Pet Products Growing Greener
It can all start with simple recycling.
“Many of our consumers recycle regularly, so we wanted to provide an easy way for consumers to recycle their pet food packaging,” said Carly White, digital marketing specialist of Wellpet. “Recycling is important, and we are happy to be able to offer this option to consumers whenever possible. TerraCycle has made great strides in diverting waste from landfills, transforming it into innovative materials and products and we are proud to support this worthy initiative.”
TerraCycle’s recycling programs, referred to as Brigade programs, are free, national recycling programs, making it easy for anyone in the United States to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfills.
“TerraCycle uses an innovative recycling process to recycle the typically non-recyclable waste collected through programs,” said Colleen Duncan, publicist of TerraCycle. “First, materials are separated into metals, plastics and organics. Any organic waste is composted, metals are recycled and plastics are melted into a plastic material that can be molded into new plastic products such as park benches, picnic tables, plastic lumber and plastic shipping pallets. Some of the waste collected is given to our design team to upcycle it into home decor, school supplies and accessories that can be found for sale on the website and on TerraCycle’s Etsy page.”
Anyone taking advantage of WellPet’s partnership with TerraCycle can earn points every time they recycle a bag.
“For each pound, collectors are awarded 100 TerraCycle points,” said Duncan. “One TerraCycle point converts to $0.01. Collectors donate that money to a nonprofit or school of their choice, or they can use their points towards one of the charity gifts listed on our website, such as providing meals to a person in need or adopting an acre of wildlife land.”
Pet food isn’t the only recycle product; pet toys can not only be recycled, they can also be made out of recycled material.
Planet Dog’s entire Orbee-Tuff line is 100 percent recyclable and is made from 20-100 percent recycled materials.
“Our Recycle Line is made from 100 percent regrind material, helping to eliminate manufacturing waste,” said Kristen Smith, brand ambassador for Planet Dog. “All Orbee-Tuff products are also made in the U.S.A., minimizing emissions from overseas transport on our heaviest and highest volume items.”
That isn’t all. Most of Planet Dog’s products are made using renewable resources.
“Our leashes, collars, and harnesses are made from hemp, one of the world’s most renewable resources, and the handles are lined with recycled fleece,” said Smith. “The durability of Orbee-Tuff and hemp means long-lasting products that stand up over years, meaning less waste and less in the landfill. Our Wood Chuck Ball Tosser is made from bamboo, another of nature’s most renewable resources. The handle repurposes cork scraps, keeping them out of landfills. Planet Dog treats are made in the USA from five simple, natural, healthy ingredients – no fillers, no additives, no chemicals.”
Retailers and pet owners can also ship back used Orbee-Tuff toys.
“All Orbee-Tuff products are recyclable, so any used products can be shipped back to us and we will ‘regrind’ the material to be used in a new dog toy,” said Smith.
Planet Dog is also a founding member of the Pet Industry Sustainability Council.
“Because sustainability permeates our company culture and values, Planet Dog became a founding member of PISC in 2012,” said Smith. “PISC’s mission is to accelerate social and environmental sustainability in the pet industry through education, implementation and collaboration. This inter-industry collaboration encourages the implementation of best practices, by providing tools and resources for advancement and by promoting continual and authentic improvement for the benefit of our environment, communities, and businesses.”
Believe it or not, post-consumer waste can make great bedding for small animals and Fibercore Eco-Bedding takes full advantage of the fact. All of the company’s bedding is made up of 100 percent consumer waste.
“For us, that has always been important,” said Brian Wood, president of Fibercore. “Aside from providing a great product for the critters, it’s also about supporting the environment. We’re not cutting down more trees to make more eco-bedding. We’re using stuff that’s already in the system.”
Fibercore’s bedding also provides small animals with the ability to nest and borrow and build homes.
“On a micro level, you’re giving the critters a habitat they can manipulate and reduce stress and make them healthier and on a macro level, we’re having as little an impact on the planet as possible because we’re already using stuff that’s in the system,” said Wood.
Social sustainability is also important to pet manufacturers. Planet Dog donates 2 percent of all sales to its nonprofit Planet Dog Foundation.
“[The foundation] demonstrates our commitment to social sustainability, allowing us to fund service dogs, therapy dogs, police and military dogs and many more,” said Smith.
Fibercore works with a group of developmentally disabled workers to package all its small bags of Eco-Bedding to then be shipped to stores.
“It’s really a fantastic relationship,” said Wood. “For them, we don’t care if it takes somebody a minute to fill a bag or five minutes to fill a bag. With that, anybody with any level of disability can do this job, and it’s enabled us to build the company in ways that we couldn’t have done otherwise. We go through there and everyone is smiling and wants to shake our hands. It’s really great.”
Better for Everybody
Everyone benefits from eco-friendly pet products, not just pets and mother earth but also pet owners and brands.
“Dogs and dog owners benefit from eco-friendly products by having safe, healthy options to choose from,” said Smith. “Our transition to paper bags instead of boxes has greatly reduced the weight of our outgoing packages, thus lowering shipping costs. Our Made in the U.S.A. products attract a loyal and conscientious shopper who values clean, green products with a transparent supply chain. Our sustainability efforts are reaping benefits to Planet Dog, allowing us to maintain our prices despite rising costs from our vendors.”
TerraCycle wants to encourage retailers and consumers to help protect resources simply by buying brands like Wellness that take environmental impact into account.
“The benefit of buying pet products that partner with TerraCycle is knowing that your product isn’t leaving any negative impact on the world and will actually end up as something beneficial, like a plastic bench in your local park or as a Frisbee for your dog,” said Duncan. “And by supporting this brand, you are showing your support for companies that take responsibility for the impact of their products, therefore, encouraging other brands to follow suit.”
Retailers can add a TerraCycle and TruFood collection box to their stores to spark consumer interest and also get them involved in making a difference.
“Retailers are finding that more and more of their consumers are interested in recycling options for the products purchased at their stores,” said White. “Since we kicked off our partnership with Terracycle, we’ve had significant interest from retailers looking to add TruFood packaging collection boxes to their stores. Not only is collecting the packaging a great way to reduce waste but it gives the retailers an opportunity to discuss Wellness TruFood with pet parents who might be interested in learning more about TruFood recipes or Terracycle.”
The benefits to stocking Fibercore Eco-Bedding are twofold.
“For the retailer, our sustainability gives them something to separate us from the rest of the products out there, and they should feel good about selling a product that has the least amount of impact on the planet,” said Wood.
Fibercore’s Eco-Bedding is also virtually dust-free and can help with allergy issues.
“A lot of people don’t realize that their children’s critter allergies are coming from the bedding,” said Wood. “It’s with little or no additional effort on the pet owner’s part to provide a product that’s good for the planet, good for the pets and good for the kids.”
Pets on Board
Safety isn’t always a guarantee for pets. In fact, pets face the same risks that humans do when riding as a passenger, whether the trip is to go on a nice hike or to go the dreaded vet. Pet owners want a guarantee that if the worst happens, their pet will be protected.
Working With the Center for Pet Safety
That is where the Center for Pet Safety comes in. The nonprofit center runs crash tests on pet products to help determine what makes a product safe for pets during a crash. The center works to help companies with crash safety testing.
“We can give them guidance so that they can reduce dollars they spend,” said Lindsay Wolko, founder of Center for Pet Safety. “They’re not just spending for spends sake. We can tailor and shortcut the process for them.”
Center for Pet Safety then points manufacturers to a location where they can do testing. It is a long process in which the third step is reaching out to the center.
“The final proof of concept testing is when they reach out to us,” said Wolko. The CPS then gets proof of previous tests.
“This allows us to see the progression and then we have a record,” said Wolko. “We would prefer that the products are on the market or a final proof of concept sample that they have. From there, we schedule the testing.”
According to Wolko, manufacturers are welcome to attend the tests, or they can elect to just receive the information from the test. The CPS sends this after the results are compared to the standard that the CPS has already published.
“From there, we let them know if they passed and what they ranked,” she said.
The CPS follows Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 213 which was designed to test child seats.
“We’ve leveraged those test conditions,” said Wolko. “It’s the same conditions, same power, same equipment and same fixturing because we wanted to make this as easy for manufacturers who wanted to participate in this program to work on this with any test lab they want to. This is all standard equipment.”
During these tests, the CPS conducts a crash test on a sled. Very technical parameters must then be met.
According to Wolko, the CPS looks at the simulated accident and takes measurements of the product and test evidence.
“We want to see the hardware and stitching integrity,” said Wilko. “We don’t want to see the metal tear or the stitching fail.”
Several companies have already taken advantage of what the CPS has to offer, including Sleepy Pod as well as about five to seven brands working to get certified.
“We are an independent, nonprofit organization,” said Wolko. “We have no skin in the game. We are not getting money from manufacturers. We are not supported by the industry. We do this work for the consumer. Some of the brands take this very seriously.”
According to Wolko, Sleepy Pod is very involved. They were the first company to be certified by the Center for Pet Safety. In fact, Sleepy Pod received a five star crash test rating.
“If a manufacturer meets the marks consistently, they are awarded a seal. That logo then goes onto the product packaging and they can use it in marketing, and it’s independent and validated that the product does what it claims to do and it stands them above the rest.”
Third Party Verification
Kurgo has been making harnesses for 12 years and has been crash testing them for eight. The company takes pet safety very seriously.
“We have been engineering products in this space for 12 years,” said Jennifer Joyce, vice president of marketing at Kurgo. “Since only 16 percent of people restrain their dog when driving in the car (AAA/Kurgo Study), we believe the first step is keeping dogs out of the front seat and reducing distracted driving accidents.”
Kurgo uses a third party to crash test products.
“We test our products at the University of Michigan Lab, an accredited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration facility, using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems. We use dummy dogs of different weights and sled test the harnesses simulating a crash. These tests have shown that the Kurgo Impact harness withstands crashes for dogs up to 75 pounds. The Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness is crash-tested in the same way and can withstand crashes for dogs up to 55 pounds.”
Kurgo is launching a new safety product this month.
“We are launching a brand new harness based on a totally different design,” said Joyce. “It’s called the Kurgo Impact Harness and it is different than our past harnesses in that it uses a single piece of high tensile tubular webbing which means there are fewer stitch points and that makes it stronger. It is purpose-built for car safety as well as your dog’s comfort which reflects all of the knowledge we have developed over the last 12 years developing pet travel products.”
According to Joyce, Kurgo has crash tested both the Kurgo Impact Harness and the Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness.
Joyce says that the car safety of pets can be improved with education.
“We believe the most important thing is to get people to start to recognize that dogs in the front seat aren’t safe,” she said. “From there, we can educate consumers about the need for restraints such as car safety harnesses.”
Safety for Pets and People
4×4 North America has a variety of technical products that help pet owners transport their pets in their vehicles. These products have been also been crash tested and the company focuses on both pets and people.
“The process for us is very different than anybody else because we have the only crash tested dog cage in the world that has been tested for front, rear and rollover impact,” said Richard Casey, president and owner of 4×4 North America. “Nobody else does that.”
The products are designed to keep pets and people safe.
“Our cages are tested using crash test dummies,” said Casey. “Those crash test dummies measure the forces implied upon the rear seat occupants, they take into consideration the crumple safety zone built into cars.”
The crumple zones are areas of a vehicle that are designed to deform and crumple in a collision. This absorbs some of the energy of the impact, preventing it from being transmitted to the occupants.
According to Casey, 4×4 cages are the only cages with their own crumple zone that work with a vehicle’s crumple zone.
“A lot of people don’t realize that putting a cage in a car permanently alters the safety engineering of the vehicle,” said Casey. “Most people leave the cages in the car all the time. The cage can mess up a crumple zone and cause harm to rear seat occupants and the dog.”
4×4 uses real safety equipment incorporated into the vehicle to test its products.
“The benefit to this is traveling and knowing you are safe verses traveling and thinking you are safe,” said Casey. “That’s the main difference.”
According to Casey, 4×4 employs full-time automotive and safety engineers, and it uses government facilities to crash test products.
The company also posts all of the findings online for anyone to read.
“Our goal is to educate consumers and let them make their own choice,” said Casey. “The most important thing is that when people buy a crash tested product, they should know it is genuine and safe. We provide all that documentation and certification and make it available to consumers. You are dealing with people and pets lives.”
As far as the future of pet safety testing goes, the CPS one day hopes to be a fully funded organization that can cover all the fees that come with pet safety testing. Subaru is one company that has sponsored studies at the center.
“Our goal is to have multiple manufacturers as we complete each standard,” said Wolko. “We never turn down a manufacturer.”
The CPS is also working on another project that will be published within the next few months.
Pet Age spoke with Emilye Schmale, corporate communications manager of Petmate about the company’s history, creating its own plastic, its passion for pets and its award-winning products.
Rebekah Harrison: What is the history of Petmate?
Emilye Schmale: It was 50 years ago that Petmate created the first dog kennel in Arlington, Texas. We began with kennels but have grown to encompass a full line of products and solutions for the pet industry and, more importantly, for pet families.
The growing portfolio of brands, including Aspen Pet, Chuckit!, Dogzilla, Jackson Galaxy and JW, provide a variety of solutions that fulfill the varied needs of pets and pet parents today. Our products have always been based on consumer insights and advanced trend research.
Rebekah: I know that a large quantity of Petmate products are made in the USA. What spurred the decision to use U.S. manufacturing?
Emilye: At Petmate, we have a great responsibility to provide our loving pets with a long and happy life. This responsibility goes beyond the physical care we provide them, meaning we must take action to protect the natural world they live in. By manufacturing many of our products in the U.S., we are not only reducing our own carbon footprint but also providing jobs and giving back to our local communities. This is the standard that Petmate holds itself to and we are proud that our brands are deeply reflected in the happy, healthy lives of our pets.
Rebekah: Petmate creates its own resin for plastic goods. Can you tell me a little about that process?
Emilye: We source much of the plastic we use in our manufacturing from our Spectrum Plastics Facility, based in Arlington, Texas. It is at this award-winning resin facility that we produce nearly 80 million pounds of resin each year. We purchase post-industrial, pre-consumer, recyclable materials to reduce our carbon footprint and keep millions of pounds of plastic out of landfills. The resin is compounded and then formulated into the plastic that is used in our well-known carriers, shelters and other plastic products.
We also utilize a variety of eco-friendly manufacturing techniques to ensure that our pets and their families have a beautiful world to play in.
Rebekah: Petmate is the two-time winner of the Edison award. Can you tell me more about the award?
Emilye: We are honored to have been awarded the Green Edison award for our manufacturing facility as well as for our innovative See & Extend Carrier.
The Edison awards are chosen based on four criteria; concept, value, delivery and impact and also recognizes “game changing” products and brand innovations. Our manufacturing facility has been awarded for being “a leader in globally recognizing, honoring and fostering innovation and innovators to create a positive impact in the world.”
In addition, our See & Extend carrier was developed from Petmate’s experience traveling thousands of miles with pets, offering all-in-one convenience, comfort and safety for pets and their families during travel. The See & Extend features a side pop-out to give dogs and cats room to stretch and mesh windows for ventilation and visibility, making travel with a pet much easier and less stressful.
Rebekah: What is a typical day like for you? What is the typical life of a new product like?
Emilye: Each and every day our dedicated product managers work with designers and engineers to create new and innovative products. Many of our top products are plastic based so are brought to life first at our Spectrum facility.
First, a unique blend of resin is created. Then, the product is brought to life during our manufacturing process. Next, product samples become available for our marketing team to promote through PR initiatives and a wide variety of advertising vehicles. Then, our outstanding sales team brings the product to distribution and directly to many of our large retail partners. Ultimately, this product lands on store shelves for consumers and their pets to utilize and enjoy!
Even after the product has made its way into a consumer’s home we still interact with it; our stellar customer service team offers support to our retail customers and our pet consumers every day. Together, the entire Petmate family works as a team to seamlessly ideate, produce and provide the highest quality pet products available on the market today.
From Mongolia to New York
Pet Age spoke with Ryan Holder Singer, founder and CEO of K-10+ about pet health, his trip to Mongolia, plans for expansion and new products.
Rebekah Harrison: Can you tell me a little about the history of K-10+?
Ryan Holder Singer: I had originally come up with the initial concept for K-10+ back in early 2000. I spent the next several years simply hashing everything out and working through every fine detail over and over. Years had passed and in 2010, I had found myself traveling through Mongolia with an old college buddy. Over the course of that trip I had shared with him my vision to create a revolutionary new line of pet health and wellness products. From that moment forward, he was on board and became our first investor.
Once back in New York City, I immediately began to put our plan in motion, building an A-plus team of advisors and investors while searching out only the best manufacturers and ingredients here in the USA. Because of our unique ability as a young company, we have been able to move quickly through product development, branding, manufacturing and marketing to bring these fresh new ideas to market.
Rebekah: What makes K-10+ such a unique company?
Ryan: Everything about K-10+ is designed to look and feel different and to appeal to today’s modern consumer. K-10+ is a first-of-its-kind line of products that are revolutionizing the pet health and wellness market. Our goal is to break down the barriers to entry into the pet health and wellness categories. We’re all from industries outside of the pet world, and I believe it’s this new perspective and approach that has set us apart. Higher efficacy, premium ingredients equals better results. We’ve moved quickly, expanding the business with plans to disrupt additional product categories in the pet care market and go head to head with established category powerhouses.
Rebekah: I’ve heard mumblings about a feline line extension. Can you tell me a little about that?
Ryan: We have a new line of advanced feline health and wellness products in the works called Lynx+ that continues the K-10+ tradition of innovation and ease of use. Have you ever tried to give a cat a pill? Good luck!
Rebekah: Any other new products in the works at K-10+?
Ryan: To follow up our line of water soluble vitamins and recent Advanced Chews that just hit stores this spring, we are launching two new products this fall, including a line of Advanced Protein Bars featuring calming, probiotic and multivitamin formulas, and also dental sticks that both feature our patented dissolving mini strips, delivering key active ingredients that start to absorb right in your dog’s mouth while they chew.
Rebekah: Any plans for expansion in the near future?
Ryan: Absolutely. Part of our core philosophy is to always innovate and find ways to improve the lives of our pets. Since our inception just 18 months ago, we have secured several major strategic partnerships with leaders in the industry to help us expand our product portfolio and distribution goals. We will have some big news for you in the near future so stay tuned!
Petco Files for IPO
Petco plans to go public again almost nine years after two private equity firms bought the pet store operator.
The filing comes shortly after Petco competitor PetSmart was taken private.
For the purpose of calculating a filing fee, Petco said Monday it expects to raise $100 million through an initial public offering. That amount can change.
Petco has around 1,400 stores around the U.S. and 13 in Mexico that are run through a joint venture. Petco says it earned net income of $75 million in its latest fiscal year. Its profits have fallen over the last two years, but have improved over the first half of the current fiscal year. The company’s annual revenue grew to $4 billion.
Petco, now known as Petco Holdings Inc., was acquired by private equity firms TPG Global and Leonard Green & Partners in October 2006. They paid $29 per share, or around $1.68 billion, at a time when high gas prices were hurting shares of Petco and other pet retailer stocks. The company’s stock had lost half its value over the 18 months before the deal was announced.
Those companies and other investors will maintain majority voting power in Petco after its IPO.
Food for Thought
The quality of pet care is improving rapidly. With new technology and ingredients sprouting every day, pets are now living longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
As a result, pets can develop cognitive issues such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). The Journal of Veterinary Behavior conducted a study that estimated over 14 percent of senior pets have CDS but less than 2 percent of their owners are addressing the problem.
Effects of Aging
Behaviors can change drastically from one year to the next in a dog affected by CDS.
According Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, in his paper “Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs,” published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, symptoms of CDS can include increase in anxiety, decrease in hygiene/self-grooming, altered appetite, decreased responsiveness to stimuli and deficits in learning and memory.
A lot of consumers don’t know that their dog may be suffering from CDS.
“Hundreds of times over my 35-year career as a veterinarian, I’ve had pet owners attribute a decrease in appetite, thirst or activity, changes in personality or bathroom habits, hair loss, weight shifting up or down, or even obvious pain to ‘just old age’,” said Dr. Marty Becker, veterinarian. “Warning to all dog owners: if you see any changes in a senior pet, never assume it’s not a medical problem. The culprit may be metabolic problems like diabetes, hyper- or hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s or Addison’s disease, as well as canine brain aging, arthritis, dental disease and other conditions mistaken for ‘just old age’ that, once diagnosed and treated, can return a dog to normal life.”
Brain changes can occur sooner than most pet owners expect.
“Beginning around the age of seven, the glucose metabolism in the dog’s brain begins to change, which can affect memory, learning, awareness or decision making,” said Dr. Becker. “Pet owners report their grey beards being not as playful, not as excited to see them when they come home, less active, with confusion (like walking into a room and seemingly not knowing why they’re in there) and house-soiling that they haven’t seen since the dog’s puppy days.”
It isn’t just cognitive function that dissipates.
“As pets age, their eyesight, hearing and sense of taste declines, they commonly have joint issues are less sure on their feet, and have less fat for padding and can easily get chilled,” said Dr. Becker.
There are easy tricks that pet owners can do to keep their senior pet’s body healthy.
”You can make them feel safe, secure and comfortable by putting carpet runners around the house for them to walk on, having stairs or ramps to access furniture, beds or vehicles, and have padded orthopedic beds with a heat source,” said Dr. Becker. “Also, it’s a good idea to add a second source of water so that pets don’t have to go far to hydrate.”
Supporting Senior Brains
But how can pet owners ease the behavioral symptoms associated with loss of cognitive function?
“Purina Pro Plan discovered a way to help promote mental sharpness for dogs in this age group through nutrition and recently introduced Bright Mind Adult 7+ formula, a breakthrough formula containing enhanced botanical oils shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs seven and older, with visible results within 30 day,” said Dr. Becker.
Ark Naturals has an entire line of senior pet products for dogs and cats that includes Brain’s Best Friend, a chew that addresses cognitive issues associated with aging.
Herbsmith, Inc. also has a product called Senior Dog Wisdom that is specifically targeted to support healthy brain function in older dogs.
Nutro has a specific food, Original Senior Dog Food, which not only helps brain function but also targets senior joint issues and sensitive senior stomachs.
How They Work
How do all these products work to help pets and pet owners?
“The normal energy source for most cells, including the brain, is blood glucose or blood sugar,” said Dr. Becker. “As they age, dogs’ ability to process energy in the form of glucose for brain function can become less efficient. The enhanced botanical oils in Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ contain medium-chain triglycerides, which provide an easily absorbed, additional energy source for brain cells.”
Neutricks was recently recognized in the May-June 2015 Journal of Veterinary Behavior for the success of its key ingredient, apoaequorin in addressing CDS. Two separate studies by Milgram et. al. found that dosages of apoaequorin administered to elderly dogs with memory problems led to an increase in both their ability to distinguish different stimuli and visual learning. Higher dosages also correlated with better performance on memory-related tasks.
“By enhancing the brain health of aging dogs, we are providing pet owners with the peace of mind that they are extending the quality of life for their aging dogs,” says David Merrick, dog owner and president of Neutricks, LLC. “Watching your dog slowly lose their personality and cognitive function is heartbreaking for any dog owner.”
Ark Naturals uses a proprietary blend of fish oil and vitamins to encourage healthy brain function. These made in the U.S.A treats provide cognitive support for disorientation, recognition and memory.
Nutro includes omega-3 fatty acids ALA and DHA to help maintain brain activity while also including ingredients such as oatmeal and antioxidants to help sensitive stomachs and immune systems.
All of these products provide vital nutrients to pets to help keep the brain active and healthy.
“I explain it to clients in the exam room in this way: Your senior dog may seem to be eating normally and in general good condition but it is almost like there is a fuel filter that’s plugged in their neck and doesn’t allow vital nutrients and energy sources to reach the brain,” said Dr. Becker. “Thus, the brain, which is only about 8 percent of the dog’s body weight but consumes over 25 percent of the body’s oxygen, sputters along. By feeding Bright Mind, it’s like you’ve upped the fuel lines to the brain and the dog can once again put the pedal to the metal when it comes to having energy and awareness.”
Dr. Becker even uses the Bright Mind formula on his dogs.
“I feed Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ formulas to my dogs at home and the results have been astonishing,” he said.
Crazy About Aquatics
Aquatics are becoming more and more prominent in the industry. It is a huge seller for millennials and pet retailers should take advantage of the trend.
Pet Age spoke with Michael Edley, principal officer at Pet Asylum, a family store located in Howell, N.J. about the history of the store, aquatic customer feedback and advice he has for stores just starting to dabble in aquatics.
Rebekah Harrison: Can you tell me a little about the history of Pet Asylum?
Michael Edley: Pet Asylum is a family-run, full-line pet store. The original owners had the name Petsmart before the corporation but lost the battle to keep it in court. That is when Pet Asylum, ‘for people crazy about their pets’ was created and trademarked. Then in 1999, the original partners decided the pet industry was not for them and decided to sell.
Michele Edley and I were both very passionate animal lovers and advocates. The opportunity arose to purchase a defunct pet store and leave our jobs to go into business. We would use our passion and drive to create a new cutting edge business model for the store which would build a thriving business. Michele and I put our life savings into this new opportunity and Pet Asylum was reborn.
With the business now underway a life changing event happened. Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer with a poor prognosis. Instead of giving up or giving in, we decided to push forward and find a way to overcome this obstacle. In addition to traditional medicine, we began to investigate alternative healing therapies. This included herbs, vitamins, nutrition, energy and sound healing, just to name a few.
Now, 13 years later Michele has remained in remission. Pet Asylum is a community staple with two locations and a vested proprietary brand of natural and holistic pet food.
Rebekah: Can you tell me about your aquatic section? How is it set up?
Michael: Our aquatics department has fresh, cold water, salt and brackish sections. Several times a month, we handpick our fish from local suppliers to ensure only top quality stock and selection. When the Oceanic custom tank division was around, they were contracted to come into Pet Asylum and custom build our several massive aquarium banks. We have units that have everything from goldfish, koi and community dwellers to very unique, hard to find fish from around the world.
Rebekah: What was the inspiration behind setting up your aquatics section?
Michael: We have always loved aquatics and Michele’s brother, Gary Antonelli being a marine biologist made it an easy decision to specialize in aquatics. We saw a need to provide a place that the customer could get accurate information on setting up and maintaining aquariums that was not being filled.
Rebekah: What is the feedback from customers about the aquatic section?
Michael: Customers love the tranquil ambiance of aquariums. Even those without tanks seem to be drawn into that department just to look. Sometimes that’s the first step to making them appreciate the hobby and decided to start up a tank of their own.
Rebekah: Any advice to retailers just starting to set up an aquatic section in their store?
Michael: My advice to retailers starting up an aquatic department would be to make sure you find a quality supplier and understand your fish customer in the market you’re in. If there are a lot of customers in apartments and condos maybe desktop aquariums or betta set ups will fit their living environment better. If there are many larger homes with space, the sky is the limit.
All in the Family
Pet Age spoke to Chelsea Sher, vice president of marketing and export at Evanger’s, about the company’s history, trend-setting products and exciting calendar photo contest.
Rebekah: Can you tell me a little about the history of Evanger’s?
Chelsea: Believe it or not, Evanger’s is an 80-year-old company. Fred Evanger showed champion great Danes and he was frustrated that all the foods that were commercially available did not have any nutritional benefits for his dogs. At that time, dry foods, which were by-products and fillers, were the only foods on the market. He also lived on a farm and knew the benefits of using raw, real meat for his dogs, because he was sourcing this all on his own farm. This led to him canning his own pet foods. He kept expanding and expanding, and eventually breeders from across the country started hearing about the food that he was making for his champions himself and started to buy it from him.
Fast forward 80 years, my family owns the company and we are still using the same locally sourced, human-grade meats in our foods today. The way my family got into it is because my dad was a meat supplier to the Evanger’s factory for 20 years with his own family business. My family has now owned Evanger’s for about 15 years and we are the only privately-held and family-owned and -operated pet food cannery in the United States. It is because of this that we have stayed exclusive to independent retailers. We all have to stick together to continue to have successful businesses.
Rebekah: I know Evanger’s is a family company. What is it like getting to work with family members every day?
Chelsea: A lot of people think it might be stressful working with your family every
day, but it works perfectly for us. We all have different roles and divisions that we are really good at. We really couldn’t function without each other.
Even though we are in the same four walls day in and day out we actually don’t talk to each other that much unless we hold meetings together because we are all working on our own projects. There are five kids in our family and my mom always jokes that she should’ve had more children to be in the family business.
In the last year, we added a second shift so my twin brother and I changed to the second shift together. We have found that having a day shift and evening shift even in the office increases our productivity and enables us to come up with new innovative ideas. For me, it has rejuvenated my passion for what I do because it gives me extra time to focus on the projects that I want to pursue and I’m excited to bring those ideas to fruition.
Rebekah: Evanger’s uses some interesting ingredients like sweet potato, pheasant and even blueberries. What was the inspiration behind these foods?
Chelsea: Our hand-packed products are really unique. We invented them back in 2002 for our own dog, Yukon. He was a true dog foodie. His problem was that typical dog food was not good enough for him. Since his human parents ran a pet food factory, he basically had a buffet every night of human-grade foods.
However, they were in the loaf style, or raw. Loaf style didn’t appeal to him as much as my dad’s steaks did. My dad became frustrated because Yukon never ate his own dog food but always favored my dad’s steaks. Yukon had no problem going on hunger strikes until he got a steak. So my dad took that idea, put a steak in a can and cooked it at Evanger’s. That night he fed it to our dog, and it was the birth of a revolutionary style of pet food that we call hand-packed. It is exclusive to Evanger’s and something we will never co-pack for anyone.
Actually, we hear so many stories of people who discover our foods when their dogs or cats become ill. We’ve heard time and time again that our foods kept their pets alive.
Rebekah: Food trends are always coming and going. What do you do to stay on top of things in the industry?
Chelsea: To stay on top of the trends we try to set the trend. For example, we have been grain-free since 1935 not because it was trendy, but because it was the right thing to do for the optimal nutrition of pets.
We just invented a revolutionary category of pet food; a semi-moist product. It is another product or category that was born out of frustration. First, our family dog who got so picky even Hunk of Beef wasn’t good enough for him anymore and from pet parents who were feeding what was convenient for them, but not nutritionally beneficial to their pets. So we invented a product we call High-Bio (short for High Biological) which is made to have the convenience of a dry food but the nutritional benefits of a canned or raw diet. The palatability is divine because of the high fresh meat content, which FDA studies prove are more palatable than frozen foods.
Rebekah: Evanger’s is having a calendar pet contest. Can you tell me more about that?
Chelsea: It’s fun! We had the idea about 10 years ago to do a calendar contest. At that time, very few companies had any calendar at all. Originally, it was just to spread the word about Evanger’s and maybe to give me a summer job in high school, but the contest has evolved into this tremendous competition.
Now, we use the calendar as an all-in-one sales piece that has all of our brochure information, sales specials for the year, shelf talkers, and our Green Initiative and Social Responsibility efforts. It’s sort of like a Bible to the Evanger’s line. And the pictures are amazing!
ORGANIX Receives Non-GMO Certification
ORGANIX has earned Non-GMO Project Verified status for its canned pet food recipes made with organic chicken. ORGANIX received this status for undergoing a stringent verification process that recognizes best practices for GMO avoidance in recipe ingredients.
“Just as people want to know what’s in their own food, we believe pet parents should care about what’s in their pet’s food as well,” said Mark Sapir, vice president of marketing for Merrick Pet Care, the maker of the Castor & Pollux ORGANIX brand. “We chose to pursue Non-GMO Project Verified status for our popular ORGANIX chicken canned recipes for cats and dogs so pet parents can easily choose pet foods that avoid GMOs and be further assured that what they’re feeding their pets is safe.”
The Non-GMO Project verification was achieved after in-depth audit of both ORGANIX ingredients and the company’s manufacturing facilities to ensure the company is meeting the highest possible standards for GMO avoidance. As part of the verification, 10 ORGANIX canned food recipes containing organic chicken will bear the Non-GMO Project Verified seal.
Pet owners can expect to see the new cans bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified logo nationwide everywhere ORGANIX recipes are sold.
In addition to receiving this verification, ORGANIX canned recipes are also USDA-certified organic and made with 95 percent organic ingredients. Recipes include organic ingredients such as organic chicken, organic fruits and organic vegetables, with no added growth hormones, antibiotics or synthetic fertilizers. All ORGANIX recipes are made in the USA in an organically certified facility, and contain no ingredients from China.
Financial Survey Shows Industry Growth
International Boarding and Pet Services Association, in conjunction with business consultant Crystal Canine, recently commissioned Researchscape to conduct an online financial survey of pet care service business owners.
Highlights of the survey of 193 pet care service businesses, conducted from April 26 to May 27, 2015 and comprised primarily of American businesses showed businesses can generate $1 million a year in sales. On the other end of the spectrum, 14 percent reported that their business brought in less than $150,000 last year. The median annual revenue was $300,001-$500,000.
In 2014, 63 percent of multiple-location businesses made more than $1 million. Those keeping with the seven-figure revenue include the businesses that have been open for 11-20 years, a total of 38 percent.
The average owner compensation was $101,353 with a median of $72,000. The maximum compensation reported was $450,000.
“This industry is booming and that’s very exciting,” said Carmen Rustenbeck, CEO of IBPSA. “But pet care is a serious business and jumping into it simply because you love pets is not enough, which is why IBPSA is committed to helping pet care service businesses actually succeed as businesses.”
As part of its commitment to the business of pet care, IBPSA holds its annual Pet Care Services Conference and Tradeshow, October 19-22, 2015, in Grapevine, Texas. Speakers and sessions are dedicated to helping pet care services grow their business, plan for the future and maintain balance. The association has also put together a suite of separate workshops including Pricing For Profit, Pet CPR and First Aid and, for those brand new to the business or thinking about getting in, Pet Care Business Basics. For more information on the complete 87-page survey report and upcoming conference, visit www.ibpsa.com.
Pet Age Honors Distributor of the Year
Pet Age held its second annual Distributor of the Year awards Monday, July 20 at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Las Vegas.
This year’s honoree, Animal Supply Company was in attendance as well as several company sponsors.
The evening opened with cocktails and then a quick speech from Craig Rexford, publisher of Pet Age. There were speeches from sponsors Canidae, Central Garden & Pet, Healthy Pet, John Paul Pet, Loving Pets, Natural Balance Pet Foods, Purina, Paragon Pet Products, Spectrum Brands, Tomlyn, The Clorox Company and Wellpet.
George Ristevski, CEO of Animal Supply Company then said a few words as he received his award.
A special Distributor of the Year insert will be included in the August issue of Pet Age.
WPA Honors Internationally Renowned Animal Behaviorist
A three-minute video recognizing Dr. Mugford’s dedication to improving the lives of animals and his contribution to the pet industry will preface Dr. Mugford receiving the Matsui Award on stage. The band Heart, including Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Ann and Nancy Wilson, will perform to a sold out audience following the presentation.
As Britain’s led animal psychologist and a pioneer in behavioral therapy, Dr. Mugford’s career has led him to train the Queen’s corgis and speak on behalf of animal welfare in courts across the world.
“Everything Roger does puts the welfare of the animal first. His life is dedicated to making pets’ lives better through positive reinforcement and strengthening the human-animal bond,” said Michael Lasky, former WPA chairman and current board member. “This is directly reflected in his training and his products.”
Dr. Mugford is a prolific author, educator and animal welfare advocate. In 1979, he founded The Animal Behaviour Centre in Surrey, U.K., a referral service for veterinary surgeons and their clients with problem pets. That same year, he founded The Company of Animals brand where he invented and developed a range of products that have revolutionized the way people train their pets. The HALTI head collar and Pet Corrector auditory training tool are among his exemplary products.
Dr. Mugford is also a Dogs For The Disabled patron, Cancer & Bio-detection Dogs trustee and 2005’s Blue Cross Welfare Award recipient. Proud to maintain a link with his Devonshire farming heritage, he resides at Ruxbury Farm where he personally cares for a herd of 70 purebred South Devon cattle, 100 sheep, horses, llamas and more.
“Roger continues to make significant contributions to the betterment of pets all over the world and we cannot think of a more deserving individual to receive the WPA Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Lasky. “His interests in the pet industry are for the pets themselves. He’s a trainer and behaviorist first, and a product developer out of necessity; as such, his products are regarded as the most humane and effective available.”
The ceremony will take place at SuperZoo, July 22 at 6:15 p.m at the Mandalay Bay House of Blues.
U.S.A to the Rescue
We spoke with Lance Reyniers, president of Python Products about its made in the U.S.A products for fish, its registered superhero mascot and upcoming new products.
Rebekah: Can you tell me a little about the history of Python Products?
Lance: The company started in 1984. I was a hobbyist and I was tired of carrying buckets and I made a unit for myself and my friends saw it and said “make me one” and it just went from there. We then did three states of test marketing with it and had a 98 percent acceptance; everybody wanted one. So I mortgaged my house and went to work producing them.
Rebekah: All Python’s products are made in the U.S.A. Can you tell me about that?
Lance: Every single piece comes from the U.S. It goes along with one of our taglines. It goes on our emails, it goes on everything. Quality is proof. There is no question about the quality in America. We have quality control and overseas, there is no quality control.
We’re an American company in support of America. America is very important to us. Our products are made to last. America is the way to do it. We are creating jobs here when we source in the U.S.
Rebekah: Python has all FDA-approved materials. What does that mean?
Lance: They are all medical grade. They are made that way for the safety of the fish. All of our plastics are BPA, arsenic and lead-free. All of those things can leach out into the aquariums in small quantities. But they are accumulative so they build up. Then people have problems and they don’t know why.
Are products does not do any of that. We are going on 31 years now and our quality stands. When you ask for water changers, Python is the name. Python is like the Kleenex for tissues.
Rebekah: What is a typical day like for you?
Lance: I’m working on new products for the future, doing sales, answering questions, doing customer service. We are the only company that offers a one year warranty. If somebody does have a problem, then we take care of it, no questions asked. Our returned defective products are one half of one percent worldwide. That’s attributed to the quality of the products.
Rebekah: Can you tell me about Python’s awesome mascot?
Lance: Python Man! Python Man is registered. We actually own a superhero. We use him at different times as our spokesperson. A couple years ago, he traveled all over the United States. He took pictures with all kinds of dignitaries of the pet industry. He was even in Las Vegas. He got his picture taken with the guys from Tanked. He was out in Washington D.C. He had his picture taken in front of the White House and in front of the statues.
Rebekah: Any new products premiering at SuperZoo?
Lance: We will be introducing the new Python Hook. Are you tired of holding your Python while filling your tank? The new Python Hook will attach to the end of the python and instead of sitting there and having to hold your Python, you can just hook on the Python Hook to the tank.
People have been asking me for 30 years for something like this and I always said “nah, nah, nah” but I guess people have beat me up enough because one thing we do is we listen to the customers. Python does more consumer trade shows and hobbyist trade shows than anyone else.
We spoke with Joey Herrick, founder and president of The Lucy Pet Foundation, about its mobile spay and neuter clinics, the foundation’s goals and its plans for SuperZoo.
Rebekah: Can you tell me a little about The Lucy Pet Foundation?
Joey: I started The Lucy Pet Foundation with two main goals, to reduce pet overpopulation and support causes that benefit animal welfare. Once you go into shelters and learn that more than 80,000 dogs and cats a week are being euthanized just because there’s too many of them, it affects you. There are too many animals coming in the front door and not enough getting adopted. That’s why I decided to have either no-cost or low-cost mobile spay and neuter clinics.
I also want to stop the 22 states that still euthanize animals by the gas chamber.
Rebekah: What is your goal for The Lucy Pet Foundation?
Joey: My goal today is the same as it has been for the last 30 years: to enrich animals’ lives. In the past, I did that by pioneering great pet food formulas and making sure that high-quality ingredients went into those formulas. I donated tons and tons of food to animal rescue groups. They are the real heroes! They are the ones who go into shelters to take dogs and cats off of death row and get them adopted. Now, it’s using all of my experience in the pet industry to get pet overpopulation under control and to eliminate the barbaric practice of shelters using gas chambers as a form of euthanasia.
Rebekah: What is the process that The Lucy Pet Foundation takes in its approach to help animals in need?
Joey: We work closely with city and county shelters, animal rescue groups and feral cat trappers to identify where the biggest problems of pet overpopulation are. We then get the word out in that area by radio, television, posting flyers and knocking on doors.
Rebekah: Anything special going on at The Lucy Pet Foundation booth at SuperZoo this year?
Joey: Surfin’ Jack, our dog rescued from the shelter and star of our football commercial seen by millions, will be there with her trainer, Mathilde DeCagney. Mathilde is the trainer for such famous dogs as Eddie from “Frazier,” Baxter from “Anchorman” and her new movie dog just coming out,“Max.”