The sale of pet treats has outpaced both dog and cat food in the last five years in the US.\r\n\r\nNew research from Mintel has revealed that treats sales increased by 29 percent between 2012-17 to reach $4.39 billion.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, dog food sales grew eight percent between 2012-17 to reach $11.8 billion, while cat food sales increased 11 percent to reach $6.83 billion during the same timeframe.\r\n\r\nWith snacking frequency on the rise among Americans, it seems the trend may be extending to their pets as one in 11 (nine percent) pet owners say they feed their pet toppers (such as sauce and gravy) as a snack or treat.\r\n\r\nSeen as more than just a way to reward good behavior, three quarters (75 percent) of pet owners agree that treats are their way of showing their pet love.\r\n\r\nTreats are also popular for their health benefits. One quarter (24 percent) of owners give their pet treats designed to address specific health issues, such as dental care or hair balls.\r\n\r\nQuality ingredients is of the utmost importance for Americans\u2019 furry friends as two in five (40 percent) US pet owners say they check the ingredient list when purchasing new pet food or treats and 64 percent would be interested in treats made with premium ingredients, such as all-natural or organic.\r\n\r\nHowever, there is still ample room for further growth in the pet treats category as less than half (47 percent) of pet owners say they give their pets treats on a daily basis.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhile dog and cat food dominate the category, the continued growth of treats is a clear reflection of the increasingly prevalent view among pet owners that pets are members of the family and deserve a bit of pampering. Treats are a way that pet owners can show their pets some love and, for some, they're also a way to address specific health and wellness issues.\r\n\r\n"Despite the fact that treats and toppers have helped drive incremental sales in the category, usage remains relatively low, suggesting there is room for further gains,\u201d said John Owen, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel.\r\n\r\n\u201cRetailers may be able to spur additional sales by promoting themed care and feeding regimens consisting of complementary foods, toppers and treats.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cTreating pets like one of the family continues to be a popular trend among pet owners; however, today, their purchases are more and more functionally driven as health becomes a top priority. Highlighting the health or convenience benefits of pet supplies could encourage owners to increase spend in the category as they continue to look for ways to improve their pet\u2019s health and happiness,\u201d said Rebecca Cullen, household analyst at Mintel.\r\n\r\n\u201cPets play a valuable role in the household with most owners finding that the benefits of pet ownership far outweigh the costs. The pet market is driven by an increase in pet ownership, as well as rising costs of pet health care and pet owners\u2019 penchant for indulging their animal companions.\r\n\r\n"Future growth in the category will continue to be fueled by positive demographic factors such as Millennials getting married and starting families, as well as pet owners\u2019 continued interest in spoiling their pets,\u201d concluded Owen.