In the past, rawhide has held the lead in the dog chew category. These days, consumers demand healthy but innovative products that are easily digestible, devoid of preservatives and safe for pets.
“Blueberries and fruit juices provide the unique blue coloring of indigo Fresh Floss Bones,” said Tracey Quillin, category manager, consumables at PetSafe. “These chews get their long-lasting, chewy texture from tapioca and potatoes. These root veggies are natural dietary choices and offer a grain-free alternative for pups suffering from wheat sensitivities.”
Preservatives have always been a concern for pet owners, prompting some manufacturers to return to “old world” techniques.
“I attended French culinary school, and was taught a lot about food and food science there,” said Stephen Trachtenberg, owner of Chasing Our Tails. “We do not use preservatives of any kind. Instead, we use a process called ‘charcuterie’ to preserve our smoked bones. This is the same process used on Procuitto di parma in Italy or Iberico hams in Spain.”
Environmentally-conscious owners actively seek out products that utilize sustainable resources and fair-trade ingredients. As a result, leaner and more sustainable proteins, such as bison and alligator meat, can now be found on the market.
For example, Barkworthies, offers a chew made from all-natural Australian crocodile. It makes a good alternative to pork, beef and chicken and is high in antioxidants. They also offer more exotic chews such as kangaroo.
Their Natural Kangaroo Steak is a hypoallergenic dog chew made of all-natural, free-range Australian kangaroo. It is also rich in iron, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12.
Himalayan Dog Chews come from an ancient recipe for a hard cheese that combines traditional manufacturing practices with yak and cow milk. The result is a very hard cheese that dogs love to chew. These products are completely digestible and nutritious. On average, these chews last five to seven times longer than bully sticks.
Fish products are also popular. “Beams are made from 100 percent pure Icelandic fish skin that’s dried into a chewy stick,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “Long lasting and a healthier alternative to conventional dog chews, Beams are irresistibly tasty and a good source of omega fatty acids.”
It’s important for retailers to understand the pros and cons associated with each type of chew so they can educate pet owners.
“Jones products are all derived from meat,” said Suzanne Madenis, 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 have to be completely content. “
For dogs requiring longer-lasting chews, antlers may be a solution.
“Antlers are a wonderful product not just for big chewers, but for all dogs,” said Cindy Dunston Quirk, chief dog lover at Scout & Zoe’s. “The antlers are naturally shed by elk here in the United States and are a natural source of calcium and phosphorous.”
In Packaged Facts’ August 2012 Pet Owner Survey, 38 percent of pet owners felt that natural/organic brand pet products are often better than standard national brand products, and 63 percent reported they are very concerned about the safety of the pet products they buy.
“Our beef marrow bones are from 100 percent grass-fed cattle, pasture raised on Midwest family farms without antibiotics, added hormones or grains,” said Justin Magnuson, director of sales & marketing for Raw Bistro. “Marrow is high-fat so be aware of how often you’re giving bones to your pets to avoid digestive upset.”
Chews for Other Species
While most people think of dogs and cats in this popular category, there is also a growing demand for innovative chewing products for small pets.
The very act of chewing is important for most species of pets. In dogs, chewing can offer solace and help alleviate behavior problems while helping to eliminate plaque and strengthen jaws. Pets that are herbivores like rabbits and guinea pigs, must chew in order to keep their teeth, which grow continuously at a healthy length.
“Rabbits need to chew, both for physical and psychological reasons,” said Lisa Kniceley, marketing director of Vitakraft Sunseed. “Vitacraft Sunseed provides interactive treats and chews that help all small animals keep their teeth healthy. We produce several treats here that help with that. One is our Vita Prima Garden Pops Strawberry, which is a toy and a treat, and our new Sunsations Brain Teaser is a way for pet parents to interact with their guinea pigs.”
Ferrets can’t resist chewing or snacking either, so a toy that is also a treat makes a great choice.
“Our Super Chews 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 from sugar and preservatives, making them a fun and healthy treat.”
Cuttlebones offer essential minerals that help to strengthen the keratin that makes up a bird’s beak. Specialty chew toys, such as those available from Kaytee help control problem chewing.