Pet snack sales are spiking faster than dog and cat food sales.
People are gluttons for spoiling their pets.
Sales of dog and cat treats have raced past sales of actual pet food over the past five years, according to new Mintel research. Pet snacks spiked 29% since 2012, hitting $4.39 billion this year. Meanwhile, dog food sales nosed up 8%, and cat food sales climbed 11% during the same time frame. And almost half of owners (47%) give their pets treats every day.
It looks like our fur babies are following in our footsteps. Americans are snacking more than ever, with those noshing between meals two to three times a day increasing from 50% in 2015 to 55% this year. And millennials are the most serious noshers feeding the $90 billion global snack industry, with 1 in 4 treating themselves four times a day – or more.
“As the humanization of our pets progresses, we want to involve them as much as possible in our daily habits, and so treats are an extension of that,” Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention, told Moneyish. “So just like we reward ourselves with a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, now we feel compelled to share the experience with our pets by giving them a treat, too.”
Three-quarters of pet parents told Mintel that giving their dogs and cats treats is a way that they show their pets love. That’s one tail-wagging way to ease the guilt of working pet parents who have to leave their four-legged friends home alone all day.
“Giving a food reward is one way to mitigate that guilt, because it’s an instant payoff: The dog scarfs down the treat, you feel better – and you give him another one,” said Dr. Ward.
We’re passing our junk food addiction onto our pets https://t.co/w3BfgYSsfW
— Moneyish (@Moneyish) September 22, 2017
Of course, America’s pet owners are indulging their four-legged friends overall, Mintel notes, as the total market for pet food, supplies and services in 2017 is expected to hit $70.6 billion.
But pets aren’t just picking up our snacking habits; they’re also fetching some of the same health problems. More than half of dogs (53.9%) and cats (58.9%) were classified as clinically overweight or obese by their vets last year, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports. That’s 41.9 million husky mutts and 50.5 million fat cats. And those numbers are climbing.
“If you’re going to give your pets treats, make them count,” suggests Dr. Ward. Select a chewable with health benefits, like cleaning your pet’s teeth or preventing hairballs. In fact, one quarter (24%) of owners told Mintel they give their pet treats designed to address specific health issues.
Read labels and avoid any goodies that are loaded with sugar, which often boast ingredients ending in “-ose” like glucose, sucrose, maltose or dextrose. Only 2 in 5 pet owners told Mintel that they do so when buying new food or treats. “Dogs and humans have pretty much the same taste palate; we like sweet foods, and savory, meaty foods,” said Dr. Ward. “So many companies were adding sugar to dog food and dog treats to make it more palatable.” (Cats can’t taste sweet, however. They lean more toward acidic, savory and fatty flavors.)
And give your pets natural snack alternatives instead. “Dogs love crunchy vegetables, so throw them some raw broccoli, baby carrots (which have the sweetness they like), celery or zucchini slices,” suggests Dr. Ward. “Cats are trickier to please, but if you want to give them something extra special, sprinkle some tuna flakes or salmon flakes on top of their food, which adds aroma, flavor and texture.
“Just make sure to steer in a healthy direction, as opposed to wasting your money on junk food,” he added.
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