 2013 … achieving high growth in both value and volume terms (8 percent and 4 percent, respectively).”

Current Treat Trends

What’s driving the demand for pet treats?

According to Packaged Facts’ “U.S. Pet Market Trends and Outlook” seminar at the 2015 Global Pet Expo, in Orlando, Fla., pet treats have grown their share of the overall pet product market due, in part, “to the robust interest in functional treats as a way to ameliorate pet health conditions and promote overall wellness.”

For example, 29 percent of dog owners and 24 percent of cat owners purchase treats with special nutritional benefits, Brown notes.

This growing preference for healthy treats has spurred new product introductions. Menomonie, Wis.-based Vets Plus recently debuted Probios yogurt-favored soft-chew supplements that combine the benefits of probiotics plus prebiotics, targeted vitamins, minerals and herbs, and Probios Dental Sticks featuring yogurt, which support healthy digestion with prebiotics and probiotics. Also new to Vets Plus: veterinarian-formulated Smart Fido USA for dogs and Smart Kitty USA for cats — product lines offering a range of gluten- and soy-free supplements and treats.

Loving Pets Products offers Natural Value dog treats, which are wheat-, soy- and gluten-free, and Purely Natural cat treats with no additives, glycerins, artificial preservatives or fillers. Further, a new treat — crunchy, all-natural Puffsters, made without additives, glycerin, preservatives, soy or corn — is coming soon, according to the Cranbury, N.J.-based company’s website.

Recent acquisitions also underscore the important role pet treats now play in many companies’ pet food portfolios.

In January 2014, St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina PetCare purchased Zuke’s Treats, whose lineup of natural pet treats includes Z-bones, edible grain-free dental chews, and Hip Action for dogs and Natural Purrz for cats. In February 2014, Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill branched into the pet treat and chew arena with the acquisition of Pet Carousel, a manufacturer of bones, chews and rawhides with no additives or preservatives.

Other trends, according to Packaged Facts’ Brown, include:

  • ➤ Made in the USA: Safety concerns about products made in China have prompted some stores to pull those treats. “However, consumers should be aware that ‘Made in the USA’ products may contain ingredients that come from elsewhere, and thus may still pose a potential risk,” Brown cautions. Locally sourced ingredients are a related trend, she adds.
  • ➤ Grain-free/ancestral diet: This mirrors what’s happening in the overall pet food market — the use of exotic proteins such as elk, duck and bison, Brown explains.
  • Humanization: This includes exotic flavors and human-style presentations.
  • ➤ Neutraceutical ingredients: These include coconut oil, chia seeds and flax oil, says Brown.
  • ➤ Small-batch, handmade-style treats

All signs point to continued growth for the pet industry, which continues to outpace most other retail segments, according to Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the Greenwich, Conn.-based American Pet Products Association. “For 2015, we are projecting [the industry] to surpass the $60 billion mark, which demonstrates the strength and vitality of this industry,” he noted at the 2015 Global Pet Expo.

As information from Packaged Facts notes, “The pet market’s longer-term growth and prospects have continued to attract new players, expanding the range of marketers and retailers vying for a slice of the pie.”

Since pet treats comprise a significant portion of the overall pet product market, stocking a variety of treat items in the pet aisle would be a wise step for retailers hungry for a piece of the profits.

“For the dog and cat products market, treats made up approximately 16 percent of the pet food market in 2014, for a total approaching $5 billion across all channels.”
—Shannon Brown, Packaged Fac

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