By Eric Stenson
It’s all about the ingredients when it comes to treats and chews and making sure your pets are getting the right things when you opt to indulge their taste buds in something special. According to Whole Dog Journal, whole food ingredients make a big difference in giving your pet a treat you can feel good about. Every ingredient on the label should be an easily recognizable food; there should be no question what the source is, the article cites. Organic ingredients are also seen as beneficial.
Keeping ingredients limited is also a big factor in producing healthy, natural treats and chews, according to Ryan Yamka, chief science officer at Earth Animal in Southport, Connecticut. Earth Animal’s line of No-Hide treats includes chicken, venison, beef, pork and salmon varieties.
“All of our No-Hide product line only contains seven ingredients, with no preservatives and no added synthetic vitamins or minerals,” Yamka said. “Additionally, our No-Hide product line is handmade in small batches in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Lastly and more importantly, our protein sources come from humanely raised animals.”
Natural, limited-ingredient products contribute to overall operating philosophy, Yamka continued.
“Although we are a dog- and cat-solution-oriented company, it is very important for us to think about all of Earth’s animals,” he said. “This includes how ingredients are sourced, the benefits our products provide dogs and cats, and how we impact our environment (via sustainability).”
Given the success of the company’s No-Hide treats, Yamka says there’s a vegetarian version in the works, slated to be unveiled at Global Pet Expo.
A Human Twist
Green Coast Pet of Pasadena, California, produces Pawnut butter (made with peanuts and flaxseed), applesauce (with or without pumpkin), Hemp+SuperBlend Soft Chews (in chicken and whitefish varieties), Full-Spectrum Hemp Soft Chews (in peanut butter and whitefish varieties) and also HempButter Peanut Butter Flavor.
“Opposed to the industry standard of using heat to manufacture hemp chews, Green Coast Pet uses a cold-extrusion method,” said Nick Massey, chief executive officer. “The no-heat manufacturing assures that all ingredients retain their potency.”
Massey indicated that Green Coast Pet always tries to balance between flavor and well-being for pets.
“For example, the peanuts and flaxseed in our Pawnut Butter are great sources of ALA Omega 3 fatty acid,” he said. “Our unsweetened applesauce with pumpkin has both apples, a great source of pectin, and pumpkin, which is great for maintaining gastrointestinal health.”
People want pets to eat like they would themselves, and consumers are eating simpler foods, Massey said.
“Our Pawnut Butter, Unsweetened Applesauce, and Unsweetened Applesauce with Pumpkin were created with this in mind,” he said. “These products are packaged like the foods people buy for themselves and they have two, three and four ingredients respectively. Every dog knows that people food is an extra special treat.”
Upcoming new products from Green Coast Pet include eLicksers Peanut Butters, which focus on hip/ joint and inflammation support, as well as extremely soft peanut butter cups and dual-layer Ham & Cheese Bites.
Loving Pets of Cranbury, New Jersey, makes Houndations (small, soft- chew treats for smaller dogs) in chicken, duck, lamb, salmon and beef as well as Natural Value Treats, designed to be affordable and made with all-USA sourcing, in several varieties of chicken, duck and beef in stick, tender and sausage forms.
The company also produces ActivPetz Treats, which contain therapeutic supplement levels made of real meat and fish that are grain-, wheat-, gluten-, soy- and corn-free. ActivPetz is available in four therapeutic formulas and two varieties: Digestive Health Probiotics (chicken and lamb); Hip and Joint (beef and chicken); Multivitamin & Immune Booster (chicken and duck) as well as Skin and Coat (chicken and salmon).
“The ‘humanization’ of treats for all pets (not just dogs) continues to transition from a trend to something that is here to stay,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder. “Pet parents are seeking USA-made treats that contain carefully selected ingredients that they recognize on an easy-to-understand ingredient panel and a healthy, tasty treat or chew that promotes their pet’s good health in a taste they will love.”
To Abbey, retailers need to keep customer needs as their priority when it comes to maintaining and enhancing their presence in this marketplace.
“Since the human pet parent is making the purchasing decision, retailers want to offer treats that their customers can easily relate to and understand the ingredients and benefits,” he said. “Also, companies use eye-catching packaging to clearly call out what’s in and sometimes what’s out.”
Natural Cravings and Barking Buddha of Homestead, Florida, make a wide variety of chews, bully sticks, jerky strips, and bones. They keep close to basics with many of their products, using ears, tracheas, hock bones and kneecaps as some of the primary source ingredients, according to Lucy Caprez, marketing director.
“Pretty much anyone can make a roasted bone or bully or even treats,” she said. “What we decided to do to truly separate ourselves was to have what we call ‘the strange and unusual.’”
The company set up both brands to help establish a presence in different markets, Caprez explained.
“An important competitive advantage for us has been having two separate brands,” she said. “We are able to maintain our USA-brand purity for Natural Cravings by creating a new line, Barking Buddha, that allows us to bring in grass-fed and free-range USDA-quality products from South America at a competitive price point, filling that gap in the market of the pet owner that wants USA quality at a more affordable price.”
New products include the USA Angus Beef Tendons to the Natural Cravings line and a 12-inch Beef Weasand Chew for Barking Buddha, with a launch of grass-fed and free-range Bully Pretzels arriving soon.
From a retailer perspective, Paula Jaffe and Sue Hepner, owners of Cool Dog Gear in North Wales, Langhorne and Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, see increasing interest in the natural treat marketplace. Brands they carry include Earth Animal, 3 Dog Bakery, Gibson’s Dog Treats, as well as Brewscuits and Puppy Cake, both of which are Pennsylvania-based brands.
“[Customers] want more natural and more limited ingredients and more locally sourced,” Jaffe said. “They like that we’re finding local companies to make our treats.”
Hepner added that human-grade ingredients are also key factors in what consumers are looking for when shopping for natural treats and chews.