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U.S. Pet Treat Market to Reach $6.7 Billion

Patricia Wuest Editorial Director, NAVC

U.S. Pet Treat Market to Reach $6.7 Billion
U.S. pet owners prefer to buy treats for their dogs and cats from brick-and-mortar retailers rather than online sellers and show growing interest in products containing cannabidiol or CBD, according to a new report. Photo: 2shrimpS/Shutterstock.com
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Traditional sellers are benefiting from sales of pet treats, fueled by a growing interest in cannabidiol (CBD) and American-made products, according to the most recent edition of the Pet Treats and Chews in the U.S. report published by the market research firm Packaged Facts.

Packaged Facts estimated that U.S. retail sales of pet treats will hit $6.7 billion in 2019, a 3% increase over the $6.5 billion realized in 2018. Mass retailers, such as Walmart and Target, are the leaders in pet treat sales, with 33% market share compared with 18% for supermarkets and 13% for online sellers.

A Packaged Facts survey found that 11% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners have purchased supplements or treats containing CBD or hemp for their pets.

“CBD, or cannabidiol, supplements are in high demand in human markets, credited with treating conditions ranging from anxiety to asthma,” said Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle in a statement. “The use of CBD has crossed over into the pet market, with usage spiking after the passage of the most recent Farm Bill in December 2018, which took a significant step towards separating hemp and hemp-derived CBD from marijuana-based products.”

CBD and Veterinarians

There are concerns in the veterinary profession concerning CBD products.

Cannabis “is not a cure-all for everything, and we have to give people the kind of guidance that they need so that they know what they should be looking for, they know what doses to give, and they know if it’s the most appropriate medication for their pet to be taking,” says Gary Richter, MS, DVM, and owner of Holistic Veterinary Care in Oakland, California.

CBD — a cannabis plant extract is the main ingredient in hemp oils, chews and other pet products — are being used by pet owners treating their animals for a variety of maladies, often without any guidance from a veterinary professional.

Richter supports legislation that would permit veterinarians to discuss, recommend and dispense cannabis with their clients. “People [have] started buying cannabis from recreational dispensaries and giving it to their pets,” he says. “They were doing this based on recommendations they had read online or heard from someone at the cannabis dispensary, dog park, or pet store. We inadvertently forced people to do something that was effectively irresponsible and dangerous as it pertains to medicating pets.”

Another Area of Concern: Pet Treat Recalls

News about treat recalls, especially of products made overseas, have led pet owners to look for manufacturers closer to home, Packaged Facts noted in its statement.

“The continuing cycle of recalls reinforces the practice of U.S. pet owners scrutinizing pet products to ensure that they are both made and sourced in the U.S.,” the report stated.

Recent recalls of pig ear dog chews have led to an increased focus on sourcing of pet treats, according to Packaged Facts analysts. Pet treat labeling increasingly used “sourced in the USA” to assure pet owners of their products’ provenance. Safety and traceability have come to the forefront in products claims and labeling, as consumers worry following federal announcements.

Beyond recalls, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised all pet owners to avoid pig ear dog chews in the United States after the Centers for Disease Control reported more than 100 cases of human infection by Salmonella enterica related to exposure to pig ear dog treats.

“When I’m making a recommendation to a client, I don’t want any harm to come from something that’s preventable,” says Julie Churchill, DVM, PhD, DACVN, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. “I have a low-risk tolerance. Foods or treats that are dehydrated are essentially raw, with many of those inherent risks. Health care teams do not always realize that dehydrated treats are raw. I have always recommended that we not use pig ears and bully sticks.”

Additional Findings

The report also found that:

  • 45% of dog owners and 36% of cat owners purchased general pet treats — dental and health care treats excluded — in the past 30 days.
  • 12% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners buy treats using an online subscription or auto-ship service.
  • Cat treats make up 16% of the overall treats and chews market.

“Pet treats have come a long way in the past 20 years, with the aisles of pet stores closely resembling the snack aisles of human foods at supermarkets and products positioned as better-for-your-pet,” Sprinkle said in the statement. “Limited-ingredient products, grain-free options and superfood ingredients are all in high demand, with innovative new product entries hitting the market on a regular basis.”

The report is available for purchase at the Packaged Facts website.

Learn More

The goal of NAVC’s Pet Nutrition Coach Certification program is to assist the entire veterinary healthcare team in integrating nutrition as a cornerstone of patient care. Sign up today!

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