Chewing is a natural canine instinct that relieves the pain of teething, exercises jaw muscles, and cleans teeth. Chewing is also great for beating doggy boredom and can help your dog relieve anxiety or frustration by giving them something enjoyable to focus on. There are many kinds of chews on the market, making it an especially exciting sector for retailers as it generates great revenue.
Dogs are natural chewers, and many of today’s treat brands have offerings that provide them with a safe and healthy outlet for their chewing needs. Chews are great for dogs that need to release energy, and most dogs find these products to be a toy as well as a treat. However, not only are there a wide variety of chew options, which range from wood to yak cheese, it’s important for dog parents to select the appropriate chew for their canine companion.
That’s where a dog’s chew strength comes in. There are typically three categories of chew personalities — light chewers, who enjoy nibbling on items; moderate chewers, who generally focus on chewing their preferred items; and power chewers, who indiscriminately chew on anything they can get their mouth on.
Quality and safety are important to pet parents, especially those who have become extremely knowledgeable and interested in knowing nearly every detail of what their canine companions are putting on or in their body. In response to consumer demand for transparency on the production of dog chews, today’s reputable and trustworthy manufacturers are making high quality products through ethical sourcing and wholesome ingredients.
For puppies and senior dogs, they require softer material; therefore, experts agree that the most appropriate chews for puppies and elderly dogs are tendons, ears and esophagus as they’re thick but also flexible and on the softer side. In addition, since puppies chew to explore new things or when they’re teething to relieve pain and soothe their gums, plush and fabric toys often will suffice to keep them preoccupied.
When it comes to moderate to strong chewers, these dogs can handle chews that stand up to a more vigorous and intense chewing style. In these categories, there are many suitable long-lasting options.
Like the food and treat space, the chews category has seen greater variety, including the expansion of its natural offerings due to popular demand from dog parents. The recent trend of collagen chews has taken off with consumers who are looking for something to replace the more traditional rawhide chew. Collagen chews are described as a safe, beneficial, long-lasting option to rawhide as a dog chew. Made from the inner layer skin, often referred to as the corium, collagen chews are more digestible than the top layer of skin used to make rawhide. Several brands have set themselves apart from other treat manufacturers in this category.
Founded in 2014 by Patrick Caprez, Natural Cravings was formed with the idea of creating a holistic line of dog treats that were sourced and made in the United States. The livestock are treated humanely while pasture-finished and raised without antibiotics.
Most recently, the brand released its Longlastics Collagen Chews, which – as the name implies – are long-lasting dental chews that are rich in collagen. With 99.4 percent digestibility, 94.8 percent protein and 100 percent beef collagen, Longlastics have such benefits as promoting healthy teeth, skin and coat in addition to improved joint health. Longlastics were born out of the recent disruptions in the supply chain during the pandemic.
“As we faced supply issues with grass-fed bully sticks, we had to put on our thinking caps and find a product that was as long lasting and as digestible as a bully stick,” said Lucy Caprez, marketing director at Natural Cravings Pet Treats. “Enter our Longlastics collagen sticks. In the creation of Longlastics, we realized that the success that we are having with our original beef cheek products could be duplicated with Longlastics. With our Longlastics you get a stick that looks a lot like a bully and is as sustainable as a Beef Cheek with the same added value of being rich in collagen and highly digestible; Longlastics are 99.4 percent digestible, according to our tests.”
TDBBS, the maker of Barkworthies, is a company that sees the benefits of collagen in the dog chew market. The company harvests the collagen directly from the corium layer, which is made almost entirely of collagen, then cuts the corium away and slow bakes it to retain the nutrients.
According to Heather Anderson, B2B marketing manager at Barkworthies, the benefits of collagen in every dog’s diet are critical to them staying happy, healthy and living longer.
“In recent years, there has been a growing awareness and concern among pet owners regarding the safety and health aspects of dog chews,” Anderson explained. “This has led to a shift away from traditional rawhide chews, which can pose a choking or digestive hazard, toward safer and more natural alternatives.”
While chews play a significant role in a dog’s health and well-being by offering benefits that include nutritional and dental advantages, Anderson points out that mental stimulation is also vitally important. Chewing provides mental stimulation and can help alleviate boredom, reduce stress or anxiety and prevent destructive chewing behaviors.
“Challenging or interactive chews that require problem-solving skills can provide additional mental stimulation,” she said. “One Barkworthies chew can be equivalent to a 45-minute walk.”
Some trends that Barkworthies has seen gaining popularity since the brand launched in 2011 are natural and organic chews, which are free from artificial additives, preservatives and chemicals, as well as alternative proteins – while beef and pork chews remain popular, Anderson says there has been a rise in alternative protein sources such as lamb, venison and bison. These options cater to dogs with specific dietary needs and or allergies; allowing pet owners to have much more range of feeding options for their beloved pets.
In addition, Anderson notes that pet owners are often looking for engaging and entertaining chews for their dogs. Chews with unique textures or shapes, such as twisted or braided treats, can provide added interest and stimulation for their pets’ innate desire to chew.
While there are a lot of pet innovations happening across the various pet channels, Barkworthies has used its consumer research to develop its new line of naturally smoked chews. Described as the first-ever hickory-smoked line of natural dog chews, these new smoked chews feature Southern BBQ flavor and the sweet-smelling aroma of ribs coming off the grill.
“Our line of hickory cold smoked chews and treats are irresistible to dogs and, believe it or not, also irresistible to dog parents,” Anderson explained. “Our innovative cold smoking process [patent pending] is designed to add irresistible smokey barbecue flavor while maintaining the integrity of the chew and our steadfast commitment to an all-natural product. You won’t find smoke powder or liquid smoke on these chews – just meat, smoke and love.”
According to Barkworthies, the chews offer unparalleled flavor and are prepared just like a smoke pit master would with no shortcuts. To create this new line of chews and treats, TDBBS built a new state-of-the-art smoking operation located at company headquarters in Virginia to enhance the fact that all TDBBS products are manufactured in the United States.
Frankly Pet, which is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is another brand that has added a variety of collagen chews to join its existing line of rawhide-free and U.S.-made treats. Alan Snyder, chief operating officer at Frankly Pet, says collagen chews are becoming the preferred choice to rawhide by some parents because they’re highly digestible and are accompanied by all the health benefits associated with collagen.
As for what makes collagen-rich chews so beneficial, the beef corium collagen can be easily broken down by the dog’s digestive enzymes and stomach acids into collagen peptides, which are used to create and repair cells. Collagen peptides help reduce inflammation, increase bone mass and improve skin health. Snyder feels that this, paired with U.S. sourcing, is what attracts consumers to collagen chews made by Frankly Pet.
“The corium collagen we use is sourced from only U.S.A. Midwestern cold weather cattle and is traceable to the farm or ranch,” he said. “It’s important to note that we use only cold weather cattle, as cattle raised in North America can quickly develop a thick corium collagen layer that helps naturally insulate them from the cold. This layer is ideal for making highly digestible collagen dog chews. Today’s consumers are looking for chews that are made in the U.S.A. with healthy and limited ingredients.”
BODY PART CHEWS
Many bones and edible chews are widely known as having health benefits that include cleaning a dog’s teeth, promoting gum health and aiding in digestion. In addition, they’re a good source of protein, which is important for muscle development. Among the lengthy offerings among edible chews and bones are bully sticks, trachea chews, ears, bones, hooves, horns and antlers.
According to Laura Jones, president of Jones Naturals, edible chews are a classic segment of the treat spectrum, and body part chews are a traditional, time-honored treat. Body parts, as natural chews, also offer health benefits by delivering additional proteins and good fats to supplement a dog’s diet.
“Body parts have always made classic chews,” noted Jones, who added that the edible chews are a great way to upcycle and divert waste while giving a dog the extra protein they love. “There are certainly new chew entrants introduced to the category, but body parts are certainly the tried-and-true stalwarts or classics. The driving motivation behind various trends over the years is pet safety. Pet parents want to know they are giving their fury family members a chew that will not cause any issues down the road. Digestibility is a trending safety factor, especially with many pet parents moving away from rawhide offerings. It has created room in the market for collagen chews, and it also serves as a nice reminder that many of the classic body part chews – think pig ears and bully sticks – are classics for a reason: they can be safely digested, they are reasonably priced, and dogs love them.”
Jones, which has been involved in meat processing for six generations, promotes wholesome and natural-stuffed bones and chews that are hand-stuffed with a variety of natural treat fillers. In addition, the entire manufacturing process from start to finish takes place in the U.S.A., with its chews being purchased from USDA-inspected meat plants.
“We see customers that are very concerned about country of origin for the proteins that they sell in their stores,” Jones added. “They typically cater to a clientele that is really looking to give their dog healthy chewing options. They want functional ingredients included, they want to understand the benefits that a chew offers, and they want to make sure they are giving items that make sense for their dog’s dietary needs.”
Founded in 2011, Paws & Co Pet Treats is a Colorado-based, woman-owned treat and chew company that specializes in producing chews and treats from elk, deer, bison and yak. The company has been in the antler buying business for over 20 years with one of the largest collection networks in the US, providing antler to craftsmen, hobbyists, and practitioners of alternative medicine. However, once we saw how much our furry friends loved and benefitted from the eco-friendly chews, we entered the antler chew market and became an accidental pet treat company!
Since launching our brand of eco-friendly and sustainable dog chews and treats, we have seen the market change. While at the top of our priorities, quality is not always guaranteed in other brands. Smaller chews that are not size appropriate being sold and sharp edges and tips left on are all issues that can be avoided. Also, deer chews being sold as elk as well as lower graded antler that has been affected by the environment in which they are collected make for hazards.
As one of the original antler chew brands, we have elevated our products to include value-added chews which our customers love! Elk antlers are the fastest growing bone in nature, and we take these already long-lasting chews to another level. We not only offer whole and split elk antler chews, but also antler wrapped in US sourced, grass-fed beef bully stick and antler dipped in beef liver – making them even more enticing.
The team at Paws & Co. believes in second chances – not only for the antlers that are naturally shed by elk and deer in the Rocky Mountains, but also for the people we employ and support. Many of our antler are collected by members of Native American communities and processed at our facility in Colorado by immigrants, at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated people. We go to incredible lengths to guarantee the highest quality and safety of our size appropriate chews. The brand inspects, removes the tips of the tines, cuts them to size, then sands and tumbles the chews to ensure all sharp edges have been removed. The company’s multi-point checks guarantee only the highest quality antler chews make it to the homes of healthy, happy dogs across the country.
Paws and Co. recommends that retailers carry antlers, which they believe are great for dogs of all sizes and chewing capacities, and perfect for dogs with sensitivities to certain proteins and ingredients. They are naturally rich in essential minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc and manganese. Providing all natural, long-lasting chews like Paws & Co. antlers will keep your customers coming back for more!
COFFEE WOOD CHEWS
Another emerging chew material that has emerged in recent years is coffee wood, which is sourced globally from trees that no longer produce coffee beans. The resulting chews, which have hit the U.S. pet market in the past few years, have become popular thanks to brands like Indipets and CANOPHERA. Coffee wood is one of the hardest woods available, making these chews difficult to break or splinter. The wood’s organic fibers, which are typically released by the dog’s saliva, are harmless and can be ingested in small amounts.
According to Dimple Sethi, vice president at Indipets, coffee wood is an ideal resource for chew sticks as they are good for oral health and are a natural source of fiber. The chew stick strengthens the dog’s jaw muscles while the fine wood fibers serve as a toothbrush to prevent gum disease, reduce plaque buildup and promote the natural cleaning of its teeth.
“All our coffee wood comes from Vietnam,” Sethi noted. “The local people there have a deep understanding of the raw materials needed to produce high quality coffee wood chews. Vietnam has an abundance of coffee trees, and it is famous for its coffee production. At Indipets, we take pride in our coffee wood chews being all natural, safe and long-lasting while being fun and healthy for dogs.”
CANOPHERA also sources its chews from Vietnam, where farmers sell the wood from the Coffea canephora plant to generate additional income. No tree is uprooted or cut down for production of CANOPHERA’s chew sticks, which are 100 percent vegan and free from harmful additives. In addition, the brand states that dog parents tend to appreciate that coffee wood chews are minimally processed and made from sustainable ingredients that will decompose quickly, thus reducing our impact on the planet and preserving our natural resources.
YAK CHEESE CHEWS
Yak cheese chews have seen a steady growth in popularity. Typically crafted after an ancient Himalayan recipe, these hard cheese chews are made to be durable, even up against the toughest chewers.
Making yak cheese is an ancient process that dates back centuries, says Nick Carter, chief revenue officer at Value Pet Supplies. Yak herders of the Eastern Himalayas use a traditional method to remove the butter and lactose from the yak milk, leaving only the low-fat buttermilk that is rich in nutrients and probiotics.
“Yak milk chews from Value Pet Supplies are made from organic, grass-fed yaks that are milked by hand in the Himalayas,” he added. “We use a traditional method to remove the butter and lactose from the milk, leaving only the low-fat buttermilk that is rich in nutrients and probiotics. We boil, strain, press and shape the buttermilk into cheese blocks that are cut, dried, aged, brined, and inspected by experienced farmers. No chemicals or preservatives are added at any stage. The result is a natural, healthy and delicious treat for your dog.”
According to Carter, yak cheese is one of the top selling natural dog chews available, rivaling bully sticks as the most popular long-lasting chews. Value Pet Supplies offers them for resale in Wholesale Packs and Resale Packs to suit the needs of any pet business. Wholesale Packs are unpackaged bulk box offerings in 20-pound and 40-pound packs. Resale Packs are clear bagged in retail-friendly quantities, 8-ounce and 1-pound options for yak chews, that can be sold as-is or labeled to meet the branding needs of the reseller. Yak chews are popular with resellers because there is high demand, the margins are great, they are natural and safe and they are extremely shelf stable.
While chews are engaging products that offer a wide variety of health benefits to dogs, it’s up to retailers to know them inside and out while being able to pair each specific variety with a dog’s individual needs. With regards to store exposure for edible chews, experts agree that retailers should be giving them the maximum amount of shelf space possible, including outside the treats aisle. That means endcaps, front counter space and even their own bulk bins at the store entrance.
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