The short and sweet secret to sugarcoating sales is simple: offer bird lovers plenty of short and sweet products in the form of tasty avian treats. After all, few things appeal to a winged companion’s palate—and benefit your bottom line—quite like succulent snacks, crunchy morsels and delectable goodies designed to make your register ring.
Indeed, the vast assortment of bird yummies available nowadays is enough to make many pet store owners wish they had a bigger retail footprint to house them all. From savory sticks and round-shaped refreshments to scrumptious muffins and microwavable indulgences, treats are commanding more shelf space and greater attention from consumers in recent years.
In fact, at Varietees Bird Shop in Valley Park, Missouri, the treat category comprises up to 15 percent of the store’s sales.
“We’ve definitely been offering more treats over the past few years, carrying everything from products for canaries through macaws,” said Micki Willhite, Varietees’ manager, who notes that her newest treat is Vitapol’s Smakers treat stick and her most popular is L’Avian Plus’ Crunch & Fun Parrot Treat bar. “More people today want to spoil and pamper their birds by offering them treats. They’re also commonly used to train birds and encourage desired behaviors.”
Mary Wyld, president of Norfolk, Virginia-based Wyld’s Wingdom, agrees.
“Stocking bird treats products is a win for the store, as pet bird owners are constantly trying to spoil their birds with choices,” she said.
Stephanie Carbaugh, marketing and design assistant for Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania-based F.M. Brown’s Sons, Inc., insists that brands are simply catering to greater consumer demand.
“Years ago, when you went to a pet store, there were few options for bird treats on the shelves. Now, manufacturers are producing several different types of treats to accommodate the needs and tastes of all types of birds and bird owners,” Carbaugh said.
The operative word here is “variety,” says Julie Fain, digital marketing and medications coordinator for Vitakraft Sunseed in Bowling Green, Ohio, which has products in more than 50,000 stores around the world.
“Bird owners enjoy having a variety of treats to choose from for their birds, likely because they themselves enjoy variety in their own foods,” Fain said. “Providing a variety of treats is also helpful for keeping birds stimulated and engaged.”
Additionally, “shoppers are more likely to purchase an array of treats for their birds to try out than they are to test out different bird diets,” Fain suggests. “So it’s important to ask the brands you carry about any new treats or different flavors they might have that you can begin to offer.”
Particularly popular over the past year has been snacks that encourage a bird’s natural foraging activity.
“A long-lasting treat that a bird has to work at and which offers a challenge will help prevent boredom,” Fain notes.
Case in point: Sunseed’s Natural Pine Cone Treat, full of nutritious grains, seeds and fruits baked onto a pinecone that birds relish picking apart to acquire the treat hidden inside.
“Natural” and “nutritious” are popular treat attributes that aren’t going away anytime soon, either.
“More of our shoppers are picking natural products and looking closer at the ingredients list on the packaging than they ever have in the past,” Willhite said. “We’re dealing with very smart consumers today who want their pets to eat healthier.”
Among the popular treats that fit this bill are Vitakraft’s Vita Prima Swing Ring Grass Seed and Spinach—a 2 in 1 toy/treat; Brown’s Tropical Carnival Natural line, including Chili Pepper Pods, Orange Slices, and Baked Crisps; Lafeber’s Popcorn Nutri-Berries Gourmet Parrot Treats; and Zupreem’s Real Rewards Orchard Mix Treats for large or medium birds.
“We also continue to see trends in treats that can be soaked or cooked to augment the bird’s diet,” Wyld said. “Many of these foods can be cooked ahead, frozen in ice cube trays and warmed up quickly, and then cooled so as not to be too hot to feed. Birds of all sizes go crazy for them.”
Examples of munchies that require cooking or rehydrating include Harrison’s “bake at home” Hot Pepper Bird Bread Mix; Higgins’ Sunburst Worldly Cuisines microwavable appetizers; Sunseed’s Crazy Good Cookin’ line, featuring Jungle Rice, Nutty Noodle and Pastamoré; and San Francisco Bay Brand’s Vegetable Medley instant treats.
If you want to spike treat sales, aim to make your customers more aware of their presence. That starts by carefully positioning new and swift-selling treats close to the entrance or point-of-purchase. Willhite showcases her new treat additions in a large standing shelf that immediately greets incoming patrons.
“Be sure to also place treats near the regular diets section so they can be seen as a suggestion to spice up the food a bird generally eats,” Wyld suggested. “Also, consider listing treat choices in your store and posting their nutritional values.”
But don’t just rely on signage to do all the work. Train your staff to recommend desirable and healthier treat brands to suggestible shoppers.
“Educate your customers about the nutritional needs of birds and appropriate use of treats via word-of-mouth from your staff, point-of-purchase literature and helpful information posted on your website. Once they are better informed, they can decide what kind of treats are best for their pets,” Carbaugh said.
Think about stocking discounted treat mixes and products in bulk bins, too, which increases treat visibility and rewards thrifty patrons. Willhite provides two dozen different treat bins (dehydrated fruits and veggies top her bulk sales list), including three private label options.
Finally, don’t discard a proven ploy that can help goose treat sales.
“Feed the treats you sell to live birds in your store while customers are watching, and take the treats out of the package and put them on display so shoppers can see and touch them,” Willhite recommended.