September 11, 2023

SuperZoo Takeaways in Treats

When taking a closer look at the treats category, leading exhibitors at SuperZoo offered and displayed an immense amount of innovation, variation and overall high-quality products. Whether it’s treats for training, an addition to an immersive and interactive toy or just a cleaner, all-natural delicious treat, producers have continued to bring options to the table and continue to drive the category forward with the best of intentions.  

“Besides focusing on the opportunity to address sustainability goals through using upcycled ingredients in their dog and cat food and treat recipes, I believe most retailers are gearing up for an ‘innovation explosion’ in 2024 as they look to make up ground from the pandemic’s restriction on innovation, new shelf re-sets, and travel/vendor visits,” said Rick Ruffolo, CEO and President of Phelps Pet Products. “In an ever-increasing competitive market – retailers realize that they will need to innovate in their ‘own brand/private label’ assortment in order to drive trial, grow market share, increase share of wallet, enhance customer loyalty and win in a highly competitive retail environment. These retail buyers are looking for reliable, certified and trusted R&D and manufacturing partners based in the US to help them innovate. It was the biggest and most common request we received when people came to the Phelps Pet Products booth.”

Hillside Farms recently launched a new chicken and waffle product, which garnered interest in addition to revealing its intentions to enter into the air-dried dog food category. 

“The waffle products that I’ve seen in the marketplace have been more sweet potato-based but this is actually a chicken and waffle product,” said Scott Wu, VP, Hillside Farms. 

“Another pretty cool item that is not necessarily innovative but has been around for a while but we’ve been able to improve it is a sweet potato chew,” he continued. “Also well received and some of our key retailers and distributors will be picking up that product in the upcoming months.”

“We found SuperZoo to be very active for the second year in a row as our traffic exceeded pre-pandemic levels,” said Rick Ruffolo, CEO and President of Phelps Pet Products. “We focused our time mostly on pre-scheduled meetings, but the ‘walk-up’ interest was strong with retailers attracted to our Disney-themed booth featuring our newDisney Table Scraps Upcycled Certified Dog Treats and Cat Treats. We were quite pleased with the customer response and excitement towards our Disney line, as well as with our innovative private label/contract manufacturing offerings.”

One of Loving Pets’ main focuses at SuperZoo was to make sure that attendees visiting its booth fully realize and understand Loving Pets’  continued commitment to its customers.

“Not only did we unveil numerous new products at the show, we were excited to  highlight all the investments we have made toward manufacturing innovation and capabilities that increase our efficiencies, which in turn help to combat rising costs seen throughout the industry,” said President and Founder Eric Abbey. “But at the end of the day, SuperZoo is one of our best opportunities to connect and further cultivate our relationships that we hold the most important.”

“We always love this event and are so grateful for the customers that meet with us,” said Amy Marcoot, Co-Owner of Marcoot Jersey Creamery which produces Dog-O’s. “We love sharing our passion for good food in such a great industry! In addition, we always have a lot of fun and SuperZoo was no exception. We hosted an Ice Cream Social for attendees on Thursday, which was a resounding success that sparked interest and buzz.”

Within the treats category, Abbey noticed how treats are always following the human trends, functional treats and chews continue to be a big focus in the category as a whole, he said. 

“Since treats are a delicious way to deliver added benefits and fun to your pet’s daily routine, we saw a lot of innovation at SuperZoo,” he said. 

Marcoot has observed how frozen treats continue to trend upward.

“We are right on target with our recently launched Ice Cream Collection! We’ll continue to work on creating and expanding the best quality treats possible!” she said. 

“Functional treats continue to be exceedingly popular, with call outs to specific ingredients that enhance digestion, heart health, skin and coat, etc.,” Krueger said. “Both ZIWI’s air-dried and wet recipes fit in well with this category, as our natural ingredients derive nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, omegas -3 and -6, which fulfill these same functions!”

“It was not brand new this year but seems like collagen is becoming more popular,” Wu said. But as it relates to what Hillside Farms has been working on, “we are a manufacturer of treats but we are getting into dog food now. Air-dried dog food is starting to trend upwards. We are coming out with our own branded air-dried dog food in the months to come.”

The hope for more sustainable products have not dissipated over the years, and Phelps Pet Products noted the importance of this trend.

“The most talked about topic was sustainability, again, this year,” Ruffolo said. “Nearly all customers/retailers have ‘sustainability improvement’ goals/targets that they are being measured against, and we found that many of the buyers are struggling to find ways to make that happen in a credible manner. To fill this gap – Phelps Pet Products made the investment to become the first pet treat manufacturer to be approved members of the Upcycled Food Association back in 2020. The UFA has established the most recognized method to certify the sustainability of specific ingredients and products, and with their partnership, Phelps now has developed and launched more than 50 different dog and cat treats carrying the UFA Certified logo over the last 3 years. In fact, we were honored to receive the 2023 Pet Innovation Award in the newly-established Upcycled Pet Treat of the Year category. While there are other potential initiatives in the areas of recycled packaging, transportation, on-shoring, etc. that are contributors to more sustainable practices – the single biggest opportunity (and one of the easiest) is to transition/add upcycled recipes to your brand assortment.  Transitioning to ‘upcycled’ recipes is a clear way to address this key corporate sustainability directive; it’s a win for the consumer who wants to be more eco-conscious in their behavior (at the same prices as virgin materials); and it is a way to help reduce the pressure on the ‘virgin’ food supply chain which has the macroeconomic effect of reducing demand/strain/pricing of ingredients and crops throughout the market.”

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