Baked Dog Treats
Baked and bakery-style dog treats are hits with dog owners seeking to give their pets a tasty, pleasurable, yet still wholesome snack, providing retailers with nice opportunities for impulse-buys and add-on sales.
Although nearly every product category has been informed that most dog owners regard their four-legged buddies as family members—an attitude that extends to almost any kind of pet, actually—none has been more impacted than consumables. After all, the thinking goes, if it’s not good enough for people to eat, then there’s no way it’s good enough for little Max or Bella. Consequently, canine foods and treats have evolved, and are still evolving, to reflect human concerns, hence the focus on simpler, more natural recipes, higher-quality ingredients and interest in where those ingredients are sourced and produced.
“In the past, there were virtually no regulations,” says Amy Singelais, partner with the Preppy Puppy Bakery. “Now, we are regulated and following human standards, driven by consumers insisting on protections for their beloved animals. In order to meet these needs, manufacturers have had to evolve by adding more variety, more decoration and adjusting and transforming recipes.”
All of this innovation has added a shot of adrenalin to the baked/bakery-style treats category, especially when it comes to flavor profiles—what Chanda Leary-Coutu, director of consumer experience for WellPet, describes as a big change. Now, there is a much broader assortment of flavors, with treats incorporating ingredients that go beyond the “basics,” like apples, molasses, carrots, peas and other fruit and vegetables, with a particular emphasis on those designated as superfoods.
She explains that as grain-free formulas have grown in popularity, many brands have opted to remove them from their baked treats. Pet parents want to get away from artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Leary-Coutu describes a feedback loop effect: as more and varied baked and bakery-style dog treats enter the arena, their popularity is growing, which in turn is compelling more brands to release these treats and more retailers to offer them.
Providing Simple Comfort
Just as people turn to comfort foods when they’re stressed out, they tend to be drawn to the same types of products for their pets, says Patrick McGarry, general manager of Gott Pet Products.
“Many shoppers are actively seeking simpler, less trendy diets and treats for their pets,” he explains. “This naturally leads them to more traditional, comfort food fare. I would simply remind retailers that while some people shop for baked treats that are novel and trendy, others are in the market for something more timeless.”
Perhaps inspired by farmer’s markets where consumers can select their own produce and other items—a trend that has resulted in grocery stores and supermarkets creating bulk displays where shoppers can choose and bag on their own—pet owners like being able to do the same when it comes to baked and bakery-style treats, says Laura Taylor top dog for Woofables, The Gourmet Dog Bakery.
“Customers have a good sense of what their pet likes and enjoy picking them out,” she explains. “Consumers like to know what they’re feeding their best friend, so limited and simple ingredients help. This makes it easy for customers to know what they’re getting.”
Shoppers also paying more attention to nutrition facts and ingredient lists—trends that have impacted how baked/bakery-style treats are formulated and marketed, says Leary-Coutu, advising that pet specialty retailers should call out the health benefits of these treats and how they are processed. Doing so can result in a significant sales boost. Still, there is a challenge for retailers to find the balance between accommodating baked treats’ typically shorter shelf-life while enhancing their appeal.
“Based on the trends we’ve seen, pet parents are looking for only the healthiest, realest ingredients for their pets, therefore spoilage isn’t a major issue,” explains Leary-Coutu.
“It can actually be comforting to pet parents to know these treats can’t last forever because this indicates there are fewer—or zero—preservatives used.”
Merchandising the Goodies
New designs, freshness, variety and seasonal items inspire purchases in this category, particularly when it comes to decorated cookies, says Singelais. Retailers should use a variety of methods—like cookie bars, baskets, plates and platters—to showcase their baked treats.
Retailers should also take advantage of the sales opportunities holidays present, as pet owners enjoy including their pet in the festivities, adds Taylor, recommending that pet specialty retailers may want to stock up a month or so ahead of a specific season or holiday.
In addition to delivering a nice sales bump, seasonal baked treats also add excitement and interest to the store since they are especially well-suited for seasonal, themed or gift-giving displays, says McGarry.
Still, retailers shouldn’t solely rely on seasonal celebrations, as customers like being able to count on having their regular favorites available year-round. They also shouldn’t be overlooking the register area.
“Baked treats are a great offering for adding to impulse purchases at the register and in any aisle of the store,” says Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets. “With their healthy ingredients and fun combinations, people and pets win. Also, consider sample packs of favorite baked treats to send home with customers to try with their pets—if they’re not with them at the store—and a coupon for a return purchase/discount.”
He also reminds that baked treats are not one-size-fits-all, making it important for pet specialty retailers to query customers about any ingredient sensitivities, allergies or other health issues/concerns that may warrant suggesting one kind of treat over another.
Baked/bakery-style treats also require retailers to maintain good housekeeping practices, says Singelais. Monitoring crumbs in the display cases, keeping stock in enclosed containers, making sure there are no torn bags and exposed product will discourage insects and cross-contamination from other areas of the store, since although bugs are attracted to baked goods, they’re also drawn by bird seeds and kibble. She suggests retailers hang pheromone sticky traps around the store, which could alert them to a minor problem in time to prevent it from becoming a major issue.
Strategic inventory management is critical. Although half-empty displays are not desirable, for most bakery-style treats it’s best to buy no more than three months of inventory at a time, advises Taylor.
“But limiting inventory to four to six weeks-worth is more ideal if you can do it,” she adds. “Bakery-style treats are intended to be fresh; that is why dogs like them. They can tell the difference.” PB