PHOTO BY © ARTCOOKSTUDIO
BY ALYSSA BREWER
Small pets might not always get the attention or shelf
space of their larger canine and feline counterparts, but
retailers who invest in a strong treat selection for these
furry companions will see that investment pay off.
While small pets don’t usually play fetch or go for walks, watching them hunt around for a hidden surprise or snack can be just as enjoyable for their
owners—especially children, for whom this may be their
very first pet. Because of their potential to help forge
an emotional bond, treats are an important part of the
broader small pet category, and retailers should invest the
time in learning the latest about these products.
As with consumables for all kinds of pets, the natural
trend is seeing ever-growing popularity in the small pet
category. Owners of guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and
other pint-sized pets are no exception to the industry-wide
shift toward high-quality, species-appropriate ingredients
in diets and treats.
“Foraged, wild and harvested ingredients, simple
recipes and the avoidance of additives like sugar are what
shoppers are looking for when buying a treat for their
small pet,” says Claire Hamblion, marketing manager for
Supreme Petfoods. “;t’s partly due to an awareness of the
nutritional needs of small pets as they become less likely
to be children’s pets and owned by young adults instead
and partly a reflection of the trends in human foods, with
clean eating, natural, organic and home-cooked recipes
;ucas Stock, communications manager for O;bow
Animal Health, agrees that human food trends are
influencing what kinds of small animal treats are
currently growing in popularity.
“Many pet parents make buying decisions that model
their own food choices and values,” he says. “We continue
to see this trend across multiple categories, and treats are
not an e;ception. ;n many cases, these consumers are health conscious and passionate
about wholesome and nourishing nutrition for their pets. As a result, we’re seeing a
continued focus on healthy, natural ingredients in treats—less added sugars and more
ingredients that model what a small pet may encounter in nature.”
;or e;ample, Stock references O;bow’s new Simple ;ewards line, which has nine
flavor options and offers owners a guilt-free treating option. The line has redesigned
packaging that helps it stand out on the shelves.
Attractive packaging and good merchandising are especially important in the treat
category, since treats aren’t often the customer’s main goal when taking a trip to their pet
store. But retailers can sei;e the opportunity to inspire shoppers to pick up a fresh bag of
their pet’s favorite treat or try out something new with some strategically placed displays.
“Treats will rarely be the main driver of a visit to your store,” Stock says. “;nowing
this, make sure that treats are placed prominently, near essentials such as foods and hay.”
Stock also recommends keeping treats at eye level for maximum visibility and placing
clip strips in the aisles to bring these tasty offerings to your customers’ attention.
Hamblion points out that, for many small animals, kibble alone isn’t a complete diet,
making treats and other add-on consumables a natural choice for cross-merchandising.
“;t’s not enough to just feed a small herbivore kibble or pellets;they need hay too, so
multiple products need to be purchased,” she says. “;erchandising the small pet fi;ture
so that the preferred brand can be leveraged and an associated treat selected is a great tip
to help shoppers choose the brand they trust and increase the speed of basket fill.”
;f in doubt, retailers can turn to manufacturers for specific advice on how to display
what can be a comple; category with a lot of product categories and sub-categories.
“Pet parents don’t want to browse the fi;ture for too long, as it’s often a comple; offer
with multiple products, brands and species being catered for in a small space,” Hamblion
says “We have specific planograms that we have developed to allow the eye to settle on
clear entry points and can demonstrate how to create a vista that will allow associated
products to be spotted ;uickly.”
Hamblion also strongly encourages retailers to display treats at the register and offer
promotions or free trials to pi;ue customers’ interest. Once the pet owner sees how much
their animal enjoys the treat, that investment in the first purchase will soon pay dividends.
“As with cat and dog treats, the first treats purchase is often prompted at point of sale,