man and woman with dog

Innovations in Pet Treats

The pet treat segment is evolving fast—innovating with ingredients, health claims, and formats that promise to please both pets and pet owners.


  • Pet owners are more serious about the food their pets are eating. 
  • Pet food with functional benefits is gaining popularity. 
  • New formats like soft chews and water enhancers are growing in the pet food industry. 

Pet Treats are as Important as Pet Food for Many Pet Owners

Treating often plays a special role in the relationship between a pet owner and their pet. It’s a fun way to make a pet happy and to enjoy a bonding moment together. In fact, the majority (78%) of US purchasers of pet food/treats agree treats help to strengthen their bond with their pets.

Variety is also important in treats, with 72% reporting they like to give their pet different types of treats.2 This makes the treating experience a mini adventure that allows the pet to try new flavors and textures and keep them engaged. However, pet owners also purchase different types of treats when they want to provide certain nutrition and health benefits for their pets.

The humanization trend in pet food means pet owners are increasingly looking for pet products with ingredients they recognize as healthy—often those trending in human food. Even for treats, nutrition is top of mind, with 84% of US purchasers of pet food/treats agreeing it’s important to consider nutrition when choosing treats.3 Treats with functional health benefits is the next frontier, with one in three saying they’re interested in treats that address specific health issues.4

cat playing with hand

Functional Benefit Trends

As more consumers supplement their own diets with functional ingredients to boost health, the expectation for this option in pet products is growing. Better-for-pet treats that offer functional health benefits provide an appealing alternative to traditional pet supplement formats like pills and powders. Functional claims are also less developed in treats and toppers compared with pet food, making them a key opportunity area for manufacturers.

For functional benefits in pet products, dental health continues to be the most popular. Functional claims regarding teeth and tartar prevention lead functional pet food and treat claims in the US and Canada, with these claims growing the most in new product launches over the past five years, as other claims have largely remained steady.5

In exploring which other health benefits matter the most to pet owners, Mintel found that more than half (55%) of US pet food/treat purchasers would like to see pet food and treats with digestive health benefits, while 46% would like to see products with skin/coat health benefits.6

girl and a dog

Format Trends

With the line between pet supplements and treats beginning to blur, manufacturers are pursuing exciting new opportunities in fun treat formats like biscuits and chews for delivering traditional supplement benefits. While pet supplements can target many different areas of health that pet owners are interested in, supplements for senior pets—which can address vision, cognitive, and joint support, for example—may drive future demand.

PawMedica Mobility+ joint soft chews are one innovative example. These chews are formulated for aging dogs with joint issues and claim to support mobility and joint flexibility with ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and hemp. SuperGravy Bon A’ La Goat pet food topper can be mixed with water to make a gravy and contains anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric extract and black pepper extract.

Pet drinks and water enhancers are also formats on the rise. Wolf Spring drinks are available in formulas for puppies, adults, and seniors. Wolf Spring Food Booster Puppy contains iron for immune support and inulin for healthy digestion, for example, while Food Booster Senior is formulated with glucosamine and essential fatty acids from hemp. The Tally-Ho line of water enhancers for dogs includes Tally-Ho Emotional Health with L-theanine for calmness and Immune Health with zinc and vitamins C and E.

Opportunities Ahead

These innovations in pet treats are expanding the options for pet owners, allowing them to explore fun, new formats with their pets while providing their pets with extra health benefits. Highlighting functional benefits, as well as the emotional benefits of the treating experience itself, is a way for brands to encourage more pet owners to make treats a regular and frequent part of each day.

Whether for kibble, wet food, pet treats, or supplements, Glanbia Nutritionals has the expertise and a wide range of solutions to improve the quality, performance, nutrition, texture and taste of animal and pet products. Learn more about our animal and pet solutions today!

Frequently Asked Questions

There are no specific ingredients that are the best for dogs just like there is no best diet for dogs. It’s the nutrients that matter—not the ingredients.

When choosing a commercial dog food, it should say it meets the nutrient profile specified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for the relevant life stage. To ensure the highest quality ingredients, buying from a larger company can be a good strategy since large companies often have stricter quality control protocols.

There are no specific ingredients that are the best for cats. Many different ingredients may be used in cat food, but what ultimately matters is the nutrient content. 

A commercial cat food formulated according to the nutrient profile specified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for the relevant life stage will meet all of a cat’s nutritional requirements. These include certain nutrients not required in dog food such as arachidonic acid, biotin, and taurine.

A dog needs a minimum of 88 mg of iron per kg of diet on a dry matter basis (DMB) for growth and reproduction and 40 mg per kg of diet DMB for adult maintenance, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The AAFCO has also established a maximum for iron in a dog’s diet of 3,000 mg per kg of diet DMB.


1-3. Mintel, Pet Food: Inc Impact of COVID-19 – US – August 2020.
4. Mintel, Supplements can support the wellness trend for pets, March 2021.
5. Mintel, A year of innovation in pet food and products, 2021, March 2021.
6. Mintel, Pet Food: Inc Impact of COVID-19 – US – August 2020.

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