September 1, 2014

When it comes to pet treats, natural is the name of the game.

Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about sourcing and packaging. They want fair-trade sources, eco-friendly packaging and treats made with organic ingredients. Fortunately, pet treat makers understand this need and are performing well under pressure.

Treats as Supplements

Manufacturers are seeking out ways to supplement a pet’s diet through treats. From glucosamine and probiotics to trendier ingredients like green tea, bee pollen and seaweed, expect to see all manner of supplements appear in your pets treats.

Ark Naturals is a leader in the natural supplement arena.

“We’ve grown a significant audience of dogs that live active lives – therapy dogs, agility dogs, dock dogs, service dogs,” said Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals. “They are burning many more calories than the average dog – it is very helpful to add additional vitamins and minerals to help support their active lifestyles. The nutritional needs of these animals are different than the needs of a dog who hangs out, goes for a few walks, plays Frisbee occasionally.”

Zuke’s also offers natural treats that double as supplements. Their Hip Action line of treats offers daily hip and joint support in a naturally delicious moist dog treat.

“From the farm to your dog’s bowl, the meat is so fresh it arrives and is cooked, packed and shipped within two days from PetSafe’s human-grade facility,” said Tracey Quillin, PetSafe category manager.

PetSafe’s indigo Smokehouse Strips only uses all-natural ingredients such as rosemary and green tea, and all of the meat used is USDA inspected and vacuum sealed to lock in the freshness.

Whether a consumer’s pet prefers alligator jerky or crawfish treats from Delcacorp, or bison from Tasman’s, there is a unique protein source in treats available for every type of appetite.

“Over the past 20 years, we’ve found that many pet parents are on the lookout for the latest innovation in products for their pets, especially when it comes to treats and food,” said Blaine Sherwin, sales director for key accounts at Delca Corporation, developer of the think!dog line of Louisiana Alligator dog treats. “When we discovered that alligator was a sustainable protein source that dogs loved, we created our new dog treat line around it and it has been extremely well received. People are looking for items that are made in the USA, offer something new and contain healthy ingredients for their pets.”

Also on the menu is Tasman’s new Bison Goodie Bites. Perfect as a training treat, Goodie Bites are made from real bison.

“The most important thing in any pet treat isn’t just the protein, but the ingredients surrounding that protein,” said Aaron Lucas, of Tasman’s Natural Pet. “Our products begin as single-ingredient treats and we only add ingredients that supplement an already perfect protein.”

Good Ingredients

Other companies feel the same way and focus on sourced ingredients that are simple and direct.

“Look Who’s Happy treats only contain carefully selected, all-natural ingredients, which are significant selling points for parents who care for the health and happiness of their pets,” said Tommy Gay, president of Look Who’s Happy. “I personally avoid eating foods that contain fillers and ingredients that are hard to pronounce, and I believe my dog deserves better, too.”

There is an overall movement towards better quality foods on the human side that is naturally flowing over to the pet side.

“Treat selection is a natural extension of these better food choices,” said Bette Schubert, Co-Founder of Bravo!. “All of the things that are important in a food, such as all-natural, quality ingredients and made in the USA, are going to be equally important in the treats they select for their companion animals. As a result, sales of all-natural and organic treats have been steadily rising.”

Slim Down

Natural treats often mean fewer calories and this can go a long way towards helping owners lower their pets’ weight without feeding a low-calorie diet that may be a more difficult sell.

The Company of Animals created Coachies Training Treats that boast only one calorie per serving and are 100-percent grain free and sugar free.

“Coachies were created from scratch to be a smart, healthy solution for training and treating that’s both motivating and size appropriate,” said Dr. Roger Mugford, pet psychologist and founder of The Company of Animals. “Based on their incredible popularity in the United Kingdom, we’re expecting these ‘mini motivators’ to quickly become a favorite among pets, plus theirparents and trainers.”

Sustainable Treats

Environmentally conscious owners are actively seeking out dog and cat treats that utilize recycled materials, sustainable resources, and fair-trade ingredients.

“We are proud to know that our Beyond Fair Trade policy is contributing to the economic development … in Nepal,” said Brandon Barney, marketing associate for Himalayan Dog Chew. “We purchase directly from the farmers, and help them make that extra money in one year that they would have needed five years to make by selling the chews. We work with about 3,000 family farmers who make these chews for the Himalayan Dog Chew brand.”

The company recently introduced Yakky Charms, small yak and cow’s milk cheese nuggets which become a tasty puff when microwaved.

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