Worth Barking About
Bill Chilian, vice president of marketing for Barkworthies, discusses how his company's single-ingredient chews fit with the trend toward wholesome, natural pet nutrition.
Pet Business: How do single-ingredient treats and chews fit into the wholesome nutrition trend?
Bill Chilian: Single-ingredient treats and chews are leading the trend. Consumers are looking for simpler, more wholesome products as close to their chosen type of protein as possible. They don’t want something with 20 ingredients they can’t pronounce. When the ingredients panel has a single word on it, like “beef” or “elk,” it’s easy to know what you’re getting, and what you’re not.
PB: How can retailers build an effective selection of natural treats and chews?
Chilian: They need not look any further than the local supermarket for a wealth of examples. Best practices in the people-food industry have been to build a separate merchandising area for natural and organic products, and I suggest pet retailers do likewise. They should focus on and promote products that satisfy dogs of different sizes, nutritional needs and stages of life. To keep the section a must-see destination, they need to regularly bring in new, innovative products. If they do all these things, their customers will understand that these natural products, like those in the natural section of their supermarket, are healthier than the mass-produced varieties and thus command a higher price.
PB: How important is it that retailers highlight the functional benefits inherent in natural chews?
Chilian: It’s very important. Together, retailers and manufacturers must educate the consumer that functional treats and chews aren’t just empty calories, they’re wholesome nutrition that promote overall health and help address certain dietary issues. Our new Barkworthies packaging educates consumers on a particular product’s health benefits (dental health, joint care, hypoallergenic, etc.) using easy to understand icons, as well as identifying specific ingredients not used (grains, sugars, preservatives, etc.).
PB: Barkworthies touts a number of its “green” practices. Can you tell us a bit about those practices and how they complement your products?
Chilian: It’s just who we are as a company. We respect nature and constantly seek ways to help the planet heal through our business practices. We’re members of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, and we work with other “green” organizations whenever possible. With our suppliers, we promote energy efficiency and sustainability, such as incorporating recycled material in our packaging whenever possible. Our green practices logically complement our all-natural products because they’re integrated at every level of the supply chain.
PB: What does the future hold for the natural treats and chews category?
Chilian: Recently, consumers have demanded specific nutritional criteria, like grain-free or gluten-free products. They’ve also been very concerned with product safety, and have logically been proponents of “Made in the USA” products. We see those trends continuing indefinitely.
In the mid-term, as consumers seek to address their pet’s quality-of-life issues, we see the category increasingly demanding hypoallergenic products, and anyone with a family member with a food allergy will tell you the same. We see demand for hypoallergenic products doubling in the next two years. At Barkworthies, we’re sourcing these non-traditional proteins that are all-natural, delicious and help solve the health issues many dogs face. We have some amazing new products using nutritious, hypoallergenic proteins like rabbit, kangaroo and crocodile, really exciting stuff. Everything we’re adding is all-natural, with no additives, preservatives, grains or sugars.
PB: What’s next for Barkworthies?
Chilian: Barkworthies innovates—that’s what we do. In 2013, we introduced over 50 new items, and 2014 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the brand. It’s safe to say that whatever our 2014 new products offerings are, they’ll be all-natural and help dogs live happier, healthier and longer lives.
Recently, we introduced an entire line of Australian chews using novel proteins that are a great alternative to pork, beef and chicken. Barkworthies Australian Crocodile Bones are high in antioxidants, contain a greater source of protein than chicken, and contain glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint and mobility issues. In addition, our hypoallergenic Crocodile Sausage, Kangaroo Sausage, Kangaroo Jerky and Australian Lamb products also contain essential nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12.