The Appeal of Baked and Gourmet Treats

Baked and gourmet treats appeal to consumers’ desire to give their pets something fun and indulgent.




Few things inspire an impulse purchase more than a bakery case. Even a person who is not hungry or who meant to buy something healthy will stop at a bakery case and consider buying a delicious, indulgent snack. That also holds true for pet owners who enjoy giving their pets fun, innovative treats.


“Bakeries are kind of a funny thing because this is not a diet, it’s a treat,” says Amy Singelais, a partner at Preppy Puppy Bakery in West Wareham, Mass. “People are willing to purchase more, and to buy niche items, because they want to give the best to the animal.”


Preppy Puppy’s newest treats include empanadas filled with parmesan cheese and burritos filled with cheddar cheese. The company also offers mason jars filled with treats, such as the American to the Bone Jar filled with bacon-flavored bulk bones and the Pawtriotic Wicked Tiny Jar with roasted peanut & apple wicked tiny bones. The treats are made with a molasses base recipe and are wheat- and corn-free.


The fun colors of the treats help encourage impulse purchases. “The color makes it pop,” she says, adding that it is hard to turn down a blue and yellow jellyfish or a yellow and green pineapple. “Color always wins.”


Part of the fun of buying baked and gourmet treats is choosing from the vast variety. Retailers can take advantage by setting up bakery cases with platters piled high with treats.


“Consumers are engaged in picking out treats, and it’s a quick decision,” says Laura Taylor, top dog at Coralville, Iowa-based Woofables, The Gourmet Dog Bakery. “You can put a half dozen in a bag, and quickly ring it up.”


Among Woofables’ top sellers are the Honey and Oat recipe treats that are dipped in yogurt in different colors. While treats such as Christmas trees and candy corn are a big hit everywhere, the lobsters, crabs and lighthouses are popular in New England, and squirrels and corn-on-the-cob are popular in Minnesota.


“It gives the retailer something they can change throughout the seasons,” Taylor says. “It makes their store unique. When the customer walks in, you want that fun first reaction. All of a sudden, they’re spending $85 instead of $75.”


Woofables helps drive sales by making sure the cookies arrive at the store unbroken and sellable. “Gourmet dog biscuits are hard to ship because they break and melt easily,” Taylor says. “We have done a lot of testing on how we package them. Every week, we call our customers to ask how they arrived, and we have seen tremendous improvement.”


The new method entails everything from how to arrange the cookies in the box to which materials to use. “Every order is different,” Taylor says. “Every order you think about what should be on the bottom.”


New from Woofables is Minis, inch-long treats that are intended for smaller dogs, but have proven popular among owners of large dogs, too.


“I don’t think you see a lot of decorated minis because they are time-consuming and labor intensive,” Taylor says. “We focused on streamlining that process so it’s not that labor intensive.”


No Case Needed

Even retailers that do not have bakery cases or displays can participate in the baked and gourmet trend. This year Silverdale, Wash.-based Paws Gourmet Bakery launched a line of its most popular varieties from the Daily Treat line as individually wrapped treats. The treats have header cards and barcodes to provide greater flexibility in their merchandising capabilities, says Tim Hall, founding baker for the company.


“In the past year, we’ve been getting hit with a lot of requests for individually wrapped treats,” says Hall. “Now stores can put a small spinner rack on the counter, or even peg the treats in line with the rest of their hanging treats.”


Baked treats can be made to be shelf stable without artificial ingredients, and the homemade appeal also attracts consumers to this impulse buy.


“Everyone has an oven in their home, but rare is it that anyone would have a dehydrator, extruder or freeze drying machine,” Hall says. “Pet parents can purchase baked treats and can almost feel that they made it themselves, or at least that they could have baked it themselves.”



Nutrition Counts Too

While the icing and fun shapes help drive sales, other factors can also encourage these purchases. Consumers are also looking at ingredients when they shop for baked and gourmet treats. Grain-free is still a big trend in baked treats, says Tyler Thielmann, director of marketing for SO Bright LLC in Kiel, Wis. The company’s baked lineup includes Natural Oven-Baked Treats in Bison, Chicken, Duck and Peanut, all wheat- and corn-free. There is also a line of Natural Grain Free Oven-Baked Treats in Beef Liver, Lamb and Salmon varieties.


“We typically focus on single-protein recipes for our own brand, but we have been experimenting in unique ingredient combinations to appeal to the consumer, as well as creating something the pet will love,” Thielmann says. “We have been experimenting with ancient grains lately as well, which has made for some interesting combinations.”


Thielmann adds that soft baked treats are strong sellers for SO Bright, and the manufacturer hopes to launch some additions to that line. Also, the company is getting ready to launch a Wisconsin cheese type treat, and also is working on a redesign of the current Grain-Free packaging.


“While we as companies can get a little crazy with exotic ingredients from time to time, the price point of these baked treats is usually pretty reasonable, which also helps with their allure,” says Thielmann.


Becoming Human

The humanization of pets trend is still going strong, says Eric Abbey, president and founder of Cranbury, N.J.-based Loving Pets. As with so many other pet products categories, in baked and gourmet treats consumers are looking for foods resembling what they would buy for themselves.


“Pet parents are seeking USA-made treats that contain carefully-selected ingredients that they recognize on an easy-to-understand ingredient panel, and a healthy tasty treat or chew that promotes their pet’s good health in a taste they will love,” Abbey says. “Since the human pet-parent is making the purchasing decision, retailers want to offer treats that their customers can easily relate to, and understand the ingredients and benefits.”


For the treats that are not in a display case, packaging plays a role in driving sales. Abbey says pet parents want to know what is in the treats and what the treats do not have, so Loving Pets uses easy-to-understand icons such as Grain-Free and Gluten-Free on the packaging.


This year Loving Pets launched two USA lines that Abbey says continue to build the momentum behind the humanization factor of treats and chews that attract the pet and the pet parent. Loving Pets USA Taste Buddies are grain-free and “promote Americana fun and great taste,” says Abey. They are available in Peanut Butter and Jelly Flavor, Mac and Cheese Flavor, Bacon and Egg Flavor, and Hamburger and Fries Flavor. PB


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