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Natural Treats for Natural Cats

Stacy Mantle//January 5, 2015//

Natural Treats for Natural Cats

Stacy Mantle //January 5, 2015//

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The treat category saw major changes in 2014 when Petco announced they would no longer sell dog and cat treats that were manufactured in China, a move quickly followed by Petsmart.

It’s a sign of the times that consumers are demanding superior ingredients for their cats. This is something that smaller boutiques already knew.

“Consumers have made it clear they are interested in high quality, natural nutrition for their pets and that includes treats,” said David Yaskulka, VP, marketing communications for HALO, Purely for Pets.

Treats for Specific Functions

With such a wide selection of treats to choose from, it’s important that retailers learn to effectively communicate the benefits of ingredients to consumers. Whether its coconut oil and pumpkin to assist with hairball control or hibiscus and cranberries to support urinary tract health, employees should be able to identify the benefits of specific ingredients.

“Retailers must have a strong understanding of how to communicate nutritional benefits,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior manager, marketing communications for WellPet. “A key approach to training employees on food labeling is understanding the order in which ingredients are listed, what the nutritional value and health benefits of these various ingredients are and how each type of treat can satisfy different flavor preferences, lifestyles and nutritional needs.”

Manufacturers are identifying ways to communicate benefits to consumers by making clear packaging and education a priority.

Loving Pets recently launched TreatFinder technology on their new website, which allows retailers and consumers to enter specific criteria to be matched with an individual solution that fits their individual needs.

“Loving Pets goes the extra mile by offering in person training with customers to showcase new products and talk one-on-one about the ingredients, affordability and quality,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets.  “Also, by supporting the distribution of free samples, retailers can let their customers try a new product or sample a favorite at no cost.”

“Holistic and natural options have increased substantially,” said Yaskulka. “Independent pet retailers have a great opportunity to offer personalized service and advice to pet owners looking for the best treats for their cat. Finding out the customer’s purpose for the treats is important. Treats for training, for example, may need to be different than those given simply as treats. Understanding the reason for the purchase will help employees make good recommendations.”

Increasing Your Inventory

Pricing of items is important but it may be less important than we think. With the economy showing some improvement and cat owners taking an increased interest in their pets’ health, price is becoming less of a variable.

“It is important not to overlook high-end treats when stocking a section,” said Fritz Goodnow, chief operating officer, partner of Rush Direct Inc. Pet Products. “Customers are looking for premium healthy alternatives to reward their cats and are willing to spend more money for fantastic items that are biologically appropriate and loved by their pets.”

When selecting types of treats to stock for retail sales, Leary-Coutu suggests focusing on a variety.

“In addition to being tasty, we aim to create recipes that will improve your cat’s overall health—like our new grain-free Kittles treats, which launched earlier this year.”

What flavors do our favorite carnivores prefer? It depends on who you ask. But in most cases, chicken is still in the lead for feline favorite followed by salmon and tuna.

“Demand for all-natural treats continues to rise, as does the request for allergen-free treats. Use their current diet as a way to determine the best treats for them,” recommends Drea Williams, marketing manager for NPIC. “Customers may have to try a variety before figuring out their cat’s preferences. The first choice is typically between buying soft treats or crunchy treats. If the cat normally eats dry food, then I usually recommend trying the crunchy treats first. The next hurdle is finding a flavor they like. Once again, their food is a good guide.  If the food is chicken flavored then try a chicken-flavored treat first.”

Fringe Benefits of Feline Treats

Treats now serve a purpose.

While many cat owners just give their pets a treat to show love, the majority are seeking a solution to a problem. From dental care and urinary tract health to hairball relief and even weight loss, treats are increasingly being used to assist in managing health as well as to reward.

“Treats are a fun way for us to interact with the cats we love!  As responsible pet parents we should look for healthy alternatives that are biologically appropriate and that our cats will really enjoy,” said Goodnow.  “Our cats are characters and will prefer one taste over another depending upon their mood so offering a variety of natural protein rich treats allows us to match a great treat to our furry family members.”