May Pet Insight

Page 1

Pet Insight May 2022

Honoring leaders in the pet industry who deliver cutting-edge and inventive solutions to market and create a favorable business climate

Inside Special Report: Acquisitions in the Pet Industry 2 • Market Focus: Vancouver, BC 8 • Special Report: Feeders 12 • Special Report: Live Foods 14 • Sustainability in Chews 16 • 2022 Vanguard Awards 18 • Q&A Interview: Greg Cyr, Mid America Pet Food 54 • Q&A Interview: Shawn McGhee, Hollywood Feed

Special Report

Acquisitions in the Pet Industry


overs and shakers within the pet industry have not been deterred by the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic to continue to pursue growth. An exceptional squad of companies have altered the pet industry landscape. Not only were they the first to complete the largest mergers of retailers in pet history, but notably, this feat of consolidating retailers was achieved by other retailers in the pet industry, rather than by outside forces. All the while wrestling with staffing and supply chain hiccups, EarthWise Pet in the last year made headlines multiple times with partnership agreements with Pet Stuff America and the acquisition of Pet Pros. Pet Supplies Plus in early 2022 announced it had acquired Wag N’ Wash, and more recently, Hollywood Feed announced its acquisition of PetPeople. Even north of the border, Canadian retailer Pet Valu announced in February it had acquired the Quebec-based Les Franchises Chico Inc. Clearly, the disruptions have presented opportunities for these operators to improve efficiencies and construct stronger economies of scale through a number of mergers and acquisitions—a business phenomenon that seems to have accelerated after 2020. Those leading these strategic consolidations say there are a number of reasons why, but they all agree it was precisely the unsettled nature of the industry in general that made the stars align for them to take their next critical steps forward.

EarthWise Pet

In August 2021, EarthWise Pet and Pet Stuff America (formerly known as Bentley’s Pet Stuff) announced a strategic partnership that would bolster both brands and help strengthen the latter’s franchising endeavors. “Our partnership with EarthWise is making us tremendously focused on franchising and that’s a combination of new franchises and then converting existing stores to franchises,” Giovanni Senafe with Pet Stuff America told Pet Insight in September 2021. According to EarthWise Pet CEO Mike Seitz, Senafe is now VP of Store Acquisitions under EarthWise Pet. The announcement was also carefully worded PG 2 / PE T I N S I G H T

to reflect the atypical nature of the partnership. “It’s a very unique structure,” Seitz said in December 2021. “We were very particular about using the term ‘strategic partnership’ because that’s what it is, and it’s hard to call it anything else. It’s not a merger and it’s not an acquisition even though there was an acquisition part of it.” Seitz further explained, “One of the things, just to throw a wrench and complicate things even more, is Lisa [Senafe] and Marcus [Lemonis] who essentially own outright Pet Stuff America, have a minority ownership in EarthWise Pet now as part of the arrangement, so we are truly strategic partners in every respect with complete alignment. In terms of management control, it’s the EarthWise Pet team, which now includes Lisa.” While there are many moving parts, Seitz confirmed the long-term plan was for all of Pet Stuff America’s various brands to fall under either EarthWise Pet, Dee-O-Gee or GROOMBAR, depending on services offered. EarthWise Pet made a separate announcement in November 2021 that it was also acquiring Pet Pros and its 18 locations around Washington state. Seitz explained to Pet Insight in December, “Pet Pros locations are owned by our franchisees Zeke and Sabino Arredondo. The store names will change to EarthWise Pet in the coming months as the stores get retrofitted for services. In terms of merchandising and product decisions, the Pet Pros corporate office will still make those decisions, but with the guidance and direction from the EarthWise Pet team.” The move aligned with EarthWise Pet’s growth strategy. “We are looking at expanding our footprint in specific targeted regions through acquisition, and Pet Pros was the natural regional accretive as well as the perfect cultural fit,” he said. “[Pet Pros founders] Harvey and Nancy [Peterson] spent decades building an amazing legacy, and we were the right fit to honor that legacy moving forward.”

Pet Supplies Plus

This February, Pet Supplies Plus announced its acquisition of Wag N’

Wash’s 15 locations. In this case, each brand will continue to operate as separate entities due in part to the fact they offer services and products that don’t always overlap. “Pet Supplies Plus offers a convenient selection of services, prescription fulfillment, and a full assortment of pet products for all types of furry, scaly and feathery friends, including live animals, while Wag N’ Wash is mainly centered on self-wash, grooming services, and natural food options primarily for dogs and select cat items,” according to the acquisition announcement. “Both franchise systems have healthy unit economics as demand for pet products and services continues to grow and pet parents remain loyal to shopping local.” Pet Supplies Plus CEO Chris Rowland said, “The acquisition presents mutual benefits for franchisees, neighbors and guests of both brands. Pet Supplies Plus neighbors will see no change and will continue to receive the same neighborly service and access to all the same products for all types of pets. Wag N’ Wash guests will continue to enjoy this fun and passionate brand’s specialty offerings, but now will have access to an even greater assortment of products.” Wag N’ Wash VP Kristen Risby said the acquisition adds value to all parties involved. “Our owners find joy in serving their communities and pets well,” she said. “Now, they can do this with enhanced resources, such as best-inclass fulfillment and assortment though a collective supply chain, back-office functionality and technology, pricing and cost support and more. It’s a win for everyone from the franchise owners to the guests and their pets.” Rowland indicated that new and existing franchise owners will have the opportunity to open a store under the Wag N’ Wash or Pet Supplies Plus name, depending on what makes most sense for the market.

Hollywood Feed

In March, Hollywood Feed announced its acquisition of PetPeople. Hollywood Feed CEO Shawn McGhee said the move factored in four main points of considr Cont'd on Pg. 4

Special Report: Acquisitions in the Pet Industry r From Pg. 2 eration: customer experience, product assortment, geographical market and overall cultural fit. “It starts with people and an alignment around the purchase of the customer and the customer experience with the people,” McGhee said. “Then we get into product. Within the pet industry, you have a pretty varied product assortment and product focus and strategy. In some of the larger categories you have people that are out selling fish, reptiles and small animals such as hamsters and all of that, which we don’t participate in, so for the most part, it’s much easier to do an acquisition with a group of stores that are aligned around canine and feline. Then it’s market. When you look at the market, it’s really the adjacencies within the states and the adjacencies within geography that start to make sense. Also, of course, product aligns around the customer and market and where the directive of the customer segmentation is you’re looking at going after. And last, it just has to be an overall good fit. All the components have to come together and you have to have the right capital markets to make it make sense economically. You also have to have a willing participant in a seller, along with a willing participant in a buyer, and that’s what aligned with this particular transaction.” McGhee said the long-term plan is for PetPeople to become fully integrated into the Hollywood Feed system, including its branding, but the technical moves will be completed quicker—likely by this summer. Hollywood Feed’s technology is leading the industry, he said, and hopefully PetPeople consumers will see improved speed and service and wider product offerings as backend operations move to the Hollywood Feed platform. “When you look at it, Hollywood Feed owns its own distribution,” he said. “Hollywood Feed owns all its own trucks. We own all our own cars for same day delivery, so we bring all that deep supply chain knowledge to the PetPeople stores.” At the same time, PetPeople’s established geography facilitates Hollywood Feed’s growth strategy. “We gained more stores in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and PG 4 / PE T I N S I G H T

Tennessee,” he said. “And then we added states—Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania with this transaction. And all of those fall within our given supply chain, so from a pure efficiency standpoint, falling within our supply chain makes transportation quite easy, and it is one of those things that drives an economic value of scale.” Presently, it is more time efficient to grow by acquisition. Speaking to how Hollywood Feed benefits from the acquisition, “It’s two things: time is definitely one because to go out and build 70-80 stores, it takes time. Therefore it’s an opportunity to go into the new markets that we already discussed, but it’s also just a certain amount of scale, and we’re able to accelerate the timing just because it’s incredibly difficult to build stores in the middle of Covid right now, and this gives us an opportunity to enhance our total network,” McGhee said.

Pet Valu

Pet Valu’s acquisition into the Quebec market illustrates the company is solidly back to growth mode, particularly after it closed all of its US stores at the end of 2020. “Entering Québec marks a key milestone in our mission to be Canada’s referred pet retailer,” said Richard Maltsbarger, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pet Valu. “The acquisition of Chico is an excellent strategic fit for both companies, as we welcome a great brand with a terrific group of franchisees and loyal customers to the Pet Valu family, with the opportunity to benefit from our scale, infrastructure and franchisee support. We look forward to supporting Chico’s continued growth within the province and serving Québec’s devoted pet lovers.” Chico would continue to operate as a separate subsidiary led by a Montréal-based management team, with founders Pierre Charbonneau and Michel Joly still active in the business. Consistent with its multi-banner strategy in other provinces, Pet Valu intends to preserve the Chico banner in Québec. “I have long envisioned seeing Chico expand across Québec, to provide a place for discerning pet owners to seek expert advice and high-quality products from dedicated, neighborhood-based franchise owners,” said Pierre Charbon-

neau, Founder and President of Chico. “Pet Valu is the ideal partner to support Chico’s continued growth across the province, given the correlation to our values and a strong track record fostering close relationships with their franchise network across Canada.”

Growth Mode: M&As

Both Seitz with EarthWise Pet and McGhee with Hollywood Feed said their recent moves were made possible because of the changes that began with the pandemic. According to Seitz, those who were not ready for or insulated from the volatility in 2020 either succumbed to or had to somehow link up with companies that had stronger infrastructures to not only withstand the unpredictable market but to continue growing. “As I see it, you saw a lot of businesses and entities that weren’t ready for something like a pandemic,” he said. “And the pandemic expedited their exit strategies. For those businesses that are ready and are prepared for business moving forward and more of a digital play moving forward, it gave them a tremendous opportunity to consolidate and to go after entities that weren’t ready. And so you have a unique mix of companies ready to sell that are not prepared for the future, and those companies that not only are ready for the future but are ready to consolidate. It’s a perfect storm in terms of mergers and acquisitions activity.” Both Pet Stuff America and Pet Pros are retail-centric, Seitz explained. “They didn’t have a lot of services in their product mix, or in their offering. They were driving to delve into some of the digital play, but they didn’t really have some great partners. They didn’t have the internal development structures in terms of developers on staff, and that kind of thing, that we have. It was one of those opportunities where we could come in to help them with their model and their system adapt to what was happening within the industry and do that in a collaborative sense, and essentially hand over a roadmap of success in today’s world. And so what you’re seeing now is Pet Pros and Pet Stuff stores are all retrofitting for services, they’re all moving to different point of sales sysr Cont'd on Pg. 6

Special Report: Acquisitions in the Pet Industry r From Pg. 4 tems and integrated systems that have cross platform opportunities where you can sell online, you can do home delivery, do in-store pick up, all the things you need to compete and be successful long term. We’re able to hand over the template for how to do that. And so it was actually a really good fit that way. Also from a regional perspective, they were in regions we weren’t currently located really. As a franchisor we have the benefit of not having to be bogged down by the day-to-day operations of an individual store. And so we can spend most of our time on modeling industry trends and making sure that we have the systems and infrastructure in place to be successful long term. It was a nice synergy that way.” For McGhee, the recent spate of consolidations is also timed with a number of cycles. “What the pandemic did was accelerate the growth in the industry,” he said. “It probably pulled us forward a good two to three years. If you go in and you look at the macroeconomics of the pet industry in general, over the next decade it’s supposed to more than double. And when you talk about an industry going from say, a round number of $100 billion to $200 billion, the sheer size, stability and overall growth of the industry is going to attract larger and larger players with deeper and deeper investment [dollars]. And that by its nature is going to drive consolidation. The second thing is the demographics. The pet industry has been built by entrepreneurs. Many of those entrepreneurs are reaching ages in which they’re starting to think about estate planning and enjoying life on the golf course or the tennis court or whatever it is that makes them happy, and that’s creating that opportunity. The other side of it is when you look at the investment dollars that are coming in through private equity, private equity all has a given timeline— almost all of them have a given timeline—and with those timelines come businesses that are bought and sold at a fairly regular cadence.”

Room to Play

The swallowing up of assorted companies begs the question: Is there’s still room for ‘the little guy’? McGhee says PG 6 / PE T I N S I G H T

the opportunities now couldn’t be better for someone with a good idea and a better plan. “There is more opportunity today than there’s ever been,” he said. “A typical mode of consolidation is a manufacturer gets bought, and the first thing they want to do is go to the larger market which means you’re going to move into food, drug and mass. That moves them out of the independent pet space or moves them out of the pet spaces as an exclusive, which creates an opportunity for that new, young, brand and that new young idea to come into the space and create that niche opportunity.” The bounty of funding available is enticing for a young upstart, he said. “The second thing is capital has never cost less, so the No.1 thing that every new brand needs is more money,” McGhee said. “And if that money comes to you at a lower cost, it’s going to improve your chances for success. Thirdly what happened in my opinion was if you look at the pandemic and go in and look at the math, the number of businesses in the US came close to doubling during the pandemic. That means you’ve had this huge entrepreneurial flashpoint that was fueled by a lot of people who either took buy outs or a lot of people were able to get stimulus or were able to acquire capital at a really attractive rate. What that does is they’ve gone out and created new businesses across many fronts—at a level we’ve never see in the US. And while it’s too early to say exactly how it plays out, if I was an entrepreneur today, I would be more emboldened to be more aggressive and go after areas in the pet space. It’s much easier to create a really nice business in a $200 billion industry than a $100 billion industry.” Opportunities are also still there for smaller scale retail though it looks different than in the past. “I’d counter the narrative of the ‘mom-and-pops are going away,’ with a review of the franchise space, whether it be Pet Supplies Plus, which is obviously the largest franchisor in the space. However, you also have three or four others behind them that are all seeing robust growth, and that growth is not coming from corporate America. It is single store owners to owners with a few stores. The way you win, as a single store owner, is to indi-

vidualize those stores. Individualization means uniqueness and uniqueness is always about a point of view around product and people,” McGhee said. In terms of more consolidations, “It’s going to escalate. You’re going to see some major moves,” Seitz said. “The next 12 months will be a massive consolidation of the industry.” On the surface, all indications point to a tougher landscape for small, independent retailers, he said. “You’re going to see some weeding out of some of the mom-and-pops that aren’t operating efficiently and frankly were just lucky over the decades. They’re either going to be forced to adapt into improving efficiencies or they’re going to have to sell or they’re probably not going to make it. You’re definitely going to see some adverse effects from it on the local situation for the owner/operator retailers.” Seitz continued, “We’re one of the last industries that had a lot of fragmentation, and you can see the writing on the wall that that era is starting to come to a conclusion. Amazon and Chewy have driven that. It’s mandated and forced the sophisticated stores to adapt and those who aren’t sophisticated or don’t have the resources to adapt will really struggle, and that’s a long-term change in the industry.” Seitz’s perspective aligns well with McGhee’s in that there is a viable and appealing solution in franchising. “It’s the only model that will survive besides the larger chains moving forward. What you’ll see is a lot of the local mom-andpop independent retailers and even independent services shops become part of franchise systems and do conversions in order to compete with the larger players.” Speaking from experience, “That’s the beautiful thing about franchising is you have passionate local independent retailers with a service-centric focus, whether they’re retail only or retail and services, it doesn’t really matter,” Seitz said. “It’s got that personal relationship with the customer just like the olden days, but the difference is when you have a franchisor, you’re part of a system using innovative systems. You have the leverage, the buying power, you have all the benefits of being a larger chain but you’re still an owner/operator.”



Live wild




Live FrEE

Craf te d IN the




awaken your pet's wild spirit at your local pet food store and at

Market Focus Vancouver BC


he Vancouver BC marketplace has become a central area of opportunity for pet specialty retailers. Leaders have paved the way for pet retailers of all types and sizes to succeed, creating a community-oriented market filled with unique pet owners and clientele.

Pet Valu:

With 625 stores, Pet Valu has 42 locations in the market, which occupies 24.4 percent of the market share. Pet Valu has been in business for more than 40 years and carries a large selection of pet food, treats, toys and accessories. Chris Wiens, Regional Director of Corporate Operations BC acknowledged Vancouver held various characteristics of interest for the company. “There are several factors, but one that resonates with me is how the Vancaouver marketplace has everything a pet owner could dream of,” Wiens said. “There is a ton of selection when it comes to pet retail stores, vet access, pet-friendly hotels, and the great outdoors are outstanding. Also, the ratio of pets to the household is high.” “With great access to amenities, this continues to drive more pets in more homes thus creating a growth market for us to expand within,” he continued. “If I had to characterize pet owners in the Vancouver marketplace, I would use words such as devoted, caring, responsible, social and active.” “When I think about traits of pet owners in the Vancouver marketplace you are seeing a trend of pets being treated as the part of the family, especially when it comes to pet nutrition and care. This is resulting in a change of mindset and buying patterns,” Wiens said. “Patterns vary depending on the area of Vancouver you are in. For example, in the downtown core you see frequent visits as this is an exciting part of their pet’s walk. They look forward to seeing our teams and getting a treat for their pet even when they aren’t purchasing a product. It can be just a social outing for the pet owner and their pet. Outside of the downtown core, you do see a predictable visit pattern for many pet owners whether that visit is tied into feeding patterns, flyer launches or Seniors/ Military Day. Expectations remain high PG 8 / PE T I N S I G H T

in this market to provide knowledge and expertise when it comes to pets’ health and lifestyle. Pet owners want to ask for advice and suggestions to provide a better life for their pets.” Taking a closer look at the past two years, Pet Valu continued to stay focused and thrive despite the circumstances. “With an estimated 3 million pets joining Canadian pet owners’ homes since the start of the pandemic, we commissioned a national study to understand the pandemic’s effect on pet adoption so we can continue to provide the products and expertise pet owners need,” Wiens said. “Our goal is to nurture the unconditional relationship between pets and pet lovers and to be the trusted partner of pet owners over the lifetime of their pets. To thrive in this industry, we continue to focus on nurturing the earned trust and loyalty of pet owners. We do so with our compassionate and knowledgeable service, our premium product offering including award-winning proprietary brands, our in-store services, our expanding omnichannel capabilities along with opening more locations across the country.” “Our primary store banner is Pet Valu, which is nationally recognized and trusted, and accounts for more than 70 percent of our stores,” he said. “In addition to Pet Valu, we operate three additional banners in British Columbia—Bosley’s by Pet Valu, Tisol, Total Pet—the Paulmac’s Pets banner in Ontario, and the Chico banner in Quebec. These longstanding banners are deeply embedded in their communities and benefit from the scale of our national operating network. A neat fact is that together with our franchisees, we now operate more than 700 stores across Canada, putting us within a five-kilometer vicinity of more than 72 percent of Canada’s population!”

Pet Food ‘N More:

Pet Food ‘N More has a total of seven locations, all of which are in Vancouver BC. The company started in 1988 by two brothers with a goal to provide a shopping experience and store that was more than the typical pet store. According to the company, Pet Food ‘N

More focuses on three elements: put the well-being of pets first, provide excellent customer service and honesty. The company also partners with several organizations within the marketplace such as Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, for which it raised more than $191,200. Pet Food ‘N More has continued to be compassionate and dedicated to the well-being of animals since its inception. The company has vowed to promote the idea that all animals deserve proper care and a loving home. The company has made it a point to support animal shelters and rescues to ensure they are playing a role in finding forever homes for animals. Alongside this, the retailer noticed the decline in customer service and has made it a point to go above and beyond for their consumers and pet owners. Pet Food ‘N More has grown from two brothers’ vision to offer pets and their owners more, to a staff of more than 75 employees working to ensure the company is delivering the best to their consumers.

Bone & Biscuit:

Bone & Biscuit has a total of 54 locations with five stores in the Vancouver market. The retailer was founded in 2008 by Lee Drescher. Drescher had a goal of providing one-of-a-kind service to health-conscious owners interested in higher quality, better-for-you food solutions. “Each and every one of our store owners and employees are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to pet nutrition and well-being,” according to Bone & Biscuit literature. “We’re your neighbourhood pet experts. When you and your pets walk through our doors you’re welcomed like family. We’re here to help you and your pets along your journey together, because we believe with the right nutrition, we keep them dreaming longer.” Bone & Biscuit has high standards and quality of food, treats and products in general. The retailer offers consumers high-quality raw, dried, canned food options, natural treats, homeopathic vir Cont'd on Pg. 10



Turning Empathy into Action for Domestic Abuse Survivors with Pets Purina’s Purple Leash® Project By Nina Leigh Krueger, President and CEO of Nestlé Purina PetCare For several years now, Purina’s purpose of enriching the lives of pets and the people who love them has been brought to life through our Purple Leash Project program, which is helping domestic violence shelters across the country become pet friendly. While we have always believed that pets and people are better together, it has never been truer than for victims of domestic abuse and their beloved pets. Not only does domestic abuse impact one-third of women and a quarter of men in this country, but for victims with pets, leaving is made even more difficult by the fact that only 15% of shelters allow pets. We believe that we can help change that. Perhaps like many of you, I hadn’t spent much time internalizing the issue of domestic violence before Purina started doing work in the space. And while I have been sheltered from the realities of abuse in many ways throughout my life, the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized that domestic abuse is far too often a story that isn’t told. That is all the more reason why lending our voices and brands to shine a light on this issue through the Purple Leash Project has been so inspiring to me, and I’ve been humbled by the willingness of our retail partners to support this work. Together, we are making a difference. What started nearly a decade ago as a phone call to see how Purina could help a single domestic violence shelter become pet friendly has evolved into a mission to change the narrative and the domestic violence survivor services landscape altogether at a

national scale. From getting handson at shelters to make pet-friendly improvements through associate volunteer days to lobbying for federal support for survivors with pets in Washington, D.C., Purina is committed to doing more than writing checks to make a difference. We’re putting in work to make real change. And because of your support, and the support of our brands, we’ve helped 30 domestic violence shelters become pet friendly and donated more than $1 million to the Purple Leash Project fund since creating the Purple Leash Project with our nonprofit partner, RedRover, in 2019. More survivors and pets are safe today because of this work. This program is saving lives. The Purple Leash Project is inspiring pet owners to get involved and join us on this mission. In fact, in addition to the funding Purina provides, consumers have donated more than $400,000 to the Purple Leash Project so far.

But there is more work to do. There are more doors to open for survivors of domestic violence with pets, so they can escape abuse and heal together. It is only through the support and advocacy of many that we will continue to lead this charge and protect the bond between survivors and their beloved pets. To our partners who have embraced the Purple Leash Project, thank you. And to those who are considering it, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Purina sales rep to find out how you can support this initiative during key periods throughout the year with merch programs designed to drive attention and awareness of this issue and give your customers a way to get involved by donating and purchasing specially marked Purina products.

Purina trademarks are owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A. Any other marks are property of their respective owners.

Market Focus: Vancouver BC r From Pg. 8 tamins and supplements, bakery items and various accessories. “We have witnessed firsthand the improvements in health and vitality that a natural and raw food diet can produce,” according to the company website. “Our goal is to provide today’s discriminating pet owner with the awareness and education to make informed decisions about their companion’s nutritional health and wellness. We advocate a common sense approach to feeding a natural dry or raw diet and believe wholeheartedly that the cornerstone to good health is nutrition. After all, ‘You are what you eat!’”


MrPets has four locations in the market. With a total of 10 locations, MrPets has excelled at navigating through the challenging terrain of the pet market driven by an uncomplicated mission: “To become the best pet store in the world.” MrPets was founded in 1996 in Port Coquitlam. A year later, the retailer began to expand and opened its Maple Ridge locations and later both locations revamped their footprint and storefront by expanding their operations. By 2002, the third location opened in Mission and was dedicated to serving the farm industry as well as local pet owners. In 2005, the first Vancouver location opened and began carrying a full range of products including a floor dedicated to fish, birds and other pets. The retailer has more than 8,000 products and each store is approximately 5,550 to 12,000 square feet with more than 100 associates working for the company.

Global Pet Foods:

Global Pet Foods has three locations in the market. The retailer’s locations are franchise-owned and have become the third largest pet specialty retailer in Canada and sixth largest in North America, according to company leaders. Global Pet Foods has been operating since 1976 and offers pet parents a wide assortment of holistic, high-quality food and treat options. Global Pet Foods has always felt pets are a part of the family, and this mindset has helped them focus on providing PG 10 / PET I N S I G H T

pet parents with high-quality food options, knowledgeable advice and excellent customer service. In 2021, Global Pet Foods was awarded the Brand of the Year in the Animalis Edition of the World Branding Awards. “The Animalis Edition of the Awards are an acknowledgment to the tireless effort of the teams that build and maintain their brand presence in an everchanging market in the pet and animal industry,” said Richard Rowles, Chairman of the World Branding Forum. Dino Fragaglia, President of Global Pet Foods shared, “It’s fulfilling knowing that our customers recognize our brand and we’re extremely proud of that achievement. Pet parents also recognize our strong reputation as leaders in pet specialty innovation, which authenticates our core beliefs.” Paul Thomson, CEO of Global Pet Foods said, “Global Pet Foods strives to create the best possible customer experience for pet owners across Canada. Our brand message supports this goal. The Brand of the Year Award is a wonderful testament to the team effort directed towards this goal. Thank you to our management group and staff, our marketing consultants, our vendors, and, of course, the franchise associates who make our brand message a reality for our customers.”

Paw Street Market:

Canadian-owned and operated Paw Street Market has two locations in Vancouver BC. Founder Mary Young has 30 years of experience in pet retail, which includes her time as Director of Operations of a pet retail chain for 12 years. This also included both franchised and corporately owned locations, during which she had opened 23 new locations. Young was also Head Buyer for 11 years for 23 pet stores (from retail chain to the main warehouse). Young has been committed the past five years to planning, opening and operating four Paw Street Markets. She has also been able to offer Paw Street Market as a franchise opportunity to people who want to join the business and have a shared passion for animals’ well-being. The company has a focus on offering consumers a wide selection of dog and cat food, treats, supplies, small animal

products as well as supplements.

Homes Alive Pets:

A family-owned business, which was passed down from generation to generation for more than 30 years, Homes Alive Pets has one location in the Vancouver BC market. The company prides itself on holding a higher standard for pet care, its welcoming and interactive environment as well as its knowledgeable staff, which is readily available to provide expert advice. Homes Alive Pets is guided by five principles: knowledge, experience, individuality, trust and community. “This isn’t your average pet store,” according to company literature. “You’ll feel it when you walk through the door. It’s more than beautifully designed locations and friendly staff—it’s a belief in a higher standard for pet care. Our stores are community hubs—somewhere to come and share an experience with your pet.”

Inside Look:

With one location in Vancouver BC, Dawn Moulton with Cascadia Natural Pet Supply outlined the unique characteristics pet owners in the area have maintained. “New pet owners needing support, there are so many in Vancouver since Covid. Those of us with more experience can share stories of what works and what does not. People need humans to talk to to wade through all the advertising, advice, and extensive product lines. There are more products than ever now, and customers are overwhelmed in making choices. In the city pet owners are living in small spaces so they want cat litter that doesn’t smell or scatter. They want to accommodate several pets in condominium living so maximizing space and reducing clutter are key features.” Moulton continued, “Cats and dogs get all the glory, and guardians of other species such as birds and small animals feel underserved. I am a big fan of products that can be used cross-species. Captive exotics are extremely complex and require specialized care. If we don’t learn to do better in the category, the animals will suffer from a lack of education, experience and available products. We must do better in this arena.”

They’re part of the family.

The finest omega-3 fish oil for pet health. Nordic Naturals makes the highest-quality fish oils on the planet to help support optimal health for dogs and cats. Beloved pets are part of the family, just like our Nordic Pet collection is an important part of our complete family of pure, fresh, and great-tasting omega-3 products. Give your customers and their cherished pets the finest omega-3 oils with Nordic Pet products.

Special Report Feeders


he feeders category has continued to grow from the traditional feeding bowl year after year. Leading companies within the category have heard consumers’ demands and met them with high-quality and innovative products to ensure pets’ daily needs are met. Gretchen George, President of PetRageous Designs, outlined what the company has been working on at this point in the year. “We are always looking for new ways to expand and improve on the feeder category,” George said. “Currently we are working on giving retailers a variety of sizes and mixed materials to select from. We have always considered pet growth and life stages as an important component of our feeder category. If a consumer finds a feeder that is right for their pet, we feel it’s important that they have the option to find that same feeder in a larger size as their pet matures.” “Feeders have always been a convenient and functional category in pet feeding,” she continued. “They organize the pet dining area and create a specific place in the home designated for pets to dine. With the emergence of so many new pet owners in the past few years, we are seeing a steady demand for feeders. Many of these new pet owners may have had pets growing up when feeders weren’t as prominent or even non-existent. Now feeders are a popular category, and the new pet owner is seeing how inclusive a pet dining station can be within their home. A great example of this is our Set The Table feeders. These stands do not include bowls and allows the owner to customize the food and water bowl they want to use. It’s their choice of design, their choice of material, and they have the option to switch the bowls out seasonally.” PAIKKA CEO Tea Kainu, mentioned the company has been focusing on designs this year. “We are concentrating on developing new designs that can improve pets’ well-being. This applies to both product designs and innovative materials,” Kainu said. “Consumers are beginning to understand more about the impact of the right kind of products and materials on a pet’s well-being,” she continued.

PG 12 / PET I N S I G H T

“Criteria for the appearance of supplies have also become increasingly important. Consumers are looking for products which fit their interior. The level of quality requirements has also risen significantly, and the price is no longer the only factor leading to a purchase decision.” “We have made sure PAIKKA products are packed in the nice and safe way so products can be presented nicely in the stores but also it is safe to ship those,” she added. “We have also invested in online content that helps customers better understand the features of PAIKKA products and their unique features. Videos and animation in particular are playing an even bigger role.” “PAIKKA will bring new innovative materials on the market and new designs. We see that this category has a lot of potential and are adding a totally new kinds of product in this category, not only ‘traditional feeders,’” Kainu concluded. Cole Abbey, Owner of Loving Pet Products, highlighted the company’s focal points within the feeders category. “Loving Pets recently launched a Dolce Moderno Bowl line, inspired by the look and feel of ceramic with added benefits of durability, dishwasher safe, rubber feet, easier for retailers to stock and available in six fashion-forward designs,” Abbey said. “In addition, we have launched an antique wooden diner line as part of our Black Label Collection that is available in four colors: terracotta, sage, weathered gray and rose.” “Pet parents continue to look for high-quality solution-based products that are durable and easy to maintain. As far as aesthetics go, pet parents are looking for innovative and stylish, yet fun in bowls that represent their style, taste and home décor. We have created as many touch points as possible for consumers to interact with our brand online, as well as being 100 percent transparent and informative with the consumer 100 percent of the time. In addition, it is of the utmost importance to us to ensure our products are in stock and available nationwide.” “We continue to focus on better quality at affordable prices, which involves

innovating around consumer preferences and pain points by listening to their feedback,” Abbey said. “One of our biggest assets toward growth is the fact that we are constantly looking toward fresh concepts and ideas.” Debra Mastic, Fluff Trough Founder, said, “We are working on several initiatives, the first one is the product line for the Fluff Trough XL, which is a version of the original Fluff Trough, but this one is designed for large breed dogs. This includes the binge blocker insert, which is a slow feeder insert and the stainless-steel water bowl insert. We are trying to grow awareness of the Fluff Trough XL because it is one of the only feeders on the market that is actually designed for dogs with large heads and faces. We are releasing a licky mat attachment as well for the Fluff Trough. The licky mat attachment fits on the Fluff Trough at a 45-degree angle so pets can lick it in a more ergonomic position in comparison to other licky mats, which either sit on the floor so the pets have to bend their necks down to use it or the mat suctions to the wall so the pet has to bend their neck in an upward position. The Fluff Trough licky mat is the perfect angle for them to lick over a long period of time comfortably.” “Consumer demands have inspired companies to think outside the box in the feeders category because people continue to buy new feeders until they find something that works for their pets,” Mastic continued. “So, they are not settling on something as important as feeding their pets, which you do at least two times a day. Many customers share they try numerous bowls until they find the one that works so many companies are trying to show the most common feeding issues which are accessibility, ease of use and mess reduction. I have also seen that customers are demanding more stainless-steel products because many are moving to feeding raw diets and they want to be conscious of the health and safety of the materials that the feeder is made out of. So, at Fluff Trough we offer both FDA-approved silicone and a stainless-steel option, which are both nonporous and safe for raw food.”

Special Report Live Foods


he skyrocketing demand for live foods in the last two years as people welcomed more pets into their homes left both suppliers and retailers initially unprepared to provide a steady supply of feeder insects. Many retailers reported difficulty with shortages with some pet owners beginning to cultivate feeder insects on their own. While things have evened out since then, suppliers of live foods remain at a precipice, still balancing the need to fulfill the demand for their products with fortifying supply side logistics so they can continue to be reliable partners for their retailer customers and pet owners. Even as they juggle these priorities, suppliers are also continuing to educate pet retailers on why they’d want to consider adding feeder insects to their store inventory: with the need to restock every few days, there is nothing better to bring in the foot traffic. “We have had an increase in consumers looking for live foods and a decline in the availability of live food,” said Chris and Alisha Ladowski with Fish & More Pet Store in Sylva, NC, last fall. “We have had to expand to multiple outlets for purchasing live foods, whereas prior to the pandemic we were able to get everything we needed from basically one supplier. In addition to the decreased supply, we have had to deal with the rising costs of live foods while still trying to give our customers a fair deal.” Melissa Whitton with Most Valuable Pets in Lexington, KY said in September 2021 that she switched to local breeders for many of her store’s live foods. “Demand has significantly increased and most of our commercial distributors can’t keep up with the demand,” she said. “I have noticed that our distributors have also changed their sources which may or may not impact their supply. Sales of live reptiles have increased about 300 percent during Covid. Some of this has to do with no reptile shows and part of it has to do with the search for pet companions overall has significantly increased during the pandemic.” Andy Pettit, Sales Manager for Timberline Live Pet Foods said in March that even those who’ve worked in the industry and the category for years and

PG 14 / PET I N S I G H T

so had some knowledge of forecasts, were shocked at how fast the category grew. “Even though a lot of us had been capitalizing and increasing throughout and building lanes so we could do more in the same amount of time, a lot of us including people who make hard goods, to making animals, to making insects, we were overwhelmed even with our preparation,” he said. Further, there is a learning curve to caring for a reptile pet. Timberline takes its role as supplier and educator seriously. “We promote our category primarily by providing quality food because it doesn’t matter how many people produce animals; if we can’t feed them properly and keep them healthy, then it is kind of a moot point,” Pettit said. “You can produce all of the animals in the world, but if you can’t feed them properly, it’s not going to help the market. We focus very strongly on sustainability, and I mean sustainability of supply. That’s protecting the future supply in lieu of immediate sales. When we are growing our output, we have to do that responsibly. I could have sold a whole lot more X,Y or Z last month but it would have hurt future production. I think promoting responsible husbandry is a key for us along with promoting the proper feeding methods for the customer to feed their animal for maximum longevity and health of the animal.” Like Timberline, Armstrong’s Cricket Farm is also working on supply sustainability. “It will be interesting in the coming years to see how logistics companies react to the ever-increasing volume and other factors affecting their ability to serve their customers,” said Operations Manager Brandon Armstrong in January. “We can do everything in our power to raise the healthiest feeder insects on the market, but if there are issues getting those products to the customer on a logistical level, all our work from a rearing standpoint is pointless. Armstrong’s Cricket Farm is always looking for the best way to deliver our products to our customers.” Sometimes, the best way is costly.

“Every industry including the live foods category becomes impacted by global events,” Armstrong said. “Whether it is a pandemic or shipping containers left in port for months at time, the shift in availability of products has caused Armstrong’s Cricket Farm, and I would think others in our industry, to look at our supply chain, identify weaknesses and incorporate solutions. At times, the solution is a more expensive albeit necessary option.” In the end, it is still about supporting the pet retailers whose owners turn to to ensure they can feed their pets. This is a point Pettit said he pushes often with prospective customers. “A lot of the people who had our product in their stores appreciated our category even more when everybody got locked up at home and went to Amazon or Chewy to get their stuff delivered straight to their door,” he said. “The live food category still had to come in. I’ve heard from many pet store owners who said, ‘feeders kept our lights on’ and ‘because of feeders, we didn’t shut down.’ It kept our people employed and it kept their businesses running. Some of the retailers have a new appreciation of that.” For those who might still be hedging, Pettit said Timberline offers marketing options and plenty of educational tools. “We’re able to send you pre-packaged things so you’re not dealing with loose crickets in your store,” he said. “Things that are merchandisable, that sit on the shelf and bring those customers in, just to test the water and see if those customers are coming into your store anyways, and then using some promotion and some tools we can provide them as far as who they’re looking for. A lot of retailers would be shocked at how many live foods customers are already in their store but they choose not to carry that product because they don’t know they are there. What they can be sure of is we’ll teach them. We want to educate consumers, we want to educate our customers, we want to educate people who potentially want to dip their toe into carrying our products. The thing about live food is people are going to be in a store every three to five days.”

Special Report

Sustainability in Chews


hile in more primitive times, the act of gnawing and chewing was predicated on hunting and survival instincts, domesticated dogs have evolved to continue these jaw exercises for stimulation and engagement. A similar evolution has occurred in the pet industry as well as suppliers step back from the idea of turning throw-away animal parts with little production oversight into chew products, and instead prioritize less-processed and oftentimes safer options that produce less waste and do less harm overall. For some manufacturers, sustainability in product sourcing was a byproduct of their original game plan. “This was never something that we really addressed, as sourcing and producing in the USA, has been one of our core practices from our time of founding,” said Laura Jones with Jones Naturals. “The Jones family has been in the meat industry since the 1850s, we truly value and believe in the quality that American farms and ranches provide. We have never compromised that value.” Above just raw product sourcing, however, is a strong stewardship over the process of making chews as well. “Domestic sourcing and manufacturing is a good place to start, but true sustainability needs to go further,” said John Bosserman for Great American Pet Treat Company. “We’ve raised the bar several notches by cleaning up the entire chemical and waste footprint in making dog chews. We buy from independent, small producers who provide us with raw material free from potentially dangerous leather tannery chemicals. We have developed new manufacturing processes for preparing the material, using foodgrade enzymes and mechanical action. This is not only safer for dogs, it produces a smaller waste stream that is almost completely sustainable.” Being upfront about this process is tantamount to material sourcing too, said Stephanie Volo for Earth Animal. “What we have found is that yes, products sourced and made in the USA is important to pet parents,” she said. “But, what is also equally important to pet parents is companies offering total traceability and transparency to

PG 16 / PET I N S I G H T

back up those statements regardless of where things are sourced and made.” Earth Animal’s long collaboration with the Pet Sustainability Coalition in supporting and advocating for not only sustainable business practices but also animal welfare continues to guide the company’s direction forward in the partners it works with. In February, the company announced its Animal Welfare Framework that outlined the company’s specific commitments to the humane treatment of farm animals in its supply chain, built on the 5 Domains of Animal Welfare. “Adopting this framework is a critical first step to ensure the animals in our supply chain are treated humanely, though we know this work can’t be done without alignment with our suppliers,” says Michael Cody for Earth Animal. “That is true transparency and traceability,” said Volo. “We can map everywhere where our ingredients come from, and that’s what I think pet parents are really expecting more and more from brands they are supporting.” Brands are striving for better education too. “Most collagen products, including those used by humans, are made from bovine hide—rawhide,” Bosserman said. “There is nothing inherently bad about rawhide. In its ground or powdered form, it is actually highly digestible and presents no choking hazard. There is more concern about chews made from sheets of hide, particularly if they are thin and made overseas. Chews that are made within leather tanneries can also be worrisome because of the proximity of toxic chemicals used in the tanning process. We at Great American Pet talk about our unique, ultra-clean process of making collagen chews free of tannery chemicals, choking hazards and are environmentally sustainable.” Sustainability of the supply chain factors heavily into Superior Farm Pet Provisions’ product innovation. Ken Wilks, VP of Sales and Marketing said, “We often ask ourselves, ‘What problems do we solve for our customers?’ For us, it’s not about the product so much as how the supply chain and consumer might benefit from what we do. For example, our Hydeout beef cheek product line

was created to help retailers safely recapture lost rawhide sales. To do this, we needed to give consumers a trusted version of the rawhide treat chew that dogs enjoyed for decades. I’ve found that focusing on problem-solving for the supply chain naturally fosters early adoption of innovative products, widespread distribution and rapid growth.” It its educational endeavors, Jones Naturals shares some benefits of making less processed chews, specifically in improving sustainability both for the greater environment and for efficiency in production. “We have always considered ourselves a leader in upcycling, long before it was trendy,” Jones said. “Our products are natural parts —we grew out of the family-owned butcher shop. We built our business selling parts that we didn’t use for our human customers that dogs absolutely love. We have kept millions of pounds of by-product and waste from being thrown out, and the best part is that it is a healthy addition to your dogs’ diet.” Meanwhile as humans continue to turn toward more plant-based proteins both for health and environmental reasons, the humanization of pets has also led to a growing number of companies creating similar products for pets, including Earth Animal. All of the company’s meatless products are formulated by veterinarians who understand the basic nutritional needs of pets, said Volo. “It’s like meatless Mondays or meat-free Fridays – if you’re giving your dog a No Hide once a day as a treat, then for two of those days try a no meat No Hide. You’re giving them equal nutrition, if not better, because of our formulation, but you’re slowly reducing that decency on animal industrial agriculture. It’s about choice.” Jones Naturals is working through its own metrics to quantify its sustainability efforts. “We are working on making responsible swaps when we can,” Jones said. “We are currently upgrading one of our buildings; that has brought lots of opportunity for measuring sustainability. New lighting, more efficient refrigeration, and more. As a long-standing thing, our practices have always kept waste from landfills.”

We are committed to sustainable business practices. The Bark & Harvest® brand is a part of Superior Farms. Founded in 1964, Superior Farms is North America’s largest, and most sustainable, processor and marketer of lamb. From the tip of our wind turbine right down to our zero-waste production room, we’re committed to doing things that are good for your dog and good for our planet.

We are 100% employee-owned. Everyone on our team takes pride in their individual roles and contributions to the success of the company and the satisfaction of our customers. Because of this commitment to quality, we’re Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) compliant through BRC certification. That means we produce our products at a gold-standard human grade level.

We partner with small family farms. As both the farmer and the packer of meats for human consumption, we’re in a unique position to be the true farm-to-pet option for people who want the best for their pets. We partner only with smaller family farms in the USA and Colombia that share our high standards. That’s how we source the best ingredients for our products.

© Superior

Farms Pet Provisions 855-893-7509 | BARKHARVEST.COM

2022 VANGUARD AWARDS 2022 Vanguard Awards

Pet Insight

The annual Vanguard Awards recognize manufacturers that are leading their respective categories, driving incremental growth, staying ahead of industry trends and launching dependable and solutions-based innovation.



Choose More. Choose to learn more, visit us at :


he humanization of pets and increased awareness of environmental impact, coupled with better research and information for pet parents, has fueled demand for gentle remedies that address a number of pet health issues, and ear care category leaders like Pet King Brands and Vetericyn are ready to meet the moment. “The demand for non-drug remedy products to care for pets’ ears is a trend that began more than two decades ago and has shown no indication of weakening,” said Pet King Brands’ Debra Decker. “We live in a pet nation where pets have gone from the backyard to our beds and are viewed as cherished members of the family. Add to that increased access to information via the internet plus the influence of the veterinarian’s recommendation, and we have a very well-informed parent with a list of must-haves for pet care products.” According to Decker, consumers want many things from their ear care products: easy to use, non-stressful for pets, effective but without side effects, negates need for antibiotics and support-

PG 20 / PET I N S I G H T

Ear Care

ed by veterinarians, groomers and other pet parents. “These are all the reasons why the ZYMOX line of Ear Solutions and Cleanser have experienced consistent, robust sales,” she said. “ZYMOX has been recommended by veterinarians to manage problematic ears for more than 20 years and only needs to be applied once daily with no painful pre-cleaning of the ear prior to application.” Vetericyn is currently developing a new product for ear care, according to Scott Van Winkle. Understanding the

category well, he previously told Pet Insight, “There is little regulatory oversite which can often lead to misleading claims on products and can give unrealistic expectations to customers. In addition, these products can get commercialized without going through property safety studies including ocular irritation, toxicity, and sensitizing testing. It is really important for retailers to choose products that are recognized by the FDA and go through proper testing and clinical studies.” Because doing the homework translates to better sales too. “Retailers who have used ZYMOX to anchor their remedy section have demonstrated increased sales and store loyalty,” said Decker. “This is because ear infections can be very painful, occur frequently and they can be costly. Providing these veterinarian-recommended products is a service that pet parents will use regularly and enables retailers to expand their core sales from a dependency on just pet nutrition to include products that solve health problems.”


hether pet parents are unaware of the options available to them or are timid to switch things up, litter suppliers are informing cat owners of the benefits of using non-traditional options that are void of harsh chemicals and fragrances. More pet owners are looking for products that are environmentally friendly and non-toxic, and litter manufacturers are intent on matching their products to specific pet owner demands. “We are looking to expand our natural cat litter offerings in 2022/2023,” said Shannon Supanich for Pioneer Pet. “We have or pulse on the natural category, beyond litter,” said Jean Broders with Kent Pet Group, home to the World’s Best Cat Litter brand. “We are watching for trends that help us make decisions, as well as plan for innovation. As we all know, the word ‘natural’ is confusing to consumers, even miss-leading sometimes. We try to take advantage of opportunities where we can education consumers on what ‘natural’ truly means in the litter category. With consumers also having environ-

PG 22 / PET I N S I G H T

Plant-Based Litter

mentally-friendly and sustainable products top of mind, it’s a full circle of education that’s important.” “We are constantly looking for ways to improve and develop innovative products that solve problems for our consumers, create the best experience for their beloved pets and be the brand they can trust for their pet care and home hygiene needs,” said Boxiecat’s Kelley Bond. “Pet parents increasingly have multiple layers of wants and needs in litter care including performance,

convenience, and sustainability. Boxie has always been laser-focused on better, cleaner and healthier consumer experiences. We strive to be a brand that consumers can trust every time they purchase a Boxie product and it’s a responsibility we take very seriously. To us that means at its core any litter has to function the best it can at solving clumping, dust, odor, and tracking issues— it needs to work! This focus has paid off for our retailers with an amazing repeat purchase loyalty rate.” “Boxiecat Air Ultra lightweight litter is made of barley and wheat,” Bond added. “It is a proprietary formulation with patented production processes which makes its features very unique in the market. It is 60 percent lighter than clay so it offers ultimate convenience to the consumer who may be tired of lifting heavy litter products. The same feature is also ideal both in brick-and-mortar retail environments where customers are carrying products to the car as well as for omnichannel where weight increases shipping cost.”

Greener litter. Greener profits. Plant based, lightweight litter that outperforms the competition.


Ultra Light Premium Clumping Cat Litter ™

Forms instant AirTight™ clumps that lock in odors, keeping the litter box clean and dry throughout use Made of USA sourced barley – renewable, biodegradable, sustainable & non-GMO

AirTight™ Clump

Scoops easily and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the box – no more scraping! 60% lighter than clay, effortless to lift and pour 99.9% dust free, no dust clouds Available in scent free, gently scented, extra strength and probiotic deep clean

Boxiecat LLC | | 877-817-0253 | *Source: Bureau Veritas. 3rd party testing shows Boxiecat Air barley litter retains 99.5% of its clump. The leading plant-based brand retains 30.5% of it's clump. © 2022 Boxiecat LLC


ompanies that have been sourcing and manufacturing pet products domestically have been validated in the last two years when competitors who rely on international partners have experienced operations come to a grinding halt. Meanwhile pet industry manufacturers who invested in their communities have not seen their progress within and impact on the Made in the USA toys category impeded. “We’ve been very busy in 2022, introducing a new product every other week for the past three-and-a-half months,” said Adam Baker of SodaPup. “All of our new product introductions are focused on growing the enrichment category which we believe is underdeveloped. This includes new rubber treat dispensers, new nylon chew toys with enrichment functionality, new enrichment mats that we call ‘emats’ and two new enrichment products that we call ‘ecoins’ and ‘etrays.’” “A lot of our product development and our new products are geared towards Made in the USA so we’re doing a

Made in the USA Toys

lot of heavy-duty chews, we’re working on also some plush toys actually that we’re trying to get made here as well as treats and stuff like that,” said Ward Myers of Spunky Pup. “Our focus moving forward has been pretty much anything we can make here, we’re going to try to.” “Starmark has launched four new TPE toys and one corresponding injection molded treat that are all made in our Hutto, TX manufacturing facility,” said Emily Benson for Starmark Pet Products. “Two of the toys are in our

mental stimulation category and utilize a proprietary treat inside, and two are tug toys for interactive play between pets and their parents.” SodaPup has been driving the category forward through addressing pet parents’ concerns with toys constructed with durable materials such as nylon and rubber and toys which promote enrichment. “SodaPup has been laser focused on advancing the enrichment category from enrichment nylon toys, enrichment rubber toys, lick mats and more,” Baker said. “On the rubber toy front, we introduced two new products in the past year.” Spunky Pup may have started as a dog toy company, but currently the company is placing greater focus on the consumables segment and staying attuned to opportunities to bring innovation to a space that’s new to Spunky Pup. “Sustainability is really a strong thing for us moving forward as well. We were one of the first to introduce it, and we are expanding that part of our business quite a bit,” Myers said.


PG 24 / PET I N S I G H T


hampoo suppliers, namely Pure and Natural Pet and Skout’s Honor, offer product line ups that do more than mask odors and instead get to the root of pets’ skin and coat issues with products that target specific problems. This level of care and dedication to the category has led to pet parents expecting more from shampoos, and conditioners too, and they can trust companies like these two. The heightened awareness and attention has led to pet owners relying more heavily on groomers and suppliers as allies in treating pets’ skin and coat issues. “I think most manufacturers are just getting back to where they were preCovid as the past two years were difficult with obtaining certain ingredients and packaging,” said Julie Creed for Pure and Natural Pet. “Our focus is to be fully in stock on all of our USDA Certified Organic Shampoos and Conditioners. We are also working on new formulations working with ingredients that are not well known in the pet industry that will work wonders on coat, fur and hair.”

PG 26 / PET I N S I G H T


“We have some really great stuff in the works for 2023 that will help fill the gap for our brand and loyal customers,” said Pete Stirling of Skout’s Honor Pet Supply Co. “Unfortunately, we cannot talk about it just yet.” Creed said pet owners have established they want grooming products that do more than smell nice and cover up odors with perfumes. “We rolled out a number of ‘multi-function’ shampoos including our Shed Control, Itch Relief,

Whitening & Brightening, Grain-Free and Waterless options,” Creed said. “Consumers have also demanded more organic and cruelty-free products. We’re proud to have both certifications since the inception of the company. We are noticing that the USDA Certified Organic certification has begun to resonate with all consumers and in particular, our Millennials who have become such a dominant force in the pet industry.” Pet parents are looking for skin and coat solutions, rather than another metoo bath product, Stirling said. “Millennials and Boomers alike have started to go to groomers in place of the vet for common skin conditions and that behavior has bled into the grooming aisle,” he said. “The groomer and grooming aisle are transitioning from playing a passive role in an animal’s life to a more active part in their overall wellness. We are seeing similar trends on the human side, with a dramatic rise in nutritionists and other wellness supporting professions.”

® ®

Organic Dental Care ®


Tasty Like a Treat, Tough on Plaque

® ®

Organic Dental Solutions® Healthy teeth are important to your canine’s wellness, that’s why we’ve created several options that are all USDA Certified Organic. From Dental Kits to eco-friendly Bamboo Toothbrushes, Dental Gels & Dental Sprays – we have what you need for your K-9’s canines.



eading oral care manufacturers are taking a pragmatic approach to educating pet owners about the importance of addressing their pets’ oral health. Companies like Oxyfresh, SwedenCare and Tropiclean are driving the category forward as they offer solutions that make cleaning teeth and gums easier and less stressful for pet owners and most importantly, pets. At this point in the year, SwedencareUSA is focused on, “Additional functional delivery; dosage options for PlaqueOff in various forms,” said Scott Reinhardt for SwedencareUSA. “TropiClean Enticers is our newest line of dental care products, offered in mouthwatering flavors pets love,” said Amy Horton for Cosmos Corporation, home to the Tropiclean brand. “Enticers Teeth Cleaning Gels for Dogs are three times more appetizing to dogs than leading competitive oral care gels. The TropiClean Enticers line also includes a Teeth Cleaning Gel for Cats in Honey Marinated Chicken Flavor. No-brushing gels are proven to destroy 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria found in the

PG 28 / PET I N S I G H T

Oral Care

mouth—helping to remove plaque and reduce bad breath.” “One of the things we’re working on is bringing some new applications to dog and cat dental care,” said Melissa Gulbransen for Oxyfresh Worldwide. “So our flagship is our dental water additive and it’s taken off which is awesome in the last two years. We can barely keep it in stock. While pet dental water additives is awesome for those people who don’t want to brush or they just want an easy remedy, it doesn’t replace brush-

ing. So, pet parents continue to struggle with brushing and we’re working on some ways to make it even easier. Inflation is crazy right now. Everybody is doing price increases, and when it’s across the board from food to everyday gas, parents are looking for more home remedies that won’t cost them as much and maybe save from costly vet bills. Dental care is one of those top costs that could be prevented with consistent at-home dental care routine. So, we’re looking at different ways to give pet parents a way to remove plaque and tartar.” Feedback from pet owners has helped Cosmos fine tune and improve upon the company’s product portfolio. “A survey of dog owners revealed that their dog’s refusal to use a dental care product was the No. 1 reason they lacked interest in at-home dental care routines,” Horton said. “We built on our experience producing easy and effective pet oral care products to introduce TropiClean Enticers. This line was curated to make oral care undeniably irresistible for pets and enticingly easy for pet parents.”


stablished category leaders like Super Snouts Hemp, a pioneer in the water-soluble delivery format, and Colorado Hemp Honey, which tackles absorption in its own decidedly sweet way, along with pet food brand Primal Pet Foods, which recently entered the CBD category with an assortment of oils and chews, illustrate the wide range of options now available for pet owners in managing their pets’ health. Education has been Primal Pet Foods’ priority since it launched its CBG and CBD oils and chews, said Emma Kumbier, Veterinary Outreach Coordinator with Primal Pet Foods. “Manufacturing hemp products is only one part of our total vision,” she said. “Developing products that are easy to administer, and thus easy to give every single day is critical to pet parents seeing benefits.” Generally, consumers either see results or they don’t, said Super Snouts Hemp CEO Christy Love. “As a company, we are trying to drive the best innovation, translating to the best products,


which in the end translates to value and results, so that we are seeing more customers in the camp of seeing great results and value in what they are purchasing,” she said. The innovation Love describes covers everything from process to delivery, the actual appeal for pets, as well as absorption and bioavailability. “We are also looking into the minor and acidic cannabinoids in product development,

taking into account the stability, or instability of the acidics,” she said. “We try to focus on results, but always keep in mind how the pet enjoys the products on the ultimate receiving end.” Most pets would not enjoy a straight up tincture, said Nick French, Founder of Colorado Hemp Honey. The palatability of honey is a given, and French said he’s looking into enhancing the pet’s experience with compatible products already on the market. “We’re going to be leveraging the experience with the pets, more so than as a ‘let’s just shove this medicine at them.’ Let’s let the dog enjoy the medicine, with a treat toy, lick mat, whatever it may be.” The company also keeps an innovative edge with its topical calming balms. “A lot of our products are focused on getting the cannabinoids in the body to the receptors as fast as possible,” French explained. “We have our calming ear balm that goes on the inside flap of the ear of dogs and cats. It’s not very invasive.”


PG 30 / PET I N S I G H T

2022 VANGUARD AWARDS is leading by example in exJiminy’s panding proteins and formats to meet

a growing consumer demand for sustainable options that also address acute conditions like pet allergies. Meanwhile, plant-based leader Petaluma continues to show pet owners the benefits of minimally processed foods sourced from certified organic farms. “We want to be a staple, so we’ve been steadily expanding not only our flavors, but also our proteins—grubs alongside crickets—and formats like puffs and entrees,” Jiminy’s Founder and CEO Anne Carlson said. “Our strategy has always focused on creating a full array of food and treats so pet parents can stay comfortably within the category. This approach ties into incremental growth as a new format might reach a dog that didn’t get excited by one of our earlier formats like, say, biscuits.” The alternative proteins category has also benefitted from a collective desire among consumers to look for something they couldn’t find on traditional store shelves. “There’s a rapidly growing awareness of pet health issues like

Alternative Protein Foods

allergies, along with environmental stresses like climate change and water shortages,” said Carlson. “New pet parents in particular are looking to products with purpose. Jiminy’s has certainly benefitted from the demand.” Petaluma recently released a dehydrated sweet potato chew having identified opportunities to make sustainable alternatives to popular canine products, said Petaluma’s Caroline Buck. “We found that many of the popular attention-grabbing chews were made from

Pet Insight’s Vanguard Awards

PG 32 / PET I N S I G H T

chicken and beef and often used premium ingredients like chicken breast that require a ton of resources to produce,” she said. “By using sweet potatoes instead of chicken muscle in our jerky, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and land use impact by about 90 percent and freshwater consumption by almost 99 percent.” Alternative proteins still requires some amount of education to reach pet parents, particularly those who are still new to pet adoption. “We had worked to create a comprehensive knowledge base online,” said Carlson with Jiminy’s. “The pandemic kicked that into high gear as there was a sudden flood of people researching online. It became even more important to have a lot of good and accurate info and we were lucky by design that we were ready for the moment. We’ve also taken pains to share findings from our scientific studies. You can’t know how a consumer will shop for you, but you can know if you’re ready to give them enough information to make an informed decision.”

Why Jiminy’s? NUTRITIOUS ź Complete protein ź Pre-biotic ź Digestible

HYPOALLERGENIC ź Novel protein ź Great for dogs with food sensitivities

SUSTAINABLE ź Less land ź Less water ź Fewer greenhouse gases

Fun Facts ź Founded by woman entrepreneur ź Made in the USA ź Nexty Award Best Product Animal Health ź Saved over 300 million gallons of water in last year


ategory leaders such as Treatibles and Pet Naturals have continued to innovate within the functional treats category to ensure pet parents have functional treats that have a multitude of purposes for their pets. Julianna Carella, Founder and CEO of Treatibles, outlined what the company has been working on in the space as well as how the category has evolved within the last two years. “Treatibles recently launched some great CBD-free functional treats such as our mobility pill wrap (for cats and dogs) and probiotic soft chewables (for dogs),” said Carella. “We will continue to launch other CBD and CBD-free products to provide all pets with everything needed for a holistic health regimen.” Carella continued, “Pet parents in general are becoming much more educated on how to care for their pets’ well-being by using holistic products that address the root of their health problems and may even reduce veterinarian costs due to overall improved pet health. Manufacturers like Treatibles care about that process of helping pet parents save money while still

PG 34 / PET I N S I G H T

Functional Treats

providing the best care possible! This is why we have recently launched five new extra strength CBD products that have affordable prices. Pet parents that need a higher potency product to keep their pet happy and healthy now have options.” Treatibles has been able to not only drive the functional treats category forward but the CBD category as well. “Team Treatibles tries to make all our customer experiences as fulfilling as possible, which is why there are so many ways to access our products and

educational materials,” she said. “Given that CBD products are still restricted on Amazon and Chewy (for unknown reasons), we make up for those limitations by providing stellar customer service whether customers visit our website and social media channels, or if they call us on the telephone!” Pet Naturals has been able to drive the category forward with through its solution-based products that reflect consumers’ demands and pets’ needs. “We are really seeing the demand from pet parents for treats that aren’t just healthy, but help to make their pet healthier,” VP of Marketing Derek Archambault said. “For example, our Heartibles line of treats feature taurine and omega fatty acids which make them get for supporting heart health. We have our origins in supplements made in tasty treat like forms, and the line between supplements and functional treats has been blurring for years. We are known for high-quality products that work and we bring that nutritional and ingredient knowledge to the treat aisle.”

All day support for dogs with

First and only behavior supplement clinically shown to last up to 8 hours† Features 4 effective calming support ingredients Clinically proven Shoden® Ashwagandha helps reduce stress and improve sleep quality Retail-exclusive size–not available online





† CanCog Technologies Study “Assessment of Calming Properties of Composure™ in Beagle Dogs with a Noise-Induced Model of Fear and Stress”


› Separation Anxiety › Traveling › Routine Changes › Holidays

› Boarding


Get free resources to grow your business at


he high meat treat category is the solution for discerning pet parents who demand treats that complement their pets’ low carb, high in nutrients diet. Companies like ZIWI and Whitebridge Pet Brands are at the forefront of the high meat treats category through its educational efforts to make sure pet owners realize what is available and that they can and should set loftier standards for their pets’ nutrition. “ZIWI has continually monitored and developed our products throughout the years while always looking ahead to how may improve and expand our portfolio,” said Marketing Manager Jessica Krueger. “We have made no compromises when it comes to producing high-quality, high meat air-dried products sourced and crafted at our own New Zealand kitchens to provide nothing but the best for our beloved pets. By offering convenient options with our treat specific Good Dog Rewards and air-dried foods that may be used as a treat, topper or meal, ZIWI is committed to providing your pet with all the high-meat goodness their inner carni-

PG 36 / PET I N S I G H T

High Meat Treats

vore craves with the health benefits to support them along the way.” “We lean on the strength of our brand names, packaging enhancements and new innovation to drive incremental growth,” Joe McIver for Whitebridge Pet Brands said previously. “When innovating, we look at trends in other treat categories, even in human food, to help drive our innovation decisions. Our initial focus is always can this new product generate impulse purchase and capitalize on the needs of an evolving consum-

er base. For example, we knew meaty jerky represents both a large and growing category as people look for a highly palatable treats. Our measurement of success always falls back on retailer success and customer satisfaction. Is it filling a need for a consumer, and is it building the baskets for retailers? These are questions that weigh heavily in our decisions.” Pet owners expect the candor of treats suppliers to lead to a frank and clear-cut dialogue with pet owners and retailers about how to choose treats they trust are safe and good enough for their pets. “Consumers are looking for a brand they can trust as they demand honesty and transparency with the products they choose,” Krueger said. “And since consumers have become more educated in nutrition and health, they are realizing a biologically appropriate diet along with the treats they use are essential for their pets to live long and healthy lives. ZIWI has recognized this need and is focused on furthering education and investing in new innovations to that satisfy consumer demand.”

First 8 ingredients are meat for a high protein, low carb diet.

Up to 40% superfood inclusions for palatability, digestive & joint health.

Vitamins, minerals, and omegas for skin & coat health.

Versatility to use as a treat, topper, or complete & balanced meal. Contact ZIWI® for more information and for sales: +1-877-464-9494


he canned food category is supplying pet owners with another feeding option for their pets that allows for softer foods easier palatability and hydration on top of nutrient-dense meals. Suppliers within this category are improving their facilities to broaden their reach to retailers’ shelves and pet owners’ shopping baskets. “In the last five years Fromm has invested in the creation and expansion of a family-owned canning facility in Eden, WI,” said Fromm Family Foods’ Byran Nieman. “This facility has allowed us to further expand our collection of canned diets for dogs and cats. At the Global Pet Expo we were proud to introduce Fromm Diner Cans for Dogs. The throwback-inspired entrees are formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced and feature a savory assortment of premium meats and vegetables. The expanded manufacturing capabilities our cannery affords us will allow us to continue research and development on new lines as well as enhance current canned offerings with new varieties.” “We recently announced the opening of our new cannery at Tuffy’s Treats

PG 38 / PET I N S I G H T

Canned Foods

which will help us deliver a more consistent and diverse supply of canned dog and cat food products to our customers and consumers,” said Adam Martodam for NutriSource Pet Foods. “In addition to cans, we have further expanded our wet dog food line-up by launching the Pure Vita Stews and pate-style Entrees in the Tetrapak cartons. These products are highly palatable and are based around single-sourced proteins just as we promote in our dry diets.” Fromm Family Foods has noticed during the last couple of years an uptick

in consumer demand for variety. “This spans a variety of categories including tastes and textures,” Nieman said. “Because canned products are inherently variety-based, especially when it comes to feline offerings, the demand has helped fuel more R&D from manufacturers, Fromm included, to deliver variety-driven mealtime options for dogs and cats.” “We have seen double-digit growth in the wet pet food space over the past two years,” Martodam said. “The market for wet food has equaled or even surpassed the growth of the industry overall. Given this demand, the existing manufacturing capacity has struggled to keep up. Opening a cannery at this stage is important for NutriSource and for the market in general.” Since the beginning, Fromm Family Foods has been committed to supporting the independent and neighborhood pet segment. “The move to more omnichannel shopping is a trend that has required most brands to think about how we present in the digital world,” Nieman said. “The pandemic and shifting buying habits further fueled this.”


motions run high when pets are missing, and pet owners may unknowingly share too much information that could jeopardize their privacy. Today’s technology allows for pets and their owners to be reunited faster when time is of the essence. Pet owners can share as much of their information as they want without unintentionally broadcasting to strangers where they live, and that their home is empty while they’re out searching for their lost pet. The Techla XL, MyFamily USA’s newest engraver that allows pet owners to personalize pet tags quickly and conveniently in stores helps to drive traffic into stores. “The development of our newest engraver, the Techla XL, and its spectacular modular display concept will make ID tags a primary accessory focal point in stores,” said CCO Tom Glessner. “The Techla XL engraver has an 18.5-inch vertically integrated high-definition touch screen that attracts and informs customers of the availability of instantly engraved ID tags while making it easier than ever to complete the personalization process. The

PG 40 / PET I N S I G H T

ID Tags

modular display concept now makes it possible for retailers show as many ID tags as they would like, while also being able to incorporate complementary products like collars and leashes which will drive additional purchases.” “How we identify with our pets, that’s what’s changing,” said ZuluTails Founder Pamela Fusco. “How they are part of our daily life and routine. They’re our family which they’ve always been in essence but predominately more so now than ever, and that’s what is changing.” While microchips have been around

since the 80s, said Fusco, their lack of usability has always served as a hindrance, whether it’s the need to go through a third-party call center or having to download specific apps. “They want to be able to have ease of convenience and use readily available 24/7 365 anywhere and anyway,” she said. “That’s what we’re changing. We are the disruptor in the environment.” “Let’s say you’re relocating from California to New York, and you make a quick pit stop,” Fusco said. “Snoopy jumps out of the car and runs away at the pet stop in Kentucky. What are the chances of you getting this pet back? You’re not going to put up posters and signs. You could start populating it on social media but where are you going to pick the pet up? Where are they going to call you? Where do you live? Fifteen minutes down the road you get a text that says someone from ZuluTails is trying to reach you about Snoopy. You open the message, it says hey I’m at the rest stop on Route 66 and you turn around and you go back, and you get your dog. There’s nothing in the world like it.”

2022 VANGUARD AWARDS Naturals is at the forefront of Jones the body part chew category and is

demonstrating to pet owners they can demand more from chews and there are more options available to them and their pets. The quality and safety measures which Jones Naturals applies to the category allows for this space to continually evolve and reassure pet owners devoted to safely rewarding their pets with chews that address boredom to tartar control. “The stuffed product line continues to perform well, so look for further development of that line,” said Laura Jones, Chief Operating Officer for Jones Naturals. “We are having fun researching new stuffing flavors for our bones, hooves and tracheas. Along those lines, we are also working on new basting flavors, also for existing chews. Our research team is also looking to innovate by adding additional real food ingredients to enhance the protein in our chews—this will add value to long-standing staples in our product line.”

PG 42 / PET I N S I G H T

Body Part Chews

Within the last couple of years, an increasing number of pet owners are demanding larger package counts, Jones has observed. Fortunately, body part chews when merchandised in bulk perform strongly, a plus for Jones Naturals and retail partners alike. “Demand for products that are entirely sourced in the USA continues to grow, especially with the increase in logistic difficulties that have been present over the last two

years,” Jones said. “There is also a shift to larger package counts. Consumers are looking for more economical and environmentally friendly options, rather than single-package chews. Body part chews show very well in bulk and are upcycling at its finest, so they are helping meet both those trends.” Jones Natural Chews continues to move the body part category forward through an unrelenting commitment and drive to keep the space fresh with innovation. “Jones Natural Chews remains committed to innovation, with a focus on adding value for everyone from the retail stores carrying our products, to the pet owners rewarding with our products to the dogs enjoying them, is how we are working towards moving the category forward,” Jones said. “In addition to the flavor and ingredient enhancement, and new product development, we are also working on new options for store displays that are convenient and efficient for our retailers.”


et owners have spent more time bonding and playing with their pets while staying home and now as they head back to work, they require toys which occupy and soothe their pets as they go through another major transition with their pet owners. Toys have proven they are the go-to solution to entertain, preoccupy and pacify pets. Mark Hirschberg of Multipet International said, “I think there’s always a tremendous amount of demand for dog toys, especially for puppies who have teeth that are like razor blades, so rope is really good for them.” “We kicked off a number of exciting new rope toys from our Flossy Chews EXTRA line at Global Pet Expo recently and they were a huge success,” said Mark Pasco for Mammoth Pet Products. Rope toys category leaders like Playology Pets are looking at opportunities to branch out and expand its reach into toy subcategories while simultaneously enhancing and improving its current rope toys offering. “Without sharing too many specifics,

PG 44 / PET I N S I G H T

Rope Toys

we have some very exciting innovation coming focused on sensory with unique textures and sounds,” said Jeff Siddiqi for Playology Pets. “Our rope toys far exceed any rope toy available because it’s made with a Dri-Tech fiber, which is stronger and safer than cotton ropes. Playology is developed with Slobber Wicking technology, so the fibers don’t absorb the moisture; it rises to the surface and is easy to wipe away.” “We look at the rope category as du-

rable product that’s good for the teeth and the health of pets, so we’d like to expand that,” said Hirschberg. “We try to add new features to our rope. We try to add balls, toys, tennis balls, rubber; anything we can to make them look a little more interesting and also in some cases interactive. I almost feel like ropes are a necessity for a dog. It’s not even a toy, it’s more of a health tool for them.” One way Playology Pets is moving the rope toys category forward is by addressing a prominent downfall of petcare: overtreating pets. “We’re helping to solve the issue of overweight and obese dogs by providing the engagement of a treat without the empty calories you get from a treat,” Siddiqi said. Pasco with Mammoth Pet said, “We continue manufacturing all of our toys—one at a time, using the same premium quality materials and craftmanship as we have from the beginning. Secondly, our innovation is the best hands down, because we do all of our own design work in house.”


eading manufacturers in the limited ingredient diets category have helped pet owners fight allergies, picky eating and sensitivities. Category leaders such as Against the Grain (Evanger’s) and FirstMate Pet Foods have been driving the category for more than 85 years and continue to innovate within the space. “As a company, since 1935, we have had a limited ingredient approach, as simple and minimally processed with as few ingredients as possible,” said Against the Grain’s Callie Sher. “So, it’s been our approach all along, it’s not just a trend. But, on that path, we have developed even more limited ingredient diets. So, instead of limited ingredients, now we have one ingredient. The fun part is on the ingredient handle, we don’t have the ‘S’ on the end of it, it reads ‘ingredient: chicken’ or ‘ingredient: salmon.’ What we are seeing is even if we have food that has two or three ingredients, consumers are still drawn to the single ingredient food even if the other ingredients are water or broth— they will still go to the single ingredient

PG 46 / PET I N S I G H T

Limited Ingredient Diet Foods

food over that.” “A lot of people have been calling about allergies or that they went to their vet and found out their pet has allergies,” Sher continued. “So that is why they are focused on getting a LID. I always recommend our one ingredient canned food just to try that and see how they react and go from there. That is way less expensive, and I would say invasive than going to the vet.” Sher mentioned the company has something in the works for the future,

and the industry can expect to see it soon. “We have something new coming,” Sher added. “We are launching a new treat with catnip in it. We launched it at Global Pet Expo and it had a huge response, so it will be the first treat in the Against the Grain line.” In an interview with Pet Insight in early 2022, Matt Wilson with FirstMate acknowledged that the company has continued to stand out in each category it produces in. “Our company and team continue to stand out as a unique partnership opportunity and strong supporter of the IndiePet community,” said Wilson. “As a family-owned and operated manufacturer with both a dry facility and cannery, we have maintained a high fill rate during a difficult time. We want to ensure retailers have an opportunity to learn about investments in our facilities that will ensure we retain our fill rate and what they can expect in the way of new product, marketing, and support tools in the coming year, and we always enjoy the new relationships that are established during a live event.”


The Limited Ingredient Food

We're Single!






The first and only 100% SINGLE INGREDIENT canned food for dogs! We’re the manufacturer so you’ll love our WIDE MARGINS! Unique Loaf-in-gravy texture 847-537-0102



he freeze-dried foods category continues to gain momentum as pet owners seek out alternatives to old-fashioned, tired kibble. Freezedried foods offer pets nutrients and a balanced diet that plays a key role in ensuring pets lead a healthier lifestyle. “Our number one goal over the last nine months is to make sure we have our products available not just for our retail partners but especially for our customers who rely on us to keep their pets healthy and thriving,” said Breann Shook with Grandma Lucy’s. “I do have to say that due to our over 20-year relationships with our suppliers and because of our amazing production team, we have done just that. In a time when many shelves are bare and pet parents are panicking trying to find an alternative to their normal pet’s diet, we have maintained a near perfect fill-rate. Our mission has always been to bring healthy food solutions to pets and I am proud of our team for working so hard to fulfill our mission during these diffi-

PG 48 / PET I N S I G H T

Freeze Dried Foods

cult times.” Grandma Lucy’s points out that consumers, retailers and other brands have realized the benefits of freeze-drying that the company has known since its start in 1999. “It truly is the best way to bring pets all of the benefits of fresh food without some of the fuss of fresh or frozen foods,” Shook said. “With freeze-drying unlike many other popular types of manufacturing, the nutrients, taste and texture are maintained

to most closely resemble the original ingredient. That all said, good freeze-drying is an art. Making sure it is done correctly to ensure the health benefits of the foods are protected is not a simple task. It is great to see the category growing within retail stores as a main focus for many due to its great nutritional benefits and high margins.” Stella & Chewy’s has been committed to supporting its retailers as they navigate through challenges and continue to serve pet parents. “The pandemic has certainly created challenges in the marketplace, with people staying home has impacted store traffic, but neighborhood pet has demonstrated how resilient the channel has become as well the great value they add for pet parents in service, experience and education,” Molly Mulcahy with Stella & Chewy’s said previously. “We offer a red door retailer program that offers exclusive marketing and sales programs to help drive traffic an sales for neighborhood pet.”


ategory leaders like Icelandic+ and Polkadog are elevating the treats category to include ingredients including fish, seaweed and skyr. These unique ingredients provide benefits to dogs addressing joint health, teeth and gums and skin and coat, they also allow for companies to differentiate and provide opportunities to begin a conversation with pet parents that want to do better for their pets. Icelandic+ launched a number of new items at Global Pet Expo and had great feedback from retailers and individuals. “On the jerky side, our Soft Chew Nibblets those are now something completely new for us because before we had crunchier or harder treats,” said CEO Jon Roska. “What’s neat about them is they also illustrate or highlight what the consumer today is looking for —the millennial shopper—and really providing the shopper with something they can hook the consumer on that will be buying for the next 40 years. Some of those ingredients are kelp and seaweed and skyr which is the really hot area around the thick and creamy yogurt. That yogurt that is high in protein, low in fat, low in sugar and has that deep

PG 50 / PET I N S I G H T

Fish-Based Treats

rich taste, well we are now the first to bring that into pet treats.” On the collagen side, which is really the hot category today, everybody has collagen treats, but nobody is wrapping it with our fish skins,” he continued. “So we’re elevating the experience for the pet and they get two treats in one but more nutritious. It’s a patent pending the way we are wrapping that around there. It’s pretty unique, differentiated and unbelievable feedback from the show and that wow I want to put this against my traditional collagen to really elevate that category.” “Truthfully the treats that we have to-

day are very time intensive and they’re very manual. These new treats around the Chewy Jerky Bars, the Soft Chew Nibblets and the Hand Wrapped Collagen Dental Chews allow us to really meet the demand in a much stronger way,” he added. “Not only were we focused on new and exciting treats but also being able to produce them in a more efficient manner to allow to grow and to service the worldwide market.” “Over at Polkadog we are always thinking of new ways to create and partner with companies and brands that support our sustainable practices, and better ways to further expand our healthy catalog of fish-based dog and cat treats,” said Founder Deb Suchman. “We have some new products and collaborations in the works and are excited to share more on that soon!” “With a little care, fish can provide some of the healthiest, sustainable proteins available for dogs and cats,” Suchman continued. “Polkadog has always prioritized handcrafted, healthy, sustainable treats and business practices, and we very much hope our industry will continue to expand with these priorities in mind.”

INDUSTRY CALENDAR Upcoming Pet Industry Events

1. SuperZoo

Aug. 23 - 25, 2022 Mandalay Bay Las Vegas, NV

2. Natural Products Expo East Sept. 28 - Oct. 1, 2022 Pennsylvania Convention Center Philadelphia, PA

3. PLMA Show

Nov. 13 - 15, 2022 Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Chicago, IL

4. National Hardware Show

Jan. 31 - Feb. 3, 2023 Las Vegas Convention Center Las Vegas, NV

5. Natural Products Expo West






March 7 - 11, 2023 Anaheim Convention Center Anaheim, CA


6 7

March 9 - 12, 2023 Georgia International Convention Center College Park, GA

7. Global Pet Expo

March 22 - 24, 2023 Orange County Convention Center Orlando, FL

P.O. Box 2067 • Issaquah, WA 98027 • 425-497-0950 Vol. 10, No. 5 Publisher/Editorial Director Davis Johnson

Editor Katie Murdoch

Circulation Director James Anderson

Pet Insight (ISSN 2164-9294), a monthly magazine, is published by Executive Insight Properties. Subscription rates $75 per year in the US, $100 Canada, all other countries $150. © 2022 Pet Insight. All rights reserved. No item or portion may be reproduced without written permission from the Publisher. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Pet Insight, P.O. Box 2067, Issaquah, WA 98027.

PG 5 2 / PE T I N S I G H T

Your one stop shop for pet health and wellness solutions How the Healers Solution Works 1. Smart Bottle 2. Mobile App for Customer 3. Store Interface

“Consumers are demanding more sustainable solutions while being more focused on their pet’s health and wellness than ever before - our Smart Bottle subscription service brings solutions across the board. ” Terri Entler, Founder

Healers’ Smart Bottle technology is a stainless steel, reusable bottle with a programmable smart cap, and app for dosage and refill reminders. Multiple notifications can remind pet parents with the tone emitting light-up cap, text, and email, so doses are never forgotten again.

A New Subscription Based Approach to in-store Pet Health & Wellness

Schedule a Demo Today: 800-924-7036

See us at SuperZoo Booth #4366


Tell us how your career path led you to the pet industry. How did you decide to join Mid America Pet Food in 2018?

Greg Cyr, President and CEO, Mid America Pet Food

“I have been fortunate to work for a lot of great leaders and have tried to take a few traits from each of them. I probably have learned the most about leadership from my years playing competitive ice hockey. I had one coach who instilled in us: ‘If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.’ That has stuck with me in both my personal and professional life. Playing hockey competitively for many years, both professionally and at the Division I collegiate level, I witnessed at an early age how leadership sets the pace for winning. It was during these years that I started to learn how leadership, talent selection and the development and nurturing of great teams are instrumental in achieving success. I’ve learned over the years that if you work hard and surround yourself with a smart and hard-working team, winning is easier.” — Greg Cyr

I got my start in the pet industry while at Del Monte Foods. We bought the portfolio of pet brands from Heinz Foods back around 2003, and we also purchased two more iconic brands the following year which were MilkBone and Meow Mix. I have been in CPG since 1993, and love the pet space so I was excited to jump on the opportunity to join Mid America Pet Food and help the company grow.

You previously worked at Phillips Pet Food & Supplies. How does your experience on the distribution side help Mid America Pet Food remain a strong partner for distributors and be a more competitive manufacturer?

My experience in the distribution channel has allowed me to work with a lot of great brands and get a peek inside their go-to market strategies. This has been a huge advantage for me in understanding what works and what doesn’t, both with the consumer as well as with our customers.

What do you enjoy the most about working in the pet industry?

For the most part the pet industry is still a relationship business, and everyone loves their pet. It’s an honor to be a small part in helping to strengthen the bond our consumers have with their pets. Within VICTOR, we use the tagline Always By Your Side—what could be better than serving the loyal companions who are truly (especially during the past two years) Always By Your Side?

What valuable lessons and experiences have you learned during your career working in pet?

When making decisions remember it is a small industry and people have long memories.

What trait(s) in yourself do you attribute most to your success?

Hard work, common sense and empathy. PG 54 / PET I N S I G H T

Who do you consider to be your biggest advocate or advisor and why?

Not to sound corny, but my wife Tahra. We have been together for more than 30 years, and she put her career on hold so I could live out mine. She has been an excellent sounding board for me over the years, and has been a great compass for me as I have navigated my career.

How would you describe your leadership style? How have your previous leaders and experience influenced your style?

I have been fortunate to work for a lot of great leaders and have tried to take a few traits from each of them. I probably have learned the most about leadership from my years playing competitive ice hockey. I had one coach who instilled in us: “If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” That has stuck with me in both my personal and professional life. Playing hockey competitively for many years, both professionally and at the Division I collegiate level, I witnessed at an early age how leadership sets the pace for winning. It was during these years that I started to learn how leadership, talent selection and the development and nurturing of great teams are instrumental in achieving success. I’ve learned over the years that if you work hard and surround yourself with a smart and hard-working team, winning is easier.

What creates the differentiation that allows the pet industry to chug forward through all weather? Why has this industry fared better during disruptive times compared to other industries?

It’s simple, pets have become part of the family and they are “Always By Your Side!” Dogs went from living outside, to in a dog house, to the garage, to the inside of the house, and now they sleep in their pet parents bed!

What are the top 2-3 issues pet industry manufacturers are currently facing? r Cont'd on Pg. 56

Greg Cyr, Mid America Pet Food

For 15 years, Mid America Pet Food has manufactured pet food in its own facility located in East Texas. This location allows for the company to source a majority of the ingredients for many of its brands from ranches, farms and other dependable suppliers.

r From Pg. 54 The increased demand from outside the US for our key ingredients and the competitive labor market.

As President and CEO of Mid America Pet Food, what accomplishments are you the most proud of?

We’ve accomplished a lot in the past few years, and when I look back at all we’ve done, what stands out the most is our team and their willingness to work hard and get things done. Through the challenges of Covid, an ice storm in Texas in early 2021, and more our team has pulled together and accomplished amazing things as we were able to produce more than 125,000 tons of kibble this year to help meet consumer demands.

What are some key values and features of Mid America Pet Food that make you an industry leader?

This might be a common answer, but we have a really great product. Every PG 56 / PET I N S I G H T

ingredient in our VICTOR kibble serves a nutritional purpose and each kibble formula begins with our proprietary VPRO Blend, which helps maximize the genetic potential of your pet regardless of breed, size, age or activity level. VPRO is a big differentiator for VICTOR and something that really sets our product apart from others. From a manufacturing standpoint, we have established our own fleet of trucks which allows us to have control on our logistics of inbound ingredients. This is a huge win as it allows us to produce kibble 24 hours a day, seven days a week if needed to keep up with our growing demand.

How would you characterize your current retailer and distributor partnerships, and how could they be improved?

At Mid America Pet Food, we’re very thankful for each of our retailer and distributor partners as they have helped us achieve the success we have. We’re always looking for ways to improve

and look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in the future as we continue to grow and innovate.

What are pet owners demanding from super premium pet food, and how is Mid America Pet Food addressing those demands?

As trends in the industry come and go, we’ve stayed true to what Mid America Pet Food was founded to do—create super premium nutrition at a common-sense value. All these years later the consumer demand has been consistent—they want a great product, with ingredients that serve a purpose—and we’ve been committed to continuing to provide that.

What can we expect from Mid America Pet Food in the near future?

We have an exciting announcement coming from our VICTOR brand later this month and look forward to being able to share that news with consumers very soon!


Shawn McGhee, CEO, Hollywood Feed

What led to the decision to acquire PetPeople?

There are always four dynamics I look for in an acquisition. It starts with people and an alignment around the purchase of the customer and the customer experience with the people. Then we get into product. Within the pet industry, you have a pretty varied product assortment and product focus and strategy. In some of the larger categories you have people that are out selling fish, reptiles and small animals such as hamsters and all of that, which we don’t participate in, so for the most part, it’s much easier to do an acquisition with a group of stores that are aligned around canine and feline. Then it’s market. When you look at the market, it’s really the adjacencies within the states and the adjacencies within geography that start to make sense. Also, of course, product aligns around the customer and market and where the directive of the customer segmentation is you’re looking at going after. And last, as I see it, it just has to be an overall good fit. All the components have to come together, and you have to have the right capital markets for it to make sense economically. You also have to have a willing participant in a seller, along with a willing participant in a buyer, and I think that’s what aligned with this particular transaction.

Can you explain the geographical considerations, in particular?

There’s some really interesting things here. We gained more stores in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee. And then we added states—Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania with PG 58 / PET I N S I G H T

Hollywood Feed storefront in Tulsa, OK

this transaction. And all of those fall within our given supply chain, so from a pure efficiency standpoint, falling within our supply chain makes transportation quite easy, and it is one of those things that drives an economic value of scale.

Why was now the appropriate time to make this acquisition?

It goes back to the first four things I talked about. Obviously, it’s the right amount of fit, but from a timing standpoint, you have a number of owners that are aging out or the owners are timing out. Also, if you’re a private owner and you’re reaching the twilight of your life, people are starting to make transactions happen because they’re in their 60s or 70s and it’s just the right time to do it. Further, on the private equity or investment side of the world, most of those funds are looking to be in a transaction for up to seven years, and they’re starting to time out. I believe right now is the right time for a lot of transactions to happen.

How does the acquisition benefit PetPeople and its customers?

From a pure customer experience standpoint, Hollywood Feed has this amazing tech stack that we bring to the table. From a pure technology standpoint, we think we’re leading edge in the industry and the consumer is going to see that in speed. The consumer is

going to see that in robustness of the offering. They’re going to see it in the overall service that we’re able to provide to them. The second component is our supply chain. When you look at it, Hollywood Feed owns its own distribution. Hollywood Feed owns all its own trucks. We own all our own cars for same day delivery, so we bring all that deep supply chain knowledge to the PetPeople stores.

And how does Hollywood Feed also benefit?

It’s two things: time is definitely one [benefit] because to go out and build 70-80 stores, it takes time. Therefore, it’s an opportunity to go into the new markets that we already discussed, but it’s also just a certain amount of scale, and we’re able to accelerate the timing just because it’s incredibly difficult to build stores in the middle of Covid right now, and this gives us an opportunity to enhance our total network.

What changes might staff see in the near future?

The first thing is what we’ve already done; we’ve already changed them over to our payroll stack and so the PetPeople employees are now being paid through the Hollywood Feed tech stack (includes back-end software, payroll, etc). That’s not only your first change r Cont'd on Pg. 60

CONGRATULATIONS TO HOLLYWOOD FEED on completing the recent acquisition of PetPeople!

Champion Petfoods looks forward to supporting Hollywood Feed in its future growth.

Shawn McGhee, Hollywood Feed r From Pg. 58 that happened, but also a pretty critical one if you’re an employee: you want to make sure you get a paycheck. In the coming months, you’ll see the Hollywood Feed tech stack go into the stores. The Hollywood Feed tech stack facilitates an enhanced customer experience. It brings with it a commonization of the customer, so there’s a single point of reach for all customer information and all customer data. The stores are able to reach across each other to see inventories and customer consumption across the entire network.

What changes might a PetPeople customer see coming soon?

If you’re a Hollywood Feed customer and you walk into a PetPeople store, all your information from all your previous histories, your warranties, your coupons, all of that, is available to you, and vice versa. The other piece that happens is that Hollywood Feed is an e-commerce player where PetPeople wasn’t. So, if you’re a customer who moves out of a given area where there’s no longer a PetPeople store, we’re going to be able to still facilitate the health and well-being of your pet through e-commerce. The third thing is that same day delivery, instead of going through a third party, being delayed for anywhere from five hours to a day, we’re able to do that all within about an hour.

Will branding be changing?

We will be changing the names of all the stores to Hollywood Feed. It won’t happen overnight. This is Covid and being able to harmonize the brands is very difficult because of your ability to get materials in a supply chain environment like we’re in. “PetPeople” will be a brand in terms of the store. We still own the intellectual property to the brand. We don’t currently have a strategy as to exactly how we’re going to use it. Hollywood Feed will be consolidating all the PetPeople corporate office activities into the Hollywood Feed corporate office in Memphis, TN.

How do the values of PetPeople align with that of Hollywood Feed?

It starts with the customer experience. The individuals in the PetPeople stores are highly motivated towards serving the customer and delivering a PG 60 / PET I N S I G H T

superior customer experience at the store level. I think that aligns very well with being similar, the saying goes, almost across the board within the Hollywood Feed sets of stores. Those things are just natural. If we would have gone out and looked at some of the other chains out there that are low service models or have a different philosophy, it’s just not as nice of a fit.

What’s your timeline look like to complete the acquisition logistics?

We expect to have all, what I call the mechanics of the business, solved by the end of July, when everything will be on the Hollywood Feed platform. Everything will be working on the Hollywood Feed supply chain, and we expect we’ll be done with that [this summer]. There will still be some branding elements that we don’t necessarily know how long they’re going to take. If these were normal times, I could probably give you a hard-and-fast timeline, but these aren’t normal.

How do you think the pandemic impacted the apparent acceleration in mergers and acquisitions in recent years?

What the pandemic did was accelerate the growth in the industry. It probably pulled us forward a good two to three years. If you go in and look at the macroeconomics of the pet industry in general, over the next decade it’s supposed to more than double. And I think when you talk about an industry going from say, a round number of $100 billion to $200 billion, the sheer size, stability and overall growth of the industry is going to attract larger and larger players with deeper and deeper investment [dollars]. And I think that by its nature, it’s going to drive consolidation. The second thing is, as I touched on earlier, is the demographics. The pet industry has been built by entrepreneurs. Many of those entrepreneurs are reaching ages in which they’re starting to think about estate planning and enjoying life on the golf course or the tennis court or whatever it is that makes them happy, and I think that’s creating that opportunity. The other side of it is when you look at the investment dollars that are coming in through private equity, private equity all has a given timeline—almost all of

them have a given timeline—and with those timelines come businesses that are bought and sold at a fairly regular cadence.

This is a cyclical occurrence, then?

It’s the demographics cycle. The Boomers are going to be completely gone by the mid to late 30s, and you have the Millennial generation and Gen Z coming in en masse behind them. That transaction is creating a lot of this change in not just our industry, but I think in all industries.

So many mergers and acquisitions creates an impression that opportunities are dwindling for a smallscale entrepreneur. Would you agree with that assessment?

I think there is more opportunity today than there’s ever been. A typical mode of consolidation is a manufacturer gets bought, and the first thing they want to do is go to the larger market which means you’re going to move into food, drug and mass. That moves them out of the independent pet space or moves them out of the pet spaces as an exclusive, which creates an opportunity for that new, young brand and that new, young idea to come into the space and create that niche opportunity. The second thing is capital has never cost less, so the No.1 thing that every new brand needs is more money. And if that money comes to you at a lower cost, it’s going to improve your chances for success. Thirdly what happened in my opinion was if you look at the pandemic and go in and look at the math, the number of businesses in the US came close to doubling during the pandemic. This means you’ve had this huge entrepreneurial flashpoint that was fueled by a lot of people who either took buy outs or a lot of people who were able to get stimulus or were able to acquire capital at a really attractive rate. What that does is they’ve gone out and created new businesses across many fronts—at a level we’ve never see in the US. And while it’s too early to say exactly how it plays out, if I was an entrepreneur today, I would be more emboldened to be more aggressive and go after areas in the pet space. It’s much easier to create a really r Cont'd on Pg. 62


Stock Up On Award-Winning, ONE-Ingredient

and pet-parents from around the world seek out Brilliant


Salmon Oil for optimal pet health from retailers like you.

Different from all other salmon oils on the market, Brilliant is based on scientific research, with a transparent production process that is sustainable, traceable and patented. With freshness you can see, Brilliant is 100% natural and helps pets achieve softer paws, healthier joints, shinier coats, a better appetite, more energy and healthier hearts. And the taste...irresistible!



g soo


Shawn McGhee, Hollywood Feed

Hollywood Feed storefront in Atlanta, GA

r From Pg. 60 nice business in a $200 billion industry than a $100 billion industry.

What about on the retail front —will mom-and-pop stores just continue to be edged out in favor of consolidation?

I’d counter the narrative of the ‘momand-pops are going away’ with a review of the franchise space, whether it be Pet Supplies Plus, which is obviously the largest franchisor in the space. However, you also have 3-4 others behind them that are all seeing robust growth, and that growth is not coming from corporate America. It is single store owners to owners with a few stores. The way you win, as a single store owner, is to individualize those stores. Individualization means uniqueness and uniqueness is always about a point of view around product and people.

How would you sum up the last two years?

Our goal was to maintain as normalized a customer experience as humanly possible, in an incredibly difficult environment. I’m very proud of the team for being able to achieve that goal. It continues to be a difficult environment in my opinion. Even though the masks have come down the supply chain has gotten worse. And again what we’re doing is trying to maintain a normalized customer experience at a very high level for the Hollywood Feed customers and now for the PetPeople customers. It really is PG 62 / PET I N S I G H T

a testament to our team that we’ve been as successful as we have been throughout this cycle.

Could you elaborate on the supply chain assessment—that it’s gotten worse?

I suppose when you look at the consumption of many products that continue to scale, the short supply of product continues to be a battle in the marketplace. You’re seeing those products continue to inflate now. We didn’t have the inflation that we’re having today, and I sense the inflation is going to be the next major challenge that we’re all going to fight. Every vendor out there is feeling the pinch of energy right now and every vendor is feeling the pinch of the incremental cost to move items. Whether you’re moving those items in the US or you’re trying to pull containers out of China or Europe or any other country, there’s been an inflation that the world has never seen. It’s nothing for container pricing to have increased eight to 10 times and that kind of inflation we’ve never had to deal with, and there’s really no way to get around it at the moment. I think there are some long-term things that could come on the horizon, but in the short term we’re going to feel an awful lot of pressure.

So how do you prepare for it?

It’s already here. I’ve always been a believer that a low-cost producer is always going to survive and win, and Hollywood Feed has always been about

making sure that we have a low cost overhead, and we have a very efficient supply chain so that we’re here for the long haul.

What are your goals for the rest of the year?

We’ll have the technical side of this one [the acquisition] solved by the end of July. It doesn’t mean we’ll have everything moved in, but the mechanics of it in terms of what the customer sees, in terms of what the employees see, in terms of our ability to just digest and see it as one unified platform, I expect we’ll have complete. So at that point what you’re really looking at is the development of new stores. With the acquisition we acquired several pieces of real estate that need to be developed and opened. Hollywood Feed had a pipeline of real estate that they were already working on, so it’s those two coming together and figuring out that piece. But I think the other piece of it is on the supply side of the world. You now obviously have to source significantly more goods and in a market that’s very difficult. So I think the back end of 2022, you’re going into the fourth quarter, which historically has been the peak time of the year, there’s a lot of unknowns and it’s going to be difficult and very challenging. The last piece is we think there are other opportunities out there that may present themselves to us, and we would be open to those acquisitions should they come at the right time and the right place.

SAVE THE DATE It’s been a wonderfully productive few days! We hope you’re enjoying reconnecting with your community of pet pros face-to-face, hearing business-boosting advice from industry leaders and of course, seeing (and touching) all of the latest and greatest pet products up close. Now, instead of “goodbye” on Thursday, let’s say, “catch you later” and start counting down the days until we meet again. Same place, new year.