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Snacking with Purpose: Bet on the Beneficial Ingredients of Functional Pet Treats

Glenn Polyn//March 1, 2024//

Snacking with Purpose: Bet on the Beneficial Ingredients of Functional Pet Treats

Glenn Polyn //March 1, 2024//

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Some pet treats are designed for sheer indulgence, a decadent snack for pet parents to spoil and reward their companion dog or cat. However, some treats have been formulated to serve a purpose, be it nutritional or for some other health-related cause. These are functional treats.

Functional treats are commonly described as pet treats that are made with natural ingredients to offer nutritional, health-promoting and energy-boosting benefits. More than a decadent snack but not quite a daily supplement, functional treats are enjoyable for a pet to eat while also fortifying its health by offering certain wholesome ingredients that can benefit animal wellness.

For functional treats, the ingredients that encompass the snack are just as important as the benefits they provide. Solution-based treats feature an ingredient list comprised of complementary elements that serve a purpose to promote optimum pet health. It’s the ingredients, which offer functional benefits, that are key to making a functional chew. They provide the right balance of antioxidants, proteins, fatty acids, balanced fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.

By offering solution-focused treats, brands can not only help pet parents reward and interact with their companion animals in a positive way, but they can also aid in improving and enriching the lives of pets with functional ingredients that address common concerns like digestion, immune health, joint support and more. Solution-targeted ingredients commonly include glucosamine, cranberry extract and probiotics.

The treat category is one that is as competitive as it is innovative. Founded in 2015, Whitebridge is a brand that focuses on safety and quality when it comes to its treat brands. Whitebridge offers Dogswell Jerky Treats, functional chews formulated to provide solutions for hip and joint, digestive health and skin and coat issues.

In December, Dogswell expanded its range of U.S.-made, mini-size functional jerky dog treats to include a new Lamb-flavored variety designed to support gut health. Great for smaller and medium-size dogs, the Dogswell Lamb Gut Health Mini Jerky is scientifically formulated to promote healthy digestive systems, while pleasing pups with its chewy texture and delicious meaty flavor.

Made with farm-raised New Zealand-sourced lamb as its No. 1 ingredient, the Dogswell Lamb Gut Health Mini Jerky is not only irresistible to meat-craving canines, it also has a high protein content of 22 percent, which helps maintain muscle mass. The jerky is loaded with supplemental probiotics (1.5×104 CFU/g total microorganisms) for a strong microbiome, supporting GI and digestive health. The recipe also features pumpkin, a great source of fiber to aid in digestion, and ginger, which is known for being a superfood loaded with vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium and Vitamin C.

“The Dogswell Lamb Mini Jerky is the ideal healthy and delicious treat for small and medium-sized dogs, as well as larger ones whose owners want to keep their pets’ food and calorie intake down,” said Caitlin Palmieri, brand manager at Whitebridge. “The functional probiotics and pumpkin recipe will be beneficial, whether given to dogs with sensitive stomachs or proactively as a means of maintaining ongoing digestive health. And the scrumptious lamb flavor will get all dogs drooling.”

Natural Polymer International Corporation, better known as NPIC, is a leading manufacturer of premium pet treats that are meant to enrich the lives of pets, their owners the bond between them. The brand is the maker of Get Naked, an award-winning pioneer that leads in the functional pet treats category.

Through extensive research in the products, the market and the consumers, the brand has identified several key areas that are critical to the wellness of pets. Get Naked is known for its Functional Dental Sticks, which come in with best-selling Chicken flavor and focus on six essential functional areas – Joint, Skin & Coat, Immunity, Digestion, Weight Management and the Puppy life stage. While delivering the dental benefits of reducing the build-up of plaque and tartar through abrasion, these treats feature active functional ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin and probiotics to support the health needs of the dogs.

Get Naked Biteables Functional Soft Treats focuses on such areas as puppy health, kitten health, senior dog health, digestive health and joint health, to name a few. The treats are fortified with functional ingredients that include probiotics, glucosamine, taurine and lysine, depending on the health issue.

This year, dental care is taking center stage for NPIC’s N-Bone. Often overlooked by pet parents, dental hygiene is the focus of N-Bone’s Flossta, which the brand describes as a pioneering dental chew designed to transform the way you can approach your dog’s oral hygiene.

Flossta by N-Bone is not just another dental chew; it represents a paradigm shift in the pet dental care category. With its innovative dual-action formula and floss-like form factor, Flossta stands at the height of innovation in the industry.

At its core, Flossta boasts a unique design engineered to navigate even the most elusive nooks and crannies of a dog’s mouth, reaching those hard-to-access places where plaque and tartar thrive. By doing so, it helps combat plaque buildup and tartar accumulation, thereby reducing the risk of dental issues that can plague our furry companions.

What also sets Flossta apart from conventional dental chews is its incorporation of natural herbs such as parsley and fennel. These botanical ingredients not only lend a refreshing aroma but also contribute to combating bad breath.

Without question, pet parents are discerning about the ingredients that go into their furry friend’s diet. That is why Flossta by N-Bone is free from wheat, corn and soy, and the chew caters to the dietary sensitivities of dogs without the use of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Flossta is made in the U.S.A., adhering to stringent quality standards and manufacturing practices. This not only ensures the safety and reliability of the product, but it also underscores N-Bone’s allegiance to local communities and economies.

Moreover, Flossta tantalizes the taste buds of our four-legged friends with an array of delicious flavors, which include chicken, beef liver and mint. Each chew promises a palatable experience that dogs simply cannot resist, making oral care a delightful part of their daily routine. And Flossta is available in a wide assortment of sizes, including single chews housed in a 16-count counter display, an 8-count bag and a 15-count bag.

Founded in 2005, Pure Treats is a leader in natural dog and cat food, treats and toppers with its PureBites brand, which is known for coining the phrase, “Go ahead, turn the bag around and look at our ingredients.” The brand made a huge splash with its PureBites+ line of Raw Freeze-Dried Treats. For example, its PureBites+ Hip & Joint functional dog treats are the ultimate limited ingredient daily health treat or supplement. The cartilage support treats are made with only five human-grade ingredients: chicken, turmeric, glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate and rosemary extract. Offering amazing functional benefits like 44mg of glucosamine, 31mg of Omega-3 and 347,000 cfu of bacillus coagulans per treat, PureBites+ treats are made using a delicate freeze-drying process that helps preserve fresh raw whole food and functional ingredients. PureBites+ freeze dried treats are ideal for dogs and cats with diabetes, allergies, other health issues, or on restricted diets and allows pet parents the peace of mind in knowing exactly what their furry loved ones are eating every day.

The Canada-based food and treat company also offers Purebites+ Squeezables, which it describes as the ideal treat for pets with health issues, are overweight, diabetic, have allergies, gastrointestinal disorders or are on a restricted diet. Available for both dogs and cats, Purebites+ Squeezables is a line of treats with functional benefits. Available in three health support formulas – Heart & Eyes (with taurine and carrots), Gut & Digestion (with pumpkin and inulin) and Skin & Coat (with Omega-3 and Omega-6) – the creamy treats are made with five high-quality ingredients, and the squeezable pouch can be pegged or merchandised in a tray, driving creased sales and impulse purchasing. High in protein and only 93 calories per pouch, Squeezables are made fresh and have a creamy texture that pets love.

Brands that produce body part chews are also making a splash with functional ingredients. For example, Jones Natural Chews has offered its celebrated stuffed product line for more than 10 years. Last year, the brand launched a seven-inch bare bone, available exclusively in a peanut butter flavor, and a lamb flavor filling that’s available exclusively in the four-inch bare bone.

“Our stuffed product line saw two great new flavor additions in 2022 [in pumpkin and sweet potato], and with the continued demand for stimulating, versatile products we felt that expanding the selection would be beneficial for our customers,” said Jones Natural president Laura Jones.

Stuffed bones are classic chews that help keep a dog’s teeth free from tartar and plaque build-up, while the filling makes for a fabulous 2-in-1 treat that tastes delicious and provides mental stimulation. Jones Natural bones are individually hand-filled which ensures high quality measures are met and are available in an array of packaging options, so store owners are able to make a selection that fits best with their stores’ needs.

Mika & Sammy’s is a pet brand that specializes in body part chews and jerky treats that are U.S.-sourced and made at its Philadelphia facility. Never using additives, preservatives, mold inhibitors, added hormones, animal by-products, fillers or chemicals, the brand describes its treat lineup as more than just tasty snacks.

“They’re packed with health benefits for your pets,” said Mika & Sammy’s owner Erik Senders. “Our jerky treats not only make for a yummy chew but also help keep their teeth clean. The beef treats are great for their skin and coat, giving them a shiny, healthy look. And for those pets needing a little extra joint care, our gullet jerky strips and smoked chicken feet are loaded with glucosamine, chondroitin, and lots of collagen, all super good for keeping their joints happy and healthy.”

Mika & Sammy’s recently added chicken feet to its treat line based on its being rich in collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin to strengthen joint health. Senders describes the addition as the first naturally cold-smoked chicken feet on the market, adding that the chew has been a “huge hit.”

“We wanted to come out with another treat that would also offer health benefits and dogs would love,” Senders recalled. “I kept seeing chicken feet in stores, and the first thing I thought about was being a child visiting my grandmother. She made homemade chicken soup with chicken feet. Every time I mentioned how disgusting chicken feet were, she always said they have lots of collagen. It’s good for you and makes the soup yummy. Recently, I decided to look for myself and realized she was right. They are very healthy with high levels of glucosamine, chondroitin and collagen. But that is not all, they are also wonderful for dental healthy. They won’t splinter and are easily digestible. That’s all I needed to hear.”

Lucy Calamari Caprez, marketing director at Natural Cravings, is a firm supporter of the health benefits of body part treats, including collagen sticks, duck feet and beef trachea.

“Our 15-year-old German shepherd mix that we rescued in 2008 is now a senior living her best life. Although she has all her teeth and they are in great shape, we notice that she is less likely to chew on a hard chew due to her energy level and less aggressive nature because she is in her later years. This has an adverse effect on her dental health but what we use to keep her teeth and gums in shape are softer chews like USA Pedicured Duck Feet and our Monster Beef Trachea,” Caprez said. “These treats not only support her dental health, but one helps express her anal gland and the other supports her joint health with rich chondroitin and glucosamine. All done the natural way — through natural chews.”

Caprez recommends retailers carry a variety of treats, being especially focused on those that possess ingredients that offer added benefits.

“By having a healthy assortment of treats, the retailer is not only keeping their treat section fresh and appealing to the consumer, but it also shows the buyer the different options they can have if they choose to switch because of a change in their pet’s diet,” she noted. “Sometimes a small change in protein can help a dog transition from one food to another, and why not, just to keep it fun for their dog while they have a treat… [Functional] treats are an extension and a booster for the healthy food they consume daily. Our Green Lamb Tripe is excellent for gut health, and it is allergy friendly. All our jerky treats are breakable and training friendly. By offering a variety of proteins, we are helping stores offer variety and dog owners keep their dog’s diet in balance and fun at the same time.”

In addition, Caprez advises retailers to consider grouping treats to promote a specific health issue and pay attention to what customers are buying. If a pet parent is purchasing a hip and joint supplement, a savvy retailer would also suggest a functional treat formulated to support joint health.

In a world of ever-evolving pet products, functional treats don’t only appeal to a pet’s taste buds, but they also contain vitamins, minerals, probiotics and other beneficial ingredients. Available in a wide variety of forms and flavors from bites and biscuits to chews and jerky, functional treats are expected to grow in popularity as pet parents seek alternatives to traditional medicine, with a focus on natural remedies that are designed to be enjoyable to the companion animal. From dental health to joint function, there are treats to help boost all areas of a pet’s body, both inside and out.