Nutritious Pet Treats
Manufacturers say pet owners want healthful snacks, even when they want to give something fun and indulgent to their furry loved ones.
Just as humans are switching to protein bars instead of candy for their own between-meal snacks, they are also moving their pets to wholesome, healthful treats. To satisfy this demand, manufacturers are offering products that contain premium proteins, limited ingredients and more nutrition than the snacks of the past.
“We are snacking healthier, and we want the same for pets—good proteins, no grains, limited processing,” says Dean Triandafellos, CEO of ROAM. “Consumers are buying food and treats that are focused on benefits, either nutritional or functional. They demand full transparency about the products they are buying.”
For example, consumers—especially millennials—want to know about the animals that were the sources of protein, whether they were sustainably farmed, ethically treated, naturally culled or farmed to slaughter. “At ROAM, we are focused on novel proteins because these nutritional, responsible proteins check the box of what is trending with consumers,” Triandafellos says. “We see this trend for novel proteins growing and continuing, especially in the pet specialty sector.”
ROAM, which has a factory in South Africa and U.S. offices in New York and New Jersey, offers dog and cat treats made from novel proteins from animals that were free roaming, not farmed. “Compared to conventional proteins, novel proteins are more healthy, hypo-allergenic and sustainable,” Triandafellos says. “The average novel protein has about one-quarter of the fat compared to conventional proteins for the same serving size.”
Also attractive to consumers, novel proteins are often more environmentally responsible than other proteins. “Over 50 percent of the world’s CO2 footprint is the result of conventional protein farming,” Triandafellos says. “To put that into perspective, all of transportation, cars, planes, trains etc., only account for 35 percent of the world’s CO2.”
ROAM offers treats made with ostrich and other proteins, and is expanding into alligator from the bayou, wild boar, crocodile and venison. “Retailers should start educating pet parents on not only the wonderful taste and nutrition of novel proteins, but of the responsible choice they make when picking a treat or food for their pets,” says Triandafellos.
Single-ingredient in Demand
Consumers are also seeking single-ingredient treats featuring traditional proteins. Rockford, Ill.-based Jones Naturals will soon launch 100 percent single-ingredient items in its Jones Select super-premium line of all U.S. raised, sourced and made treats. Jones will also offer additional healthy meat options in its Jones Naturals Chews line.
“Limited-ingredient exotic proteins, organic options and super-mixes are still experiencing a good bit of growth,” says Joe Wallington, president and CEO of Jones Naturals. “As consumers demand more healthy options for their dogs, single-ingredient treats like 100 percent chicken breast, 100 percent turkey, etc. are just now hitting the market and expected to do quite well.” He adds that retailers should educate their associates on how to read ingredient statements, because consumers are knowledgeable about pet nutrition.
As with many pet nutrition categories, what is not in the products is as important as what is.
“With single- or limited-ingredient treats, there’s really no room for harmful fillers or artificial additives like preservatives, flavors or chemicals,” says Rashell Cooper, marketing director of Redbarn Pet Products, based in Long Beach, Calif. She adds that the company has received very positive feedback regarding one of its new single-ingredient treats, Redbarn Puff Braids, which are puffed up beef esophagus with no grains, sugar, gluten or salt.
Another trend, Cooper says, is the inclusion of superfoods or functional ingredients in treats. “As people are paying more attention to micronutrients in their own food, they are simultaneously looking for similar ingredients in their pets’ food and treats to ensure a happy, healthy life,” she says. Bully Slices, one of Redbarn’s most popular treats, contain functional ingredients like chicken cartilage and vitamin E, which Cooper says help support pets’ overall health.
The newest product from Redbarn is Protein Puffs for cats and dogs, a crispy, grain-free treat packed with 75 percent protein and made in the USA. For cats, the flavors are Turkey, Salmon or Chicken and have less than one calorie per treat, so cat parents can treat their cat without worrying about weight management. For dogs, Turkey, Peanut Butter or Cheese Protein Puffs can be a food topper or training treats.
Training to Be Healthy
Among the biggest trends now are lower-calorie treats and treats with functional benefits, says Jilliann Smith, director of communications for Amarillo, Texas-based Merrick Pet Care. Among the company’s various treats are Merrick Power Bites, which are soft and chewy all-natural treats with protein, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Merrick Power Bites Big Bites contain glucosamine for hip and joint health, and the omega fatty acids support healthy skin and coat. The Zuke’s brand, which Merrick merged with in 2018 (both are part of the Nestlé Purina PetCare Company), offers Zuke’s Mini Naturals, which are less than three calories per treat, and are suitable for training and rewarding good behavior.
Smaller treats are gaining popularity, says Laura Taylor, owner of Woofables Gourmet Dog Biscuit Bakery in Coralville, Iowa. Woofables’ minis were a big hit during the holiday season, and they tend to be popular after the holidays too. “As you head into January, people are not looking for elaborate treats,” she says.
Taylor says pet owners are reading ingredient lists and looking for human grade, minimal ingredients. “They don’t want to see a list of 25 ingredients in a little treat,” she says. “They want oats, flour and maybe some peanut butter.”
Safety is another important issue. Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Emerald Pet offers Twizzies, an alternative to rawhide, bully sticks and other body part chews. They are available in Piggy (pork), Turducky (turkey and duck), Chicky (chicken) and Peanutty (peanut butter). They are 100 percent digestible, which means the dog’s digestive system breaks down the chew so it can pass through the system and have less risk of blockage. The company recently added multipacks of 6-in. and 9-in. Twizzies. “We had a lot of people who said they would like to get bulk packs so they can buy multiples,” says Glenn Novotny, president and CEO. PB