In 2010, Bobbye Cochran started Lincoln Bark in an effort to create healthy treats to entice her sick dog, Sophie, to eat again. Sophie’s diagnosis with Addison’s disease drove her to lose her appetite, along with much of her fur. After Cochran baked the first batch of (what would become) Sweet Little Butterpup dog treats and found that Sophie and the neighborhood dogs couldn’t get enough, she trademarked the recipe and has been growing the Lincoln Bark business ever since. “Our treats literally saved our pup Sophie’s life several years ago, and we’re confident that they will enhance the health of our customers’ pets, as well,” says Cochran, founder and president of Lincoln Bark.
Since its inception, Lincoln Bark has introduced four product lines of natural, human-grade pet treats. The company has grown from a three-person business to a 10-person operation, and is now selling treats internationally. The Lincoln Bark team started with Cochran; her husband, Todd Main; 14-year-old daughter, Sara Main; and taste-testing Standard Poodle, Sophie. The company gets its name from Chicago neighborhood Lincoln Park, where the family lived for many years.
In 2011, Lincoln Bark revamped its original treat recipes and introduced the superfood chia seed to its Sweet Little Butterpup and Treat Smart dog treats. The introduction of chia seeds set Lincoln Bark apart in the petfood industry, according to Cochran, because the ingredient offers antioxidants and nutraceutical benefits like having eight times more omega 3s than salmon. According to the company’s research, chia seeds are as nutritious for animals as for humans, contain more antioxidants than blueberries, and have more protein than kidney beans. They are also non-GMO, gluten-free, trans-fat free and sugar free.
“Our treats are meant to be a complement to good nutrition, not a substitute for it,” Cochran points out. “We know that keeping pets healthy will help minimize expensive trips to the vet. Pet parents realize that nutritional pet treats are a good value and a worthwhile investment if the products can help keep pets healthy. Some allergies and illnesses are not preventable, but consumers are paying closer attention to the ingredients panel on pet products—and many manufacturers are responding with all-natural ingredients.”
Cochran points to the rapidly growing movement toward health and wellness for pets, and predicts the momentum will push the trend into the private label products of large grocery/mass retailers. “Demand for low calorie products and items fortified with vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3s will increase, and all of these benefits will be promoted by bold packaging call-outs,” she says. “In addition to familiar flavors like salmon, beef, chicken, liver and peanut butter, manufacturers will offer such innovative flavors as duck, bison, rabbit, venison and kangaroo. Some treats will also benefit from the addition of vegetables and fruits like sweet potatoes, beans, carrots, coconut, apples and pumpkin.”
The pet industry trends Lincoln Bark is betting on next are raw treats, the “wolf style” diet and freeze-dried products. This summer, the company plans to launch Nibbles, a freeze-dried/raw product line featuring its signature ingredient, chia seeds. “We like the freeze-dried process because it retains 98% of the nutrients and the product does not have to be refrigerated or frozen,” Cochran adds. The new product launch will give the company more chances to explain the benefits of chia seeds to pet owners and those in the industry alike.
“The biggest challenge we have is getting the information about our products to the consumer,” says Cochran. “Store owners do very well with the products once they understand how nutritious and beneficial our treats are. We would like to have more opportunities to support the stores and help educate the consumers.”