From Farm to Friend
We recently talked with John Gigliotti, founder and CEO of Whole Life Pet Products, about why he decided to create a line of freeze tried treats and how he sources his products.
Q: Tell us about Whole Life.
Gigliotti: We manufacture the highest quality, safest, best tasting treats on Earth. Our company is built around three basic understandings. First, we understand how much people love their pets. Second, we understand the trust consumers must have in us and take that responsibility very seriously. Last, we understand a pet’s biological needs or their natural instinct for pure protein based nutrition that is void of filler and anything artificial.
Q: How did you get the concept for these treats?
Gigliotti: When I decided to start my own brand, I was immediately drawn to the idea of a treat company.
At that time, grain free and single ingredient treats were just becoming popular. I did a lot of research on food processing and preservation. I looked at things like baking and dehydrating and then became fascinated with freeze drying. It’s the only process that allows you to take an ingredient and preserve it in its natural state without the use of chemicals, additives or preservatives.
The only freeze dried treat at that time were liver treats which were wildly popular with trainers. I wanted something that would appeal more to family pet owners. I began testing the concept with different cuts of meats like chicken and turkey breast, beef filet, lamb, fish, etc. and was amazed with the results.
That was our beginning. We invented the freeze dried chicken breast strip. I’m very proud of that. It’s still our most popular item. We inspired a lot of copycats, but there is nothing like ours.
Q: Your tag line is “Farm to Friend…For the Life of Your Pet.” How did you come up with that?
Gigliotti: I started in the retail business and quickly discovered there were a lot of products out there but very few that pet owners could really trust. Words like “all natural,” “super premium” and “ultra premium” have no legally enforceable definitions in the pet treat category. I saw companies marketing attributes and ingredients, trying to convince consumers that their product was better because it had cranberries or blueberries or some other magical ingredient.
Whole Life is about understanding the emotional bond people have with their pets and our marketing is designed to connect with people on an emotional level. The idea of Farm to Friend came from us being transparent in our sourcing and that we can draw a line directly from the farm or fisherman we buy our ingredients from right to the pet.
Q: What makes your freeze-dried treat different from others out there?
Gigliotti: The quality and cut of our meats and fish. Its visual-you can see the difference. We don’t use scrap and trim which is the standard in our industry. We buy like a high end restaurant would. It’s more expensive and we feel it’s worth it. Our customers seem to agree.
Consistency. We buy from the same farms and fisherman every time we purchase raw materials. We don’t use brokers and shop around for the lowest price on meat. We find a farm with exceptional quality and safety standards and we build a long term partnership with them.
In house production. We are experts at our craft. Freeze drying is a finicky process and takes time, experience and a lot of patience to become good at it.
Safety. We are insane about the safety of our products. Our safety protocol is unmatched and we are always poking holes in it to make it better. Every ingredient we buy is tested before it reaches our facility and every batch, every day is tested when it comes out of our freeze dryers. Nothing reaches our packaging department until test results are back and are negative. You could eat off the floors in our facility and I owe that to our incredible staff who takes quality and cleanliness very seriously.
Q: For a small business, you have sure made a big splash in the industry. What’s the secret to your success?
Gigliotti: In my opinion, people make or break any business and I am very fortunate to have an incredible team of people to work with on a daily basis. When you are growing rapidly and things are changing almost daily, you need talented people who embrace change, who adapt quickly and who can execute under pressure. That’s our team.\
Q: What’s next for Whole Life?
Gigliotti: As my production manager Dave would say….Total World Domination. On a serious note, we plan to stick with freeze drying for a while. We are just hitting our stride in this category and there is so much more we want to do.