AKRON, Ohio — Wheat-free dog bones, turkey jerky and sweet potato biscuits are among the items carried in West Point Market's first-ever pet department.
The two-month-old, 1,500-square-foot section called “Paws” is located in a high-traffic area across from bakery. West Point made room for the department by reducing space for kitchen gadgets.
“It has good exposure since it's right across from the bakery,” Chief Executive Officer Rick Vernon told SN.
The section stocks only natural organic and low-allergen cat/dog treats and food.
“Our customers want natural and organic because their pets are like their children,” Vernon said. “They want nothing but the best.”
Products include Real Dog-brand sweet potato biscuits and turkey jerky tenders. Another popular item is Weruva's Kobe Master dog food. The food is made from Wagyu cattle, a breed known for intense marbling. Along with being packed with flavor, Wagyu beef has several health benefits, including a high concentration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In Japan, Wagyu cattle are used to make Kobe beef.
West Point sells Kobe Master for $3.49 per 13-ounce can.
Weruva also markets other high-end dog food, including “Paw Lickin' Chicken” and “Marbella Paella.”
“The pet foods we sell are totally clean, just like the food we sell for humans,” he said.
Other brands include Newman's Own Organics pet food, and Party Animal grain-free dog food made with lamb, organic cranberries and other specialty ingredients. West Point sells it for $2.99 per 13 ounces.
“Some pets are better fed than their owners,” Vernon joked.
There's also Buddy Biscuits by CloudStar. The low-allergen, all-natural treats come in the shape of a gingerbread man.
West Point special orders additional products based on customer requests. Pup-Pie by Lazy Dog Cookie Co. is one such item. The wheat- and corn-free pet treat comes packaged in a 6-inch pie dish.
West Point purposely doesn't sell Purina and other mass-marketed brands because of competition from other stores.
“We only want to carry brands that can't be found anywhere else,” he said.
Another rule is that all products must be made in the U.S.
“We don't sell imported pet food because some people question how it's made and what kind of ingredients are used,” he said.
While this is West Point's first official pet department, it's not the retailer's first attempt at wooing pet owners. It previously sold pet food, but exited the category 15 years ago because it couldn't compete with chain stores.
It decided to reenter the business, this time focusing on the high-end products.
The time was right due to increased demand for and availability of high-quality pet products, said Vernon.
While buying such higher-priced items can run $20 to $30 a week, many West Point consumers — even those on a budget — feel it's a worthwhile investment.
“They don't mind spending that kind of money as long as they see the value,” Vernon said.
That's because higher-quality food is denser than other food, so pets don't have to eat as much. At the same time, natural and organic food is healthier than regular pet food, said Vernon.