Pet treats sales growth outpacing mature market

Pet treats are becoming a go-to for customers looking to satisfy health and wellness concerns with their dogs and cats.

New Sprinkle Headshot Headshot
Photo by
Photo by

Packaged Facts estimates that total US retail sales of pet treats will reach US$6.4 billion in 2017. Sales growth has consistently outpaced that of the more mature pet food market and pet supplies market in general, and has recovered momentum after slower growth in 2013 stemming from a massive wave of recalls in 2012.

Treats for dogs corner the lion’s share of the market, at 85 percent against a 15 percent share for cat treats. Within the dog treats arena, indulgent treats are the largest product segment, at 35 percent of the overall pet treat market, followed by rawhide/long-lasting edible chews, dental chews/treats and functional treats other than dental.

Pet treats used in multiple ways

As indicated by this product segmentation, pet owners rely on treats and chews to serve a variety of purposes. For most pet owners, treats are a way to bond with their pets and express affection, with treat dispensing and treat time playing an important role in the relationship. Treats can also serve for pet activity and entertainment, as is the case with edible long-lasting chews or treats inserted into a dispenser that can be played with. Some pet owners use treats to help train their pets, rewarding them for good behavior. Treats can also be functional, intended to treat a specific condition or to enhance wellness, as is the case with dental treats or treats that contain nutritional supplementation ingredients.

Whatever the case, treats and chews are firmly established as part of the pet market, with Packaged Facts survey results indicating that 72 percent of dog owners and 57 percent of cat owners have purchased treats for their pets in the past 30 days.

Customers prioritize transparency, safety in pet treats

The threats posed by jerky treats from China are still impacting the pet treats and chews market in that pet owners continue to scrutinize pet food and treat products to ensure that they are both sourced and made in the US. Although the market is now five years out from the spate of recalls that started in 2012 — and 10 years out from the devastating pet food recalls of 2007 — consumers are far from taking pet food and treat safety for granted.

This safety consciousness lines up with the “clean label” trend industry-wide in the human and pet food products market, whereby consumers are looking for ever-more-detailed information about how products are made and what ingredients they are made from. Consumers overall, including pet parents, are increasingly looking for positive cues such as natural, organic, “superfood” and free-from claims to feel more confident about the product choices they are making. Conversely, with the benefit of having virtually unlimited product choices, given the “endless shelf” of internet shopping, many consumers are looking for reasons to reject, such as undesirable agricultural/livestock or manufacturing practices (involving a range of sourcing, environmental, product quality and freshness, and animal welfare concerns), use of artificial ingredients, or the presence of specific allergens or negatively-perceived ingredients.

“Clean label” and other health and wellness trends (such as probiotics) crossing over from the human products market have become increasingly applicable to pet food and treat products as pets have become firmly entrenched as family members, and concern over their health and well-being more broadly defined has grown. A Packaged Facts national pet owner survey in February/March 2017 shows that three-fourths of pet owners are willing to pay more for pet food products that are healthier for their pets.  

The growth of functional pet treats

For this reason, functional treats form a growing segment of the treats market, whether they address a specific condition or concern, or simply aim to provide a wellness or nutritional boost. In addition to catering to health-focused pet owners, functional treats are also appealing to value-conscious pet owners who are swayed by the idea of getting “2 in 1” in the form of treats that address health conditions — and perhaps even “3 in 1,” with treats that might help stave off more substantial veterinary expenses. Packaged Facts’ June/July 2017 National Pet Owner Survey shows that 70 percent of pet owners agree that pet treats offering functional benefits are an important part of their pet’s healthcare. A similar percentage (71 percent) agree that they prefer to buy pet treats with extra nutrition or that address health concerns for their pets.

Pet owners seek out dog and cat treats covering a range of health and wellness concerns, whether age-related (senior/aging, joint and cognitive health), more specifically medical (such as pet treats targeting heart, digestive system, urinary, kidney or liver health), a hybrid of health and grooming/appearance concerns (weight loss, skin/coat and allergy relief treats), or anxiety or travel-related issues (calming/motion sickness pet treats). Among dog owners and cat owners alike, dental treats/chews are by far the most widely purchased functional treat/chew, at 64 percent and 44 percent, respectively, followed by skin/coat health formulations among dog owners (17 percent) and hairball remedy among cat owners (24 percent).


FIGURE 1: Dental and oral hygiene are the top health and wellness concerns dog and cat owners look for when choosing pet treats and chews by a significant margin. | Dog and cat icon courtesy of Michele


More Packaged Facts research on the US pet treats market

Page 1 of 698
Next Page