All-Natural Snacks

By stripping away artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, preservatives and by-products, pet treat manufacturers are dressing up sales.




Everybody’s going back to nature.


Just take a stroll down any aisle of the neighborhood supermarket and scan the labels. It is impossible to walk more than five feet without seeing the words “organic,” “all-natural,” “no preservatives” or “simple ingredients” called out in starbursts and bold letters on the items lining the shelves.


Well, that mantra for human food is carrying over to the pet treat aisle of the local pet shop, as manufacturers clean up their act, so to speak, by kicking out the non-beneficial, artificial stuff and replacing it with simple, wholesome, easy-to-read ingredients.


“People are looking for all-natural alternatives for themselves, so it makes sense that they would also want to put the same thing into what they are feeding their dog and cat,” says Glenn A. Novotny, president and CEO of Emerald Pet Products, based in Walnut Creek, Calif.


“We’ve seen dogs transition from outdoor animals to indoor pets to sharing our beds—they’re truly part of the family,” says Rashell Cooper, marketing director at Redbarn Pet Products, based in Long Beach, Calif. “So paying attention to specific health and wellness needs of our dog—and all pets—is a natural next step. Across generational lines, pet parents are more in tune with health sensitivities and are searching for all-natural solutions in their pet’s diet.”


“Rates of pet obesity are rising like never before because many treat and food companies pack their products with ingredients and fillers that are high in fat and calories,” says Eric Abbey, president and founder of Cranberry, N.J.-based Loving Pets.


Many of those are manufactured by the big national brands, notes Chris Moore, president and chief operating officer of Earth Animal, based in Southport, Conn. “A lot of our retailers that are neighborhood stores get it,” Moore says. “But when you walk into a supermarket or big-box store and go into the treats section, a lot of the treats there are just not very healthy.”


According to Abbey, “100 percent all-natural pet treats boast pure proteins, as well as vitamin- and mineral-rich ingredients, and do not contain potentially harmful chemicals. Retailers should continue to respond to the demands of pet parents by offering natural pet treats that not only promote great taste and healthy ingredients, but are also affordable.”


As an example, he points out the True Venison All-Natural Dog Treats from Loving Pets, which features free-range venison in a variety of options including Venison Jerky Bars, Jerky Rounds, Femurs and Shin Bones.


“A growing trend is all-natural pet treats that are not just made in the USA, but contain 100 percent USA-sourced ingredients,” Abbey says. “In 2010, Loving Pets started sourcing its meats, fruits and vegetables in the USA to prove that healthy USA-made can remain affordable. We have expanded our ‘made in the USA’ treat lines every year for both dogs and cats.”


“Redbarn is proud of the many products we made in the USA and believe it is an attractive selling point,” says Cooper, adding that Redbarn also operates a plant in Paraguay that is held to the same American standards.


Wholesome Hide products are also 100 percent made in the USA.


“We are the only ones who are certified,” says Steve Duensing, owner of Dolton, Ill.-based Wholesome Hide. “I have an outside source come in and evaluate our raw materials and our manufacturing.”


Duensing cautions that hides from third-world countries can be 60 or 90 days old. Wholesome Hide deals strictly with fresh hides, and its rawhide bones are made via an all-natural process without the use of any harsh chemicals.


Wholesome Hide bones are made out of only one or two pieces. “That is the big difference between us and anybody else in the world,” Duensing says. “The other manufacturers put scraps or shards inside the bone. If the dog swallows that, it can be a choking issue.”


An upcoming Wholesome Hide product is a pressed bone. “We actually put it in a press and squeeze the bone to make it very hard, almost the hardness of a real bone, but it is all rawhide,” Duensing explains. “We are also working on putting nutraceuticals, vitamins and different vegetables and fruits into our ‘crunchy’ ground rawhide products.”


Functional Treats

Earth Animal has just launched Daily Health Nugget, soft treats packed with vitamins and nutrients, with versions for dogs and cats.


“Instead of feeding a supermarket biscuit that is full of carbohydrates and empty calories, a Daily Health Nugget has substantial benefits for the animal, so it is really a functional treat,” Moore says. “Daily Health Nuggets are made with sprouted ingredients, all-natural ingredients and are all organic. What makes it so effective and great is that each ingredient is kept in its raw state, allowing it to retail full efficacy of the vital nutrients, enzymes and vitamins.”


“We like to call them ‘living nutrients.’ We are basically giving back the vitamins and minerals, and all the omegas—3, 6 and 9—that are destroyed by the high temperature of cooked and processed food and/or a raw diet that is lacking these vitamins and minerals,” adds Tom O’Hare, vice president of operations at Earth Animal.


For dogs, Daily Health Nugget is packaged in a 1-lb. jar with 210 nuggets, while the feline version comes in an 8-oz. jar of 120 nuggets.


“Cats are very, very finicky, and we’re very excited to have our first cat treat out in the market with Daily Health Nugget,” O’Hare says. “Cats are so tough to satisfy, not just with food, but with good, wholesome, nutritious treats. We’ve done the palatability testing, and both dogs and cats love them!”


Among Emerald Pet’s items are all-natural cat dental and cat health treats for hairball and urinary function.


“Cats tend to be one of the pickiest consumers, so whenever we do our cat treats we send them out for independent lab testing,” says Novotny. “An independent third-party lab does palatability testing to make sure that the cats like what we’re producing. We do that with all of our products.”


Dallas-based Vetscience, which was recently acquired by Manna Pro Products of St. Louis, manufactures the Fruitables brand of all-natural pet treats. “A lot of our products have pumpkin in them because we found that pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient for pet consumption,” says David DeLorenzo, vice president of sales, pet specialty, at Manna Pro Products. “Pumpkin is high fiber, very low calorie and very high palatability.”


DeLorenzo says offering all-natural treats is of the utmost importance to Manna Pro. “We keep moving more of our recipes into natural ingredients as they become available. Our Skinny Minis, for example, are completely naturally preserved now, which did not used to be the case.”


Likewise, the company’s new Wildly Natural cat treats, containing only one calorie apiece, are also naturally preserved. “We preserve them with vinegar,” DeLorenzo says. “The way it is processed, the vinegar does not impact palatability. I’ve had retailers tell me this is the best palatability cat treat that they’ve got. Even my dog goes nuts over them.”


Cuckoo for Coconut

Founded a year and a half ago, New York-based Lord Jameson Dog Patisserie is a relative newcomer to the all-natural dog treat scene. “Our purpose is to elevate the bonds between dogs and humans,” says Sarah Goldberger, founder. “So our treats are 100 percent organic, and a very healthy experience that is very sensory oriented.”


Packaged in 6-oz., resealable plastic pouches, the bonbon-size round treats are available in Blue Bliss (wild blueberry), Savory Sweet (sweet potato), Berry Best (strawberry and beet), Coco Crush (coconut) and Birthday Bash (coconut shreds) varieties. “The luxury French macaroon company Ladurée was the inspiration behind this brand,” Goldberger says. “Lord Jameson is colorful, flavorful with layers of flavor. You are getting the blueberry, hint of coconut, the savoriness of the peanut. It looks different, feels different, and is unique because of the discovery of senses that it provides to the dog,” Goldberger says.


Made in Boulder, Colo., all Lord Jameson treats are hand-rolled in shredded coconut. “We’re kind of cuckoo for coconut,” Goldberger says. “It has lots of health properties. It is great for the skin, thyroid, digestion, it smells incredible and dogs really seem to love it.”


Unlike most dog treats, Lord Jameson is vegan. “We realized there is a really interesting void in the marketplace for a plant-based treat,” Goldberger says. “A lot of dogs these days have protein allergies.”


New Options Abound

For that very reason, Emerald Pet created Little Duckies, a crunchy treat with duck as its key ingredient.


“Duck is an alternative to chicken and turkey products because some dogs have allergies and sensitivities to poultry, whereas duck is not considered the same. It is actually more along the lines of a meat, and is recommended often for dogs that do have protein sensitivities,” says Novotny.


A new product from Redbarn is Protein Puffs for dogs and cats.


“Through an exclusive partnership with one of the world’s largest suppliers of caseinate (a milk-based protein), we were able to launch a unique treat, Protein Puffs, that’s received great feedback from cat and dog families,” Cooper says. “Protein Puffs are a high protein, low-fat treat with less than one calorie. Light and crispy, they are a clean label treat made in the USA.”


Loving Pets also has a new all-natural cat treat marketed under the Purely Natural brand name, available in Beef Lung, Shrimp, Chicken and Buffalo varieties. “No additives, glycerins, artificial preservatives or fillers are ever used,” says Abbey.


Green Coast Pet introduced several new items at SuperZoo 2018, including Full-Spectrum Hemp Chews—Peanut Butter Flavor for Dogs and Whitefish Flavor for Cats—as well as Unsweetened Applesauce for Dogs and Unsweetened Applesauce with Pumpkin for Dogs.


“We are proud to partner with independent pet retailers all over the country, and due to the success at retail for our Green Coast Pet products, we were able to become more efficient with our sourcing and production,” says Mike Bateman, chief operating officer and co-founder of Green Coast Pet, based in Pasadena, Calif. “Therefore, we can provide a much better value on our product to the end consumer. With this new pricing, Green Coast Pet is offering the highest quality hemp-based chews on the market for one of the best prices available.”   PB


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