July 1, 2015

Indeed, bird treats have the potential to significantly impact your bottom line. Consider the latest numbers: According to recently published data from Packaged Facts, bird treats, along with food diets, comprised nearly 50 percent of bird product sales at independent pet retailers in 2013. To tap into this feeding frenzy for fun munchies, companies continue to roll out new, exciting and colorful treat products.

Tweet-Inducing Treats

“Generally, bird owners look at treats to add variety and excitement to their bird’s diet. This includes foraging opportunities and new ways to bond with the bird and also for reward and training,” said Gail Shepard, director of marketing for ZuPreem, makers of the Smart Snacks line of bird treat biscuits available in Original, Tropical Bird and Blossom Biscuit flavors.

The latest treat trends include products featuring contents sourced and manufactured in the U.S., better-for-you snacks boasting more natural ingredients and food formed into eye-catching, interesting shapes meant to resemble fun objects. Examples of the latter include F.M. Brown’s Falfa Cravins Heart-Shaped Alfalfa Cookies and Hawaiian Delights’ Anise White Millet Star Cookies.

“The category is changing rapidly,” said Shepard. “New food technology and ways to mold or shape treats provide some innovation. Bird owners are always looking for something different when they select a treat, which forces consistent changes in the treat offerings.”

New and Nukable

Dean Reyes, director of marketing and sales for The Higgins Group Corp., the maker of Higgins Premium Pet Foods, concurs that natural and healthy treats are currently all the rage. To cater to this demand, Higgins recently introduced its Worldly Cuisines line of all-natural bird food appetizers that cook up in the microwave.

“Pet owners simply add water to the product pouch, heat in the microwave, cool and serve,” says

Reyes, who adds that the product comes in six exotic flavors that are based on couscous, parboiled basmati rice and quinoa. “The remaining food can be resealed in the same pouch and refrigerated for up to five days.”

Many of today’s treats are also found in smaller and pegged packaging for easy display at retail, which helps when shelf space is limited. And that’s appreciated because display space for the bird category continues to shrink for many stores as manufacturers continue to launch an increasing array of new bird merchandise. Additionally, precious real estate inside stores continues to be turned over to other pet categories that may experience higher product turnover.

Smart retailers, however, are showcasing pet bird food, hard goods and treats together with relatively good success, resulting in increased transaction rings.

Tasty and Playful

Treats that promote fun, foraging and enhanced pet–owner interaction are also preferred purchases nowadays. Case in point: Vitakraft’s Natural SunSations treats, including “pop on the cob” Yumbo Pops and the Brain Teaser, a natural wood puzzle that has treats hidden inside.

Treats like these that double as toys “provide quality time for pets and pet parents, as well as mental enrichment to help satisfy and nurture [the] curious and fun-loving nature of your bird,” said Addie Smith, regional manager for Vitakraft Sunseed.

Taking a Bigger Bite Out of the Category

Store owners can help turbocharge this category by offering a wide selection of treat brands and flavors of the same brand.

“The mistake I see many times is that a retailer will bring in, for example, one or two flavors of a treat line or brand. The products become lost on the shelf or pegboard in the sea of other treats being offered,” says Reyes.

“Bringing in a larger assortment of a new treat from a supplier you support and brand-blocking the treats with the foods from the same supplier will make for a more appealing display and send the message to customers that the retailer is behind these brands,” says Reyes. “End cap displays are also an excellent way to launch new treat items.”

Smith adds that treat products should be merchandised in multiple locations: the treat area, toy area, food area and as a sample in a bird play area.

“Retailers should also suggest to customers that the treats they buy not be kept solely in the cage but removed for quality play time with the bird,” notes Smith.

Rules of the Treat Game

To ensure stronger sales in this category, tried-and-true rules apply: present a clean and well-organized store, employ well-informed team members and beef up your marketing efforts, including social media strategies and special events hosted on site that can build your bird owner customer base.

The goal, said Shepard, “is to get more traffic through the door and then meet the needs of your customers when they are in your store.”

Lastly, remember that these bird treats and products can help boost other areas of your operations.

“When a retailer has a good bird section, they have a better chance of capturing their dog and cat purchases, too, as industry research indicates that bird owners also own other pets—66 percent own a dog and 48 percent own a cat,” said Shepard.

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