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Keeping Ahead of the Curve

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We recently spoke with Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing at Cardinal Labs, about the company’s commitment to the environment and the pet industry.

Q: Tell us a little about Cardinal Labs, and the products your company offers.
Denzer: Cardinal is a rather unique company.
On one hand it’s a privately owned company that’s been in business over 65 years that has the ability to be innovative and support their customers quickly.  On the other hand, Cardinal is a sophisticated 21st century company with global reach.
Owner Tony de Vos is in charge of international sales in over 47 countries around the world and oversees the solar powered manufacturing plant and R&D lab.
Cardinal is a leader in the pet industry in converting to solar power and sustainability and is also one of the founding members of the Pet Industry Sustainability Project.  The company has been a pioneer in the use of botanicals in pet products since 1998 and is a leader in making grain free dog food and dog treats.
Cardinal has always been committed to the evolving marketplace.  The company started out making shampoos and over the counter remedies for pets exclusively.
Today, dog food and treats are a much larger part of the business.  They have continually responded as research identified new opportunities to meet the market needs based on the humanization of pets.
Cardinal has been able to grow as an independent pet company because they’ve also been able to create products that filled unique niches and responds quickly. Their products bring something innovative to the table, whether it’s a unique fragrance, a new packaging opportunity, a treat that offers a unique configuration, or a nutrition trend like hypoglycemic ingredients brought on by the growth of canine diabetes.

Q: Cardinal focuses on the relationship between pets and people. Why is that important for the company?
Denzer:  “Devoted to Pets, People and the Planet” is not just a mission, it’s reality. Everyone at Cardinal has pets and loves pets.
Two weeks ago was National Customer Service week. We spent 10-15 minutes every day, as a group, talking about how the whole company can support our customer service department.

Our customers call us and the most important thing on their mind is their dog.  CS is the “front line,” the people that convey our company concern about their pet, and everyone here supports that mission and those people.
Tony, who travels so often, has a “share dog.” When he’s gone their neighbor takes care of the dog, when he’s home the dog is there, and vice versa. Pets provide us with not only an emotional connection but a lot of fun and joy. The bond is very important to those of us who love pets, which is why we want to make the best products for them.
From a business standpoint, we’ve very lucky to be in a business that just keeps growing and growing, and we appreciate that. We’re thankful that we have jobs that support our connection to pets and a company that is successful enough that we didn’t have to downsize during the last 5 years, in fact we grew during bad economic times.
We understand that our customers want the best for their pets.
We believe that a good pet product should be a quality item, that improves their pet’s life, their life and also provides convenience for the family. One area we concentrate on is dog training rewards. We’ve been working on improving rewards for dog training for years, because we know that if a dog is trained to have good manners, it will always be a valued member of the family. It won’t be disposable, it won’t be going back to a shelter.
We try to promote dog training as much as we promote the rewards for people to give their dogs. If families have fun with and enjoy their pets, there won’t be as many shelter dogs.

Q: As a founding member of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition, tell us about your commitment to being eco-friendly.
Denzer: Our mission is to be “devoted to pets, people and the planet.” We strive to live up to this mission in everything we do, from the care we provide for pets, to kinds of products we make, the people we serve, the donations we make, the packages we use, the plant we make them in, the carbon footprint we save and the recycling we do.
In 2009, Tony made a commitment to completely upgrade our office, factory and warehouse infrastructures to high efficiency, solar powered facilities. It required taking the buildings apart from electrical systems to air and water systems, machinery, paint, floors, parking lot lights, you name it.  He constructed new buildings as well.  We found that “going green” made “cents as well as sense.”
That’s what the PISC is all about, showing businesses that green resources are now at the point where they have become a wise business decision.  Since we have a sustainable foundation in our buildings, we try to be sustainable in everything we do.
Becoming part of the PISC was a great way for us to learn what other companies are doing that we can do too. We can also help contribute to getting the word out to other companies in the industry about the importance of making our industry more eco-friendly.

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