OMAHA, NEB. — Tender & True has launched its first plant-based dog treat line, which is also its first to include upcycled ingredients certified by the Upcycled Food Association. The name for the line, PB+, plays on the inclusion of 100% plant-based ingredients and natural peanut butter flavors.

The line includes three formulas — PB+ Honey Recipe, PB+ Berries Recipe, and PB+ Banana Recipe — each featuring whole fruits and vegetables. The PB+ Honey Recipe is made with sweet potato, apples, dried honey and rolled oats. The PB+ Berries Recipe includes sweet potato, blueberries, cranberries, flaxseed and rolled oats. The PB+ Banana Recipe is formulated with sweet potato, flaxseed and banana. All three formulas are low in fat and calories.

Kortney Unruh, marketing and innovation manager at Tender & True, told Pet Food Processing the inspiration behind these treats was “multifaceted.”

“Health was a giant focus, as was the whole epidemic around pet obesity — is there a way to present a pet treat that is low in fat but doesn’t compromise on quality and taste?” she said. “In looking at that, we were able to source upcycled ingredients, still sticking with our mantra of ‘Certifiably Better’ ingredients that are third-party certified. We decided to work with upcycled ingredients and real fruits and veggies, not powders.”

The formulas are nut free, while still including a natural peanut butter flavoring. All three recipes include pea protein, apple cider vinegar, cane molasses, coconut glycerin and brewers dried yeast.

The PB+ line caters to dog owners seeking plant-based, low-fat and low-calorie treating options.Photo courtesy of Tender & True

“The first ingredient of all three formulas is sweet potato, and we also use real bananas and real apples, blueberries and cranberries, and oats,” Unruh said. “It is a grain-inclusive treat rather than grain-free, which is a little bit different than what we currently offer. I think it encompasses the mantra around finding a healthier balance for pets rather than feeding calorie-laden treats all the time.”

Sustainability is built into the formulas with the inclusion of upcycled ingredients, but an eco-friendly approach is also evident in the product packaging. The PB+ line is Tender & True’s first to be packaged in bags made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials.

“This is our first line using the upcycled certification, but we are actually reformulating some other items to include those ingredients,” Unruh added. “The Upcycled Food Association’s mission really mirrors ours in terms of sustainability and finding a better way to do things.”

Unruh mentioned the company has already completed one reformulation to include upcycled ingredients in Tender & True’s existing portfolio, and will continue to look for other opportunities to include upcycled foods in its existing recipes. 

Tender & True’s existing pet treat portfolio features meat-first, jerky-style options that leverage the company’s vertically integrated protein supply chain. This new PB+ line takes a different approach in an effort to better reach pet owners with a tendency toward plant-based products.

“There are a lot of consumers looking for a lot of different things, and one of them is plant-based,” she said. “Regardless of it being on trend this year or on the downslope, those people will always be there, and this PB+ line is really trying to accommodate those consumers and what they’re looking for.”

The company was able to achieve a plant-based, jerky-style treat in part by incorporating rolled oats, Unruh noted.

“From a formulation standpoint, it wasn’t greatly different from that of a meat treat,” she said. “It does look a bit different, but the texture is still very soft. It mirrors and complements our existing treat line quite well.”

In 2023, Unruh shared that Tender & True will turn its focus to feline nutrition.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve looked at our product portfolio as well as gaps across the industry, and we’re seeing a need to focus on cats,” she said. “We launched our first cat treat earlier this year, which is MSC certified and shredded, so it’s a little different than some of the existing products out there.

“We have a couple really exciting products in the pipeline that we plan to launch in Q1,” she added. “Those two items are cat-focused and represent a whole different segment that we are not currently in.”

Read more about new pet food and treat products.