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Pet Age
 

July 6, 2016

Now more than ever before, the principle of supply and demand is keeping pet product companies on their toes.

Why? Because today’s well-informed customer is demanding quality – all the way down to where products are put together.

With international recall scares and national economic interests in mind, pet owners are switching over to using American-made products in droves. In fact, a 2013 survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 78 percent of Americans would choose a USA-made product over an identical one made abroad.

These consumers are justified in making this change in their purchasing habits. Supporting companies that produce their products in America is a tried and true way to improve the overall financial landscape in the U.S. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.40 is added to the economy, representing the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector.

Many players in the pet industry have adapted to respond to growing market demands for “made in the USA.” Based on the latest crop of new and innovative items for animals that are manufactured on U.S. soil, it seems that more and more manufacturers have taken note that American-made is trending.

For Adam Baker, founder and CEO of SodaPup, making pet products in the USA is more demonstrative of a manufacturer’s commitment to social responsibility than anything else.

“The sole reason for manufacturing overseas is to chase the lowest price,” Baker said. “This allows brands and retailers to make the best margins while passing along low pricing to the consumer. On the surface, it looks like a win for brands, retailers and consumers. But by using third party manufacturers in developing countries, brands can essentially keep their hands clean while turning a blind eye to some of the realities of why their pricing is so low.”

Baker observed that low wages for employees, poor working conditions and substandard environmental considerations are among the many negative consequences of manufacturing in China and other places in the developing world.

“You can see that there are other costs that aren’t embedded in the cost of the product,” Baker said. “We all pay the price from a moral and environmental perspective.”

Citing unsafe production practices abroad as the primary reason to shift factories to domestic facilities, Deborah Suchman, co-founder of Polkadog Bakery, pointed to many concrete examples of pets who have unfortunately paid the price for manufacturers’ focus on their bottom line.

“There have been thousands of cases of pets getting sick and pets dying after they eat chicken jerky, duck treats or even dehydrated veggie snacks made in China,” Suchman said. “The FDA has been cautioning people about this since 2007. This is about the health of our dogs and cats.”

According to Tim Fabits, vice president of sales at Redbarn, changing consumer interests and personal research into preserving the health of their pets are among the chief explanations for why the USA-made positioning of products has grown exponentially in recent years.

“Pet parents are much more educated and are keenly aware of the ingredients that are being used in today’s food and treat offerings,” Fabits said.

Baker agreed.

“Perhaps the biggest benefit of producing in the USA is that this is what consumers want,” Baker said. “In the pet industry and beyond, there is a growing consciousness among consumers. They realize that the way they spend their dollars reflects their personal values. More and more, they want American-made products that are produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.”

Fabits further explained that pet product companies who are truly on the cutting edge of product development are now keeping in mind the newly knowledgeable customer when creating and pitching brand new items to bring to market.

“The education of a pet parent, retailer and distribution partner is critical in offering peace of mind to all parties involved,” Fabits said. “Our research has shown that the purchasing decision of a treat or food has evolved into a very distinct process of education and awareness. Our mandate as a manufacturer in these categories is to continue creating awareness and offering solutions that resonate with today’s discriminating pet parent.”

All-American Meals
Made in the USA claims have proven to be particularly effective in the pet food segment, which has been plagued by headlines about tainted products of foreign origin for several years.

Consumer trust in domestically manufactured pet food has only grown as a result of recalls and foodborne illness from internationally-produced products. According to a 2014 Packaged Facts survey, 61 percent and 50 percent of pet owners purchasing dog and cat products, respectively, said that they have actively sought out pet foods that were made in the USA.

Redbarn, which produces 100 percent of its pet food product line in the USA, offers premium, all-natural rolled and canned foods for dogs and cats that boast superior quality assurance because of the company’s careful manufacturing practices.

“Redbarn takes great pride in being one of the only U.S. manufacturing companies that wholly owns and operates its manufacturing facilities,” Fabits said. “This allows for greater control of the raw material quality, which directly leads to a higher quality product on the shelves of our retail partners.”

New to market are Redbarn’s Pates for dogs, all of which include ten ingredients or less and are individually tailored to address problems with digestive health, skin and coat issues, and the unique needs of puppies. They are available in duck and turkey, lamb and beef varieties.

Zignature, which produces a variety of dog and cat foods, develops its recipes and manufactures its products in American facilities. Many of the brand’s pet food ingredients are sourced in the U.S., including trout, salmon and whitefish from the Pacific Northwest.

The brand’s new Premium Fussie Cat kibble starts with meats rich in complete proteins as each variety’s first ingredient. The flavors available have been tailored to be as palatable as possible to felines with recipes that are also rich in vitamins and minerals.

Northwest Naturals source all of their ingredients in the U.S., and their products are manufactured from start to finish in Portland, Oregon. Their unique Raw Frozen Diets offer six different protein sources and feature meats that are antibiotic free and that contain no added hormones.

Zuke’s recently entered the pet food segment with their new American-made Ascent line for dogs.

“Crafted in the USA, Zuke’s Ascent Natural Dog Food combines high-quality meat, fish or poultry with quick-dried vegetables and fruits like blueberries, peas, cranberries or carrots,” said Chris Meiering, Zuke’s director of innovation. “We use a breakthrough Nature-Loc process to preserve their valuable nutrients, vibrant color and shape while keeping them highly digestible.”

Available in Grain-Free Crunchy Blend and Adventure Tender Blend, each Zuke’s variety is free of corn, soy and artificial preservatives, colors and flavors. The Grain-Free Crunchy Blend contains live probiotics that help support immune system and digestive health, and the Adventure Tender Blend is made by hand in small batches.

Treat Yourself
Similarly affected by quality issues with foreign-made consumable pet products, many manufacturers of pet treats have moved towards providing customer-pleasing products that are made in the USA.

Among the pack is Bocce’s Bakery, a Brooklyn-based company that produces pet treats free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Baked in small batches, these snacks for dogs are made with locally sourced, natural ingredients and are available in interesting gourmet flavors that include Truffle Mac & Cheese and Green Juice.

Einstein Pets, headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, is similarly committed to responsible pet nutrition through healthy dog treats that are always baked in limited quantities.

“Original Einstein recipes are wheat, corn, and soy free, and 100 percent sourced and made in the USA,” said founder, president and CEO Kelly Ison. “They are premium treats made from natural and organic real ingredients and only one calorie per treat.”

All Einstein Pets treats are made with chia seeds and oats as the first ingredient with absolutely no preservatives. The line includes a number of palatable flavors like pumpkin, peanut butter and jelly, and peas and carrots.

Primal Pet Foods is a treat line for dogs and cats that provides wholesome snacks made of human-grade ingredients with no added preservatives, gluten or grain. They are produced with low-temperature, slow cooking techniques like freeze-drying and slow roasting, which helps to preserve their high-density nutrition.

Primal Treats’ Jerky Nibs, which are suitable for dogs and cats, are a healthy choice available in beef, turkey, pork and chicken varieties. They are all-natural and made from meat raised in the U.S. without added hormones or antibiotics.

All of Polkadog Bakery’s treats are made from scratch in the company’s South Boston kitchen. Their Cod Skins and Haddock Crunchy Sticks are one ingredient snacks made from hand-twisted fish that has been slowly dehydrated.

“We’re manufacturing the entire treat from scratch, so we keep it simple and find quality grain, fish and meat,” Suchman said. “When we make jerky, we find the highest quality sustainable source. We dehydrate here in Boston. We package here in Boston and Bostonian artists even design the labels we attach to our packages.”

For Suchman, making Polkadog treats in the USA is a decision that is as much about the personal as it is about the professional.
“When I make treats in the United States, I am making them with the employees that I hired,” Suchman said. “I’m making them with peanut butter from a guy whose place is a couple miles away from where I live. I am making them with fishing crews that I meet and talk to several times a week. If my pet treat company is based in the USA, then making them here, locally, as close to my neighborhood as possible, means I am overseeing everything.”

Also made in a Massachusetts facility, WholeLife’s LifeBites are protein rich, grain-free treats for dogs and cats that contain USA-sourced, human-grade meat and nutritious ingredients like pumpkin and yogurt. They are freeze-dried in small batches to help preserve the health benefits of their vitamin-packed formulas.

True Chews
Dog owners with active chewers are always searching for new and improved solutions that satisfy their canine. Bearing this in mind, pet companies are increasingly making new and innovative chew options in the USA for pups who never quite have enough to gnaw.

The Dynamo Dog Functional Dental Bones from Cloud Star are all-natural, made in the USA oral health chews that pack in fruits, vegetables, vitamins and herbs. Available in three different sizes, these gluten-free bones are available in different versions that support Tummy, Hip & Joint and Breath health.

Many all-natural Barkworthies chews, including Bully Stick varieties and Deer Antlers, are American-made. Bill Chilian, the company’s marketing vice president, says that making Barkworthies chews in the USA offers a number of distinct advantages for both product quality and environmental impact.

“We have complete, hands-on control in every step of the chews we produce and package,” Chilian said. “Producing chews domestically also reduces our carbon footprint since these products aren’t shipped here from overseas.”

Pet owners who opt to provide their dogs with Barkworthies chews will also be happy to know that the company is always true to their made in the USA claims.

“It’s easy to say ‘Made in the USA’ or include an American flag on your packaging,” Chilian said. “But at Barkworthies, our USA chews are audited by an independent third party that verifies our supply chain to guarantee that they’re actually made here in the USA. We’re fully transparent with respect to our USA sourcing.”

Another brand committed to American made products, Jones Natural Chews sources and makes all of their dog chews in the USA. The Illinois-based family company provides a large range of all-natural products that includes Bully Pizzles, bones, and beef, lamb and pork chews.

For a vegetarian option, Sam’s Yams by Front Porch Pets are an American-made chew made from dehydrated sweet potatoes. Available in three different sizes, they are grain-free, gluten-free, and high in vitamins, while also helping to clean dogs’ teeth with their hard, furrowed surfaces.

American-Born Bedding
Tiny furry friends like hamsters, rabbits and chinchillas are now receiving the benefits of American-made products thanks to the numerous companies that make bedding and substrate for small pets that have also joined the ever-expanding made in the USA movement.

Appealing to customers in search of domestic products for their small pet, the species-tailored bedding offerings at carefresh have American origins.

“Each of the three varieties of made in the USA small animal bedding solutions cater to a small animal’s specific needs, instincts and behaviors,” said carefresh brand manager Jane Wasley. “Carefresh’s unique all-in-one products offer comfort, absorbency and odor control for the most discerning shoppers.”

Wasley states that for carefresh’s product innovators, the motivation to make quality bedding in the USA was close to home.

“Small animals such as rabbits, gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs are among some of America’s most popular pets, but to-date, little has been done to offer a higher level of behavior-based and eco-friendly solutions,” Wasley said. “Investing the time and research into developing this next generation of our best-selling carefresh line has always been extremely important to us.”

Green Dreamzzz Premium Paper Pet Bedding is another American-made substrate option. Eco-friendly and colored with edible vegetable inks, it is made from biodegradable, recycled unused phonebooks and is ideal for keeping pets comfortable and warm while working to absorb bad odors.

Vitakraft Sun Seed has a line of made in the USA Fresh World Beddings available in a variety of pellet and paper options. Made of 100 percent recycled paper, the Heavy Duty Odor Control Multi-Pet Formula boasts up to 14 days of odor blocking protection and is 99.5 percent dust-free for easier clean up.

Home-Grown Grooming
The growth of American manufacturing in the pet space certainly does not stop at bath time. A diverse array of made in the USA grooming supplies have hit the market, much to the delight of concerned customers.

For Gerrard Larriet, general manager of Gerrard Larriett Aromatherapy Pet Care, the benefits of making pet grooming products in the USA are many.

“As a USA-based company, producing domestically allows us to regularly meet face to face with our factories and to audit their facilities for quality control,” Larriett said. “Additionally, we are able to produce and to ship fresh product to the consumer because we are not periodically consolidating large container loads of inventory from foreign countries.”

The brand offers Natural Tear & Saliva Stain Remover, Natural Breath Freshener, and Natural Ear Cleanser for dogs and cats, as well as several fresh-smelling shampoos, conditioners and sprays with all-natural ingredients.

“All Gerrard Larriett products provide an aromatherapy benefit to the consumer and are designed to be earth friendly,” Larriett said.

Pura Naturals Pet has recently launched a line of American-made, USDA Certified Organic pet health and beauty products, including synthetic dye-free shampoos and conditioners, Hot Spot Oil, Paw Rescue and Button Nose Butter Moisturizers, and all-natural citronella Outdoor Protection.

“Many pet products in the market today contain harsh chemicals and irritants that are not safe for your pets,” said Jason Riccardi, president of Pura Naturals Pet. “We wanted to create safe and effective products that are calming and safe for the entire family.”

The brand also offers two different Organic Cleansing Systems for ears and teeth that are non-toxic and paraben-free.

Bobbi Panter Pet Products makes all of their inventive salt-free, tear-free grooming products in the USA. One of their recent introductions to the grooming market is a line of two waterless shampoos, Gorgeous Dry for dogs and cats and Baby Bebe Puppy Spray.

“My waterless shampoos make clean up quick, easy and natural,” Panter said. “And they leave pets smelling so good!”

Patriotic Playthings
Many pets and their owners are finding that playtime is the perfect time to integrate products made in the USA.

SodaPup produces a sizeable range of American-made dog toys that entertain pets and ensure that customers feel positively about their purchased playthings.

“At SodaPup, we believe we can make high quality, socially and environmentally responsible products in the USA at prices that are competitive with China imports,” Baker said. “It’s the best of all worlds and we feel good about the impact we’re having. Making a profit is critical to surviving and thriving, but profitability is not our only measure of success.”

Fair treatment for laborers, reduction of carbon footprint and quality control are among the many ethical considerations central to SodaPup’s mission. Baker and his team take all of these factors into account by carefully monitoring all of the company’s facilities and day-to-day practices.

“We are in factories on a regular basis so that we can see for ourselves whom we’re working with, what the working conditions are like, and how well the operations are run,” Baker said. “We have greater control and assurances that our products are being manufactured in a socially and environmentally responsible way.”

The company also makes all of their pet toys, which include products modeled after iconic American objects like the Soda Can, Rocket Pop and Bottle Top, with high-quality, sustainable materials that are safe and nontoxic for Fido.

“SodaPup products are made from a proprietary natural rubber compound that is FDA compliant,” Baker said.

Petmate currently manufactures over 50 percent of its total product offerings in the USA, including the JW Megalast Glow and Chuckit Launcher Sport and Classic for dogs. The brand also takes the environment into consideration when selecting sustainable materials from which to make its products.

“By purchasing pre-consumer, recyclable materials in the US to produce our goods, we are reducing the carbon footprint of our finished products, thus creating a continuous cycle of US production and distribution fueled by our eco-friendly manufacturing process,” said Emilye Schmale, Petmate’s senior marketing manager.

Cycle Dog, an eco-friendly pet company, makes all of their Ecolast Rubber Toys and Fuzzies Soft Toys for dogs in the USA with post-consumer recycled materials. The popular rubber Flat Tire Flyer is an ideal toy for summer play because it floats in water, and Fuzzies Springy Things are a four-way stretch toy great for dogs who love to play tug of war.

In the feline play products segment, makes its lines of scratchers, scratching pads and catnip toys in the USA. This helps the brand to ensure that the construction and safety of their items are held to a much higher standard than most foreign-made products would be.

“At Imperial Cat, we manufacture eco-friendly and all-natural products of outstanding quality,” said Kristie Hamilton, Imperial Cat’s director of sales. “Our scratchers can be recycled and are made from renewable corrugated cardboard that is completely safe for cats.”

The latest additions to Imperial Cat’s Scratch ‘n Shapes line of cat scratchers include a variety of new shapes and attractive patterns. Each scratcher, including the Cozy Curl, Sleigh Bed, and Rub ‘n Ramp, is made even more irresistible to cats with included certified organic catnip.

Why Stock Made in the USA?
Still unsure why you should choose American-made products over others for your shop? When it comes to the benefits of stocking USA-made pet products, the most basic justification for putting American items on shelves is that it’s increasingly evident that they are what customers want.

Basically, more “made in the USA” means happier shoppers.

“Simply put, store owners should stock made in the USA products because of the increased interest from consumers,” said Hamilton. “Not to mention that store owners can also rest assured knowing that they are providing their customers with safe and non-toxic products of the highest quality.”

Suchman agreed, noting that customers want to feel good about every item they purchase, including the treats, foods, toys and accessories they buy for their beloved pets.

“Living well and responsibly is not something that stops [for pet owners] when they look at their cats and dogs,” Suchman said. “USA products represent quality, and they represent the lifestyle customers are seeking when they come into your pet stores. Prove to your customers that you understand, and you are going to move treats.”

And as many store owners and managers are already well aware, it is often in the best interest of retailers to assume that the customer is always right.

“Putting the consumer first is the most sure-fire way to find success,” Baker said.

But beyond climbing consumer interest in American-made items for pets, Larriett encourages retailers to put U.S. products on their shelves simply because it is a responsible thing to do for pets and their owners.

“Retailers should stock made in USA products not only because the consumer demands them but also because doing so allows retailers to offer the safest and most fresh product to their customer,” Larriett said.

With the Made in the USA movement still steadily gaining momentum, more and more ethical, patriotic products are well on their way to enhancing the lives of retailers, customers and pets alike.

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