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Dogs are already the big winners in the coronavirus quarantine, but Ben & Jerry’s is about to give your canine bestie a boost.

The venerable Vermont ice cream company announced Monday it is introducing a line of frozen dog treats, its first foray into the lucrative pet food market. Doggie Desserts, sold in 4-ounce cups, will go on sale in American grocery and pet stores later this month.

The treats come in two flavors: pumpkin with cookies and peanut butter with pretzels. Both are made from sunflower butter. They are made from the same ingredients that Ben & Jerry’s uses in their non-dairy human desserts.

Ben & Jerry’s are the latest food company to turn to pets, sensing an opportunity as more Americans acquire furry friends. The number of U.S. households with pets increased 6.5% to 84.9 million between 2015 and 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association, a trade group.

General Mills, which makes Cheerios and Haagen-Dazs ice cream, bought the Blue Buffalo pet food brand in 2018. Jelly maker JM Smucker Co. bought Big Heart Pet Brands – which makes Meow Mix and Milk Bone – in 2015. Three years later, Smucker acquired Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, which manufactures Nutrish brand pet foods. And in April, Nestlé bought UK natural pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen. Nestlé has owned the Purina brand since 2001.

What Fido wants, Fido gets

Spending on dog treats has exploded, jumping 44% to $ 5.5 billion between 2015 and 2020, according to Euromonitor, a data company. Millennials, in particular, spend lavishly on their pets and seek out pet products that contain human-grade ingredients, Ben & Jerry’s said.

Lindsay Bumps, global marketer at Ben & Jerry’s, said the company envisioned exponential growth in pet spending and started developing its dog treats early last year. The company consulted with a veterinary nutritionist, regulatory consultants and others to make sure the treats are safe and easy to digest, said Bumps, who is also a certified veterinary technician.

As with any treat, owners should take it slow with the introduction, offering a dollop at a time, Bumps said. She suggested putting the dessert in a bowl to make it easier for the dogs to navigate. Bumps’ 9-year-old French Bulldog, Spock, is a huge fan of the flavor of peanut butter.

The treats – $ 2.99 a cup or $ 4.99 for four – will be placed near popsicles in the frozen food aisles of grocery stores, a few doors down from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

The pivot to pets doesn’t mean Ben & Jerry’s is seeing a slowdown on the human side. London-based Unilever, owner of Ben & Jerry’s, said in October that its sales of ice cream for home consumption had increased by more than 10% in the last quarter. Shaken consumers searched for indulgent treats during the pandemic and refueled several pints on less frequent grocery trips, Bumps said.

“It’s an opportunity for people to treat their dogs like they self-medicate when they take a pint off the shelf,” she said.

First published on January 11, 2021 / 3:33 PM

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