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Eric Abbey Has the Pet Industry in His Blood

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WEB EXTRA: We recently sat down with Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets Corp., based in Cranbury, N.J., to talk about his long-time involvement in the pet industry, and learn a little bit more about his company. Here is part II of his interview with us. The first part can be found in the January issue of Pet Age.

Q: You are very passionate about producing quality products that are also affordable to the consumer. How do you continue to create that balance and commitment, especially in tough economic times?

Abbey: What’s kept Loving Pets growing in this economy is affordability, innovation and never compromising our commitment to healthy, all-natural and affordable solutions. With rising prices, the economy has made it more difficult to produce healthy all natural treats, but since this is not something we will compromise on, we researched and explored solutions like adding healthy natural ingredients like sweet potatoes and carrots to our mix (never fillers or preservatives).

For our treats that do include grains, we choose health-promoting and antioxidant-rich brown rice, instead of wheat.  The key in our discovery is that our products are not more expensive than products packed with preservatives and fillers.  For our designer and affordable accessories like best-selling Bella Bowls, we can offer consumers stylish, exciting and very affordable stainless bowl options.  Each day, our team continues to challenge ourselves to focus on this balance of creating products that are innovative, wonderful solutions and price competitively — building quality, high end healthy products that people can afford.

Q: Gourmet Meat Wraps, Barksters Krisps, Grill-icious dog treats made from “flame-kissed” meats and Vegitopia are just some of the treats from Loving Pets. Where do you get the inspiration for each new line of treats?

Abbey: Inspiration comes from the consumer and listening to the needs and questions we get at the store level every single day.  We want to know what consumers are asking for.  In the end, it’s not always about what I want to make or what I think is best, it’s understanding what pets and pet-parents want and need, and ultimately that is where we come in is finding new opportunities that improve the lives of pets and people.

Q: Loving Pets is not just about treats, your company also has an extensive pet accessories collection, including Bella Bowls, Black Label Collection and the new slow-feeding accessory Gobble Stopper. Tell me about this product area.

Abbey: Our bowls actually were started at the same time we started making treats in 2005, and were definitely an important foundational category for us.  We wanted to offer a stainless steel option with attractive designs and the affordability people want and need.

From day one, we had great opportunities for production and what was currently on the market at that time was either mass-produced, low quality, and boring bowls or super high-end decorative feeders and bowls exclusive to boutiques.  We knew we wanted to create exciting, decorative, functional, and affordable solutions and we were excited for the opportunity that set us apart.

Our new slow-feeding accessory, the Gobble Stopper, was born out of this same commitment – functional, flexible (fits inside any existing bowl) plus a cute, yet effective, design.  This combination is ultimately in line with our same mission and helps make pets’ lives better with improved digestion.

We created a solution that helps retailers by having an add-on option that fits into any existing pet bowl, where customers can still pick the design style and price point that they want.  Peg or clip strip makes it very space efficient and price competitive for our retail partners too.

Q: Last year PNC Bank featured you as one of their entrepreneurial success stories to grow your business by manufacturing in New Jersey. Why was building and expansion into USA manufacturing so important to you?

Abbey: On a professional level, USA manufacturing was important based on what our consumers were asking for and what they want.  On a personal level, there’s a part of me that learned a lot watching my grandfather’s business and my father’s business.  Long term, for the USA to sustain our economy, there has to be people making things here and selling them to other countries.  We can’t just be importers forever.

We want to build things here and make things here.  I knew we could do our small part and help be part of a longer-term solution in this country by supporting USA farm grown ingredients, creating and build jobs in this country by creating manufacturing on-site in New Jersey, and making great products to sell to the world. I want us to help get this back.

Q: What’s next for Loving Pets?

Abbey: Our goal is to continue to listen to the needs of our human and pet consumers and retail partners, and create high quality, healthy, all natural, and affordable products, in line with our mission.  Tactically, we’re excited to launch several new lines at Global Pet Expo in February, expanding our USA-made treats and innovative accessories for dogs and cats.

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