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The latest trends in supermarket dog treats 2021, and the top things to avoid.

Happy dog treats dog atlas!

With the ultra-convenience of supermarket dog treats (they are just there and often cheapish), it might seem like a hard target to attack. And normally I have avoided making powerful enemies, but here are the little background tactics and things you should probably know about those gleaming treats.

Supermarkets (the top few in Australia) make up about 80% of human food bought for the home in any one week. So, they are the perfect catchment area for your dollar.

90-97% of dog owners buy commercial dog food ‘pellets’ and ‘wet food’, so its an easy target that the big players have to just slide you on into buying their treats.  All good so far. And only after the ‘daily baked bread scandal and people finding that fresh fruit had been stored for a year, not to mention the squeeze put on dairy farmers bankrupting many have people had pause to think of supermarket ethics. The public started realizing that the supermarket is not all about being our best friend (as ads suggest), but making the maximum money for their shareholders.

Whether you are a shareholder in a supermarkets parent company or not, I imagine you want to do the best by your dog, even support mid and small business on occasions, you know, the people who live and work in your community. So what are the current and new issues you face buying at the big local super store? And why you should avoid their treats like the plague.

Why my Healthy Dog Treats will never be on their shelves

And believe me, this isn’t even anything to do with ethics or a moral stand. The parents of the biggest dog food brands have a market capitalisation bigger than any of the social media platforms, including google and Facebook.  They are diversified into many areas and have enormous clout. That includes how much they choose to sell their products to the big supermarkets for and how much shelf space they want. They have the opposite advantage that every other company faces.

A good friend of ours in the dog treat business was courted by one of the large supermarkets a few years ago, because they already had ONE of their minor products on their shelves.  The supermarkets had not bothered to replicate it at this stage, or buy up the company’s supplier.

After many hours of negotiation and being told they had to change their packaging to suit the supermarket, the deal fell through and all of the money the small treat player sank into securing extra treats for the ‘extra demand’ and the cost of designing and producing the packing was wasted. This is typical of how supermarkets play with small players.

UNLESS you happen to be a giant multinational, as big or bigger than the top Australian supermarkets, you typically wont get a look in to gracing their shelves. Which means it highly unlikely out of the small selection of brands that they stock that you will get the best of everything or anything in reality.

Dog treat margins in Australia.

We charge a fair price for our products based on what we can negotiate with the suppliers. If you are only after the cheapest dog treats in every category in the market, then you probably already shop at the petrol station for those 20 Kg bags of generic looking kibble, sitting in the sun.

We buy from different suppliers to get the best product and ensure that we are not beholden to any one large supplier that might decide to double their price on us tomorrow. We use multiple suppliers to ensure we buy certain types of meats like fish from a specialist fish dog treat supplier. We have been doing this since 2011, exclusively, so we know many of the tricks and traps involved in THIS specific industry.

When you run a small business and aspire to compete on this VERY uneven playing field, you know that if you ever negotiated with a big player your margins would be cut to close to zero just for the joy of ‘exposure’ they would tell you. We sell treats for the dogs and owners, not for the supermarket shareholders.

Supermarkets would beguile you with stories about the massive amount of product they could ‘shift’ for you, after a trial period of course – exactly the same story these monopoly companies tell all of your competitors.  But there is a massive amount of costs involved in properly storing and handling dog treats (which we meticulously do).   That is when it is done properly. By a company exclusively servicing this niche that cares about the treats and the dogs that eat them.

You may remember the dairy industry being decimated a few years ago as some of the big supermarkets dropped their private label milk prices to near cost to force the independents out.  For that is the shear power that happens in any small market, in any niche, in a small country like Australia, unless the ACCC can or wants to intervene. Monopolies keep prices high and benefits low.

Happy dog treats dog gusThe rise of private label dog treats

It wasn’t that long ago that most of the major supermarkets started up their private label products in Australia – to provide the low-cost option to their customers, they said.  But have you noticed lately there is now a lot of their relatively cheaper product (bought from a supplier they have forced down to near zero margin) that has almost exactly the same looking packaging as some of the major brands in that category?

In a fair business environment where Government had the resources or desire to check on this kind of thievery, this imitation game would not be allowed.  But of course, its 2021, and that trick proliferates to trick consumers into buying an inferior product or destroying a company that the big supermarkets deem are getting too large (ie having some power in negotiations).

What about sample dog treat buckets like they have for nuts?

Surely this innovation is a great idea?

Once the main supermarkets have killed off all of the competition in a niche, then they have unrestricted access to boosting their prices and margins. The stock holders rejoice.

But how could this model possibly work and why hasn’t it been done before for dog treats?

Well mostly because to keep treats fresh you need to have fast turn over and excellent stock ordering with products kept in pantry conditions before sale (dark, no oxygen, no heat).

The issues is that In an open dog treat bucket (like the supermarkets will soon have everywhere) with a few kg of treats in the middle of a supermarket only some of these freshness conditions will be met.

We were actually approached by an ‘entrepreneur’ with no interest in dog treats or their nutrition except for the riches they would bring him, to see if we were interested in supplying them, THE MIDDLEMAN, with treats for this corrosive experiment. They of course wanted our treats at less than cost.

The idea was treats would be acquired extremely cheap from suppliers (at near cost), stored in some non-temperature-controlled environment, and then bussed to supermarkets in bulk (in cool rooms?) to eventually be left exposed to oxygen to degrade them further in the store.

It also lays itself open to massive tampering attacks when a product is left exposed like this.

What about the dog treat range?

You might think that you will have access at the supermarket to a great diverse range, from the best and freshest stock in Australia.  And in theory that could happen, but when the middle man or perhaps Supermarket logistic lieutenant wants to keep the costs down, they will try and bargain with ONE or two suppliers at most (to keep it simple, to maximise their power).

And if they want the cheapest price, why would the suppler give them the best treats? The smaller players paying a higher price will get the best treats in small packs NOT large pallets.

The complete lack of product knowledge and accountability of the supermarket

We often answer a lot of questions in any one week about the appropriateness in chewability and nutrition of any particular treat for a specific dog. Questions on fat content and suitability for dogs with pancreatitis or poor chewing ability. THIS is our day job.  The questions we answer are done for free and for love of what we do.  We are not some guy being paid close to minimum wage in a supermarket, pushing a broom or packing shelves. How should they have any deep knowledge about the products?

The supermarket might have a sticker on a treat bin, gained from information that the supplier wants to tell them about a specific treat. But as suppliers change, will the sticker on the plastic bin be updated? Because remember to ‘save you money’, there won’t be a lot of fancy packaging actually giving you useful and current information about the product inside.

Bless the supermarket workers for earning a wage, but they are far from expert on the dog treats topic – which random one are you going to ask for help about your dogs specific needs?

I am pretty sure that they have written zero articles on dog treat nutrition or why it’s important for a dog to eat meat protein and fats as opposed to the cheap grain and vegetable options becoming so trendy and dangerous for dogs. That is well above their interest grade.

DOG HEALTH CONCLUSIONS

Supermarkets are fine if all you are after is short term convenience and potentially cheap prices. If you don’t care about small business, about the quality of the treats, getting the best treats in every category, ensuring they are fresh and stored in temperature-controlled facilities by a small business that actually cares about you and your dog, then you will make the supermarket shareholders very happy.

Remember that you will only continue getting that ‘cheap’ price while the supermarket has healthy competition that has not been bought out or forced into bankruptcy yet.

Its all your choice, but if you are truly interested in your dog’s health and them enjoying the fresh treats like we provide, then we are a far better option.

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