Less Is Sometimes More
According to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey of 2011-12, 89 percent of dog owners purchased treats for their dog in 2010. Of those 89 percent, 23 percent purchased natural treats, a statistic APPA didn’t keep before 2010.
As the natural trend gains popularity, companies continue to expand the lines they offer and improve their treats.
Sojos uses real whole foods in their treats to help optimize health and wellness.
“Sojos treats are all natural and baked to crunchy perfection,” Maggie Johnson, owner of Sojos, said. “Sojos Good Dog treats are tiny bones packed with the flavors of grandma’s home cooking; chicken pot pie, apple dumpling and blueberry cobbler are among the recipes offered. We also have Sojos grain-free treats; they are made with lamb and sweet potato and duck and cherry. Our big dog line is made using hardy recipes like beef stew and biscuits and gravy.”
Sojos uses a short ingredient list, and their treats are not made with sugar. Another important aspect for Sojos when gaining customers is their packaging.
“Natural pet food and treats attract consumers who want the very best,” Johnson said. “When you are offering premium quality products, ensuring that the packaging is also top-notch is part of the criteria.
“As for us, since we are using human-quality ingredients, we like to illustrate that through our packaging design.
“Our packaging designer does not mimic the pet food industry’s look and feel. Instead she like to reflect the look and feel of premium products you would find at the high end gourmet food market.”
Jesse Figueroa is the 22-year-old owner of Barkn Belly Bakery, a company he started when he was in high school, because his dog almost died from a reaction to a dog treat.
“We are a certified organic dog bakery that uses fondant to decorate our cakes,” Figueroa said. “No other dog bakery has created something like that. We use local organic or all natural ingredients. We are all about the healthy ingredients. My family and I are very into being super healthy, so why shouldn’t we do the same with our pets?”
Figueroa created all his own recipes from scratch and did a lot of experimentation with different ingredients to get the perfect flavor.
“I have been in business technically for four years now,” Figueroa said. “I started it as a hobby and I just created them for my dog originally.”
Jean McCarthy, the owner of New Hampshire-based North Woods Animal Treats, said the company bakes hand-made, small batches of all natural, human grade ingredient cookies.
McCarthy said that the natural section is as large a section of the pet industry as it is in other industries at the moment.
She said everyone wants to live healthier lives and leave a smaller footprint.
“The natural concept is here to stay,” McCarthy said. “We see it getting larger in areas in which we consume, so it will also continue to grow in the pet industry, in all kinds of areas.”
Annette Fry, the founder and chief canine confectioner of Biscuits by Lambchop, originally created the treats for her dog Lambchop, because of his dietary needs.
“I had to cook for him and balance his meal,” Fry said. “It took a couple of months until I was happy with it. I was doing the nutritional analysis for it all as I went along. I have a physical therapy background. At first I was terrified of making a mistake, but it wasn’t that hard once I got over the overwhelming-ness of my dog being sick.”
It’s not just small companies who are creating natural treats.
Pet Botanics has seen their Grain-Free Meaty Treats gain in popularity.
“A large majority of other dog food treats on the market are wheat, rice or corn based,” Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing at Cardinal Pet, said. “The Pet Botanics Grain-Free Meaty Treats contain no grains and their number one ingredient is salmon. They come in two varieties, soft and chewy and crispy and crunchy, and contain Pet Botanics’ Botanifits, a special blend of botanicals that promote long term health, fitness and well being of dogs.”
What makes this better than other natural or non-natural products, according to Denzer?
“By using a highly palatable number one ingredient, like salmon, and by not including any grains, not only are the Pet Botanics Grain-Free Meaty Treats delicious to dogs, but they are actually formulated to be healthy for them, too,” Denzer said. “Ingredients such as salmon help provide omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and Pet Botanics’ Botanifits include green tea, cranberries, peppermint, chamomile and more, which help with everything from bladder health to aiding in digestion.”
Loving Pets has a vast variety of natural treats, like their Barksters Krisps, which are all natural, low in fat and are made using only U.S. farm-grown ingredients.
The sweet potatoes variety contain high levels of Beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports cellular health and eyesight.
The brown rice variety offers dogs a good source of dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and has been known to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Brown rice is also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals.
Whole Life Pet Products offers consumers freeze-dried, single-source treats, including chicken, turkey, beef and cod.
They also produces the only USDA certified organic line of freeze dried treats certified by the Oregon Tilth.
QT Dog offers a line of products specially designed for those who are looking for something natural, but also different.
For example, their ChurpiChews are made from milk, salt and lime juice and have no chemicals or perservatives.
And, it’s not just dogs and cats getting fed more natural options.
Peter’s Nature Treats from Marshall Pet are made with all natural ingredients for rabbits, chincillas, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and other small animals. They are available in banana, papaya, carrot and apple.