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July 5, 2016

Consumers are invested in selecting eco-friendly products that are good for their pets. According to a report from Packaged Facts, combined sales of natural pet care products will grow by 10-15 percent over the period from 2014-17. Sales are projected to reach $9.4 billion by 2017, doubling from an estimated $4.1 billion in 2012.

Yet with an expanding industry comes popular buzzwords such as “all natural” and “organic.” These terms can be misleading and create distrust among consumers.

“Virtually every pet food and treat calls itself ‘all-natural’ these days,” said Anthony Bennie, co-founder and chief nutrition officer of Clear Conscience Pet. “But there are no regulations that define these terms, and mega corporations have learned to employ these buzzwords, which has put consumers in the position of not knowing what is really the best for their pets. That’s why we came up with the CleanLabel line, which respects consumers by giving them information that is easy to understand.”

Making Better Choices
Consumers demand high standards and quality control in manufacturing, sourcing and packaging processes, and make it clear that they expect the same standards for their pets’ treats and chews, too.

“Treat selection is a natural extension of these better food choices,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder of Bravo.

Chewing is natural for pets and can help behavioral health as well as their physical health.

“Dogs have a natural instinct for our type of products,” said Suzanne Madenis, who works in marketing at Jones Natural Chews. “Gnawing on bones and munching on meat treats is what they would do in the wild. It’s something that dogs not only enjoy, but need to do to be completely content.”

As more pet owners watch their pets battle obesity or have reactions to common proteins, there is a call for leaner alternative proteins. Whether it’s alligator jerky, bison bones or naturally shed elk antlers, there are plenty of exotic proteins available to pets.
However, stocking all-natural chews that pets love and pet owners will buy is not always simple.

“When it comes to keeping dogs of any size happy, engaged and occupied, it all comes down to the aroma, texture and taste,” said Bill Chilian, marketing vice president at Barkworthies. “Our Goat Horn chews offer pet parents a new, enduring way to keep their dogs occupied and happy. They’re composed of a dense keratin outside layer with nutrient-rich marrow inside, so they’re durable, appetizing and challenging enough to offer even aggressive chewers.”

Barkworthies offers a natural kangaroo steak made of all-natural, free-range Australian kangaroo that is rich in iron, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12.

“Whimzees are long-lasting chews made from potato starch, a highly digestible, gluten-free source of energy,” said Lion Houkes, global marketing director at Paragon Pet Products. “The limited, natural ingredients in Whimzeez offer a high quality vegetarian option to your pet that promotes dental/oral health, but with a taste and texture dogs adore.”

Fewer Ingredients
“I think we’ll continue to see a trend toward simplification and minimization of ingredient decks,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “As customers become more attuned to their pets’ food sensitivities and allergies, they’ll seek out food solutions that are formulated without the ingredients their pets can’t tolerate.”

“We’ll also continue to see a trend towards pet owners being more in charge of what they put in their pets’ bowls, meaning an increase in customization of mealtimes, mix-in and topper products that add variety and nutritional elements that may not exist in their pets’ basic core diets,” Postins said. “This trend is another element of the humanization of pet food, and wanting to feed cats and dogs a more varied diet rather than a monotonous diet of ‘fast food’ every day without any variations.”

For pet owners who want an alternative to meat, Himalayan Dog Chews are a favorite. The chews utilize an ancient recipe of yak and cow milk to create an extremely hard cheese that dogs love. The company reports that these products last, on average, five to seven times longer than bully sticks.

Copper’s Classics products are minimally processed, single ingredient chews that are made with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Program products are exclusively sourced from animals born and raised in the U.S. and are produced and packaged solely in U.S. plants that uphold the highest standards in food safety.

“Being trusted with the welfare of our customers’ pets is a responsibility we take very seriously,” said Rebecca Deveau-Greene, program development manager at JBS USA, maker of Copper’s Classics. “We only offer products that we feel comfortable feeding to our own dogs.”

“Ingredient purity and integrity are paramount,” Postins agreed. “Customers should seek out treats that are free of added chemical preservatives, artificial palatants and sweeteners. Wishes are a pure fish treat made from wild, line-caught Icelandic haddock with nothing added at all, and can easily be snapped into smaller pieces for smaller pets.”

Natural Chews for Pocket Pets
“When stocking natural chews, it’s important to remember that all species can benefit from chewing, particularly rabbits and other cavies, whose teeth continuously grow,” said Lisa Kniceley, marketing director of Vitakraft Sunseed. “Rabbits need to chew, both for physical and psychological reasons. Vitacraft Sunseed provides interactive treats and chews that help all small animals keep their teeth. Our Vita Prima Garden Pops Strawberry is a toy and a treat, and our new Sunsations Brain Teaser is a way for pet parents to interact with their guinea pigs.”

Super Chews from

“Our Super Chews help satisfy a ferret’s natural chewing instinct and prevents destructive chewing,” said Linda Cope, marketing director for Marshall Pet. “Best of all, they are protein-based and free of sugar and preservatives, making them a fun and healthy treat.”

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