August 1, 2016

Lacking pearly whites, birds may never have a “sweet tooth” like their human companions experience, but they do get a mean case of “treat beak” that can only be satiated by indulging in tasty snacks, delicious nibbles and between-meal yummies. And that’s where you come in, Mr. and Ms. Pet Retailer—when Polly needs a sweet fix, you fill in as the go-to candyman.

After all, daily diets are staples that bring shoppers back. But bird treats grow the basket and ensure that the customer leaves with a smile, which is why it pays to stock an ample supply of avian delicacies and scrumptious delights.

The good news is that most bird snacks today aren’t the guilty pleasure junk foods of yesteryear. Chances are they’re likely packed with nutrients and feel-good ingredients designed to both please the palate and promote health and well-being.

Wholesome and Profitable
Teri Applegate, certified avian specialist with Ceres, California-based Volkman Seed Factory, said consumers are brushing up on the health and welfare of their companion birds—thanks in large part to the Internet and social media—and are willing to spend more money on healthier treats today.

“As customers are becoming more educated about the needs of their birds, they are looking for organic and all-natural treats and foods,” Applegate said. “A great deal more thought and research is being given to choices in treats. And with the idea of enrichment catching on, treats that encourage natural behaviors such as foraging and chewing are becoming more popular, too.”

Sue Brown, vice president of sales and marketing for F.M. Brown’s in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, agrees that treats loaded with nutritious, nourishing and natural ingredients are hot.

“Bird owners are very selective about treats and want to make sure that they are giving their pets healthy options,” said Brown, whose company provides an all-natural line of Tropical Carnival treats that includes Natural Orange Slices, Baked Pretzels, Baked Crisp Treats, Natural Sweet Potato Yummies, Yogurt Yummies, Zoo-Vital Biscotti treats, Jumbo Foxtail Millet and its newest offering: Melody Mix, a tasty foraging blend for parakeets and canaries.

“Avian dietary needs are unique, and many treats nowadays offer a way to increase diversity in a way that is healthy and easy to feed,” said Tim Norsen, national sales manager for Vitakraft Sun Seed, Inc., in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Case in point: Sunseed Grainola bars are handmade treats made from all-new recipes introduced last year, containing a mixture of grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables—including some with quinoa, mountain ash berries and pumpkin seed hearts.

Tremendous Treat Variety
Some of the healthiest edibles available today come from Goldenfeast’s Healthy Treat line, which offers Cranberries, rich in phytochemicals linked to reducing cancer and cardiovascular issues; Macadamias in the Shell; and Spirulina, a highly nutritious blue-green algae.

When it comes to treat sticks, Hagen has carved out a strong corner of the market, as evidenced by its Living World Sticks, available for cockatiels, budgies, canaries, finches and parrots, and offered in honey, fruit or vegetable flavors. Each is a crunchy triple-baked treat that contains high-quality seeds, grains and fruits and features a natural wood center that’s safe to chew. Hartz also offers a varied line of sticks under its Bonanza line, including orange citrus-flavored treats for parakeets and cockatiels, honey vanilla-flavored treats for parakeets, and peanut butter-flavored sticks for parrots.

Caitec’s kitchen serves up three popular flavors of Baked Birdie Munchies with all-natural ingredients: Cran-Blueberry, Veggie Delight and Tropi-Fruit Medley.

Yogurt-topped treats are prominently promoted by many manufacturers, including Kaytee, whose Fiesta line boasts blueberry-flavored Yogurt-Dipped Sunflower Seeds, mango-flavored Yogurt-Dipped Papaya and Yogurt-Dipped Treats, and strawberry/banana-flavored Yogurt-Dipped Treats.

Birds may be banned from movie theaters, but they can still have their popcorn—and eat it, too—thanks to Lafeber’s Popcorn Nutri-Berries Gourmet Treats for cockatiels or parrots, made with fresh popcorn and peanuts, and infused with a caramel flavor.

Appealing to Patrons
As retailers become increasingly pressured for space, “the bird department often gets fractured,” Norsen said. “Treats and accessories tend to be merchandised away from the diets, which dramatically decreases sales of these items.”

Instead, he said, treats, toys and accessories “should occupy the prime visual space with diets secondary but within the same space.”

Norsen also recommends placing treats on clip strips near avian diets and livestock, and adjacent to the register.

Applegate suggests bundling choice treats within cage starter kits.

“It’s a good way to encourage customers to try treats for their birds that they might otherwise overlook or be hesitant to try,” she said.

Applegate adds that offering a wide variety and consistent inventory of bird treats is important to keeping shoppers coming back.

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