Antlers & Other Dog Chews
Through sourcing from natural origins, manufacturers of chews and antlers are providing premium products that provide vital nutrients to maximize pet wellness.
Traditionally, antlers and other chews have been used to provide a point of focus that allows animals to alleviate the boredom that can lead to destructive behavior. However, as the years have passed, these chews have evolved from a distraction into an alternative treat option that can enhance a pet’s health and mental well being.
Due to these factors, the antler and chew market is going strong. Adam Jacobson, executive vice president at the Pet Pantry Warehouse, explains that leaving dogs alone for long periods of time is something that all pet parents feel guilty about, but knowing that their animal is entertained with a chew can provide comfort, especially if the pet parent is aware of all the benefits these treats provide.
“On the mental side, it gives them stimulation and fulfillment, and decreases anxiety and boredom,” says Stephanie Volo, vice president of marketing and sustainability at Southport, Conn.-based Earth Animal. “Those are the main reasons why dogs, in particular, and cats need to chew for pet development, health and wellness.”
While chews can be used to occupy pets and fortify mental wellness, these products can also serve as natural sources of nutrition. As manufacturers of all types work to remain transparent about their company’s sustainability initiatives and sourcing practices, those that specialize in antlers have a unique advantage: They’re about as natural as it gets.
“We have a saying that antler was organic before organic was a thing,” says Jackie Steigleman, CEO at Bozeman, Mont.-based Buck Bone Organics, noting that antlers aren’t exclusive to dogs and cats. They can be given to a variety of pets, including mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and rats.
Antlers are also generally made with limited or single ingredients, and they are excellent sources of the vitamins and minerals that are integral to a pet’s health.
“Unlike traditional rawhide chews, antler chews contain bone marrow, which is very nutritious for dogs since it contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc,” explains John Parrottino, CEO of Krijon LLC, located in Sylvan Lake, Mich. “Like with many chews, the antler will assist in a dog’s oral and dental health.”
These sentiments are echoed by Alan Snyder, chief operating officer of Milwaukee, Wis.-headquartered Frankly Pet. Chews created from animal protein can aid in the maintenance of pet health from teeth to tail.
“Made from the same ingredient as the collagen supplements that humans take for joint, nail and hair health, beef chews also have high-quality proteins that satisfy your dog’s instinct to chew and reduce plaque buildup by up to 70 percent keeping your dog’s teeth healthy,” he says.
Emphasizing the traceability regarding the origins of chews has to trickle down from the manufacturer to the consumer, which is where retailers come in as the middle men. It’s already well known that consumers who shop for chews (and most other products) look to eco-friendly and responsible sourcing practices to influence their buying decisions.
“The nice thing about antlers is that they are a renewable resource,” Parrottino says. “With regards to chews in general for 2020, we see that premium dog chews will continue to be a need because consumers are demanding better quality and more all-natural chews for their dogs.”
The only problem with antlers? There’s a specific time frame of when they can be sourced, which could lead to supply chain issues. Parrottino warns that because antlers are only shed during certain times of the year, the increased demand could cause lead to increased costs.
This can quickly turn into a chain reaction, as Kalogeropoulos foresees the prices of other chews rising as a result of the antlers’ limited availability, meaning retailers have to be wary if they decide to look into the alternatives.
Another factor is that, “new human food trends and ethnic cuisines are driving up prices and lowering access to bones, ears and tendons—to name a few,” says Kalogeropoulos. “This is compounded with manufacturers leaving the body-part sphere and narrowing retailer and consumer choices.”
Still, that’s not deterring customers from wanting all natural chew options and manufacturers from making them. Despite these obstacles, antler and chew companies are confident they can meet these needs.
“With the demand for natural, organic products and all the benefits that come from antlers, you will see more antler products come on the market in different flavors and forms,” says Steigleman. “As the number of pet owners continues to increase, you will see the demand for antler and chews increase.”
To account for this, retailers should have a well-informed sales staff to help guide customers in stores. As shoppers remain more educated than ever, they’ll compare similar products in attempts to get the best deal and the most nutritious product. To account for this, and to help guide those purchasing decisions, the sales staff needs to ask a series of questions in order to match the pet to the appropriate chew.
“It’s pertinent to ask questions about a pet’s physical size, general health, chewing style and degree of possessiveness when fitting for a chew,” explains Elena Kalogeropoulos, vice president of sales for Hudson, N.H.’s Chasing Our Tails. “They should remind pet parents that these should be a supervised experience. Chews and antlers that aren’t sized properly can cause everything from a one-time purchase to a possible health and safety concern.”
Volo noted that associate education is also important in maintaining traffic to brick-and-mortar locations.
“The retailer needs to be prepared for the consumer who comes in and asks all the questions and, if they’re not prepared, the retailer will lose that customer,” she said. “In this crazy world where online is becoming more and more popular, but consumers want the experience of brick-and-mortar, retailers need to be experts and have the answers that the consumer is asking about.”
As younger generations become more invested in their animals and continue to seek the highest-quality products, Snyder says that retailers can expect to see these trends of naturally-sourced, sustainable ingredients stick around. After all, all consumers really want is the best for their pets. PB