Photos from Phillips National Sales Meeting

Phillips Feed & Pet Supply held their National Sales Meeting in January at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Account executives were able to learn more about, and meet one-on-one, with many of the distributor’s companies to hear about new products and offerings to better help retailers.

Matt McCorstin and Greg Mandel, of Blue Buffalo.

Marisa Baker, Jessica Lewinter, Ian Weiss, Lyndi Toxavidis and Erin Hannon, of Dogswell.

Scott Kohler and Loretta Noonan, of Red Sea.

Donacan Meyer and Scott Gorisack, of Precise.

Keeping the Fish Hobby Alive

We recently sat down with Aaron Kline, sales manager for Acurel, to talk about how the company got its start and how they develop cutting-edge aquatic products.

Q: For those not familiar with the company, tell us a little about how Acurel got its start.

Kline: Acurel was established in 1967, with a vision of keeping freshwater and saltwater aquariums clean and healthy environments for aquarists worldwide. Loving Pets had been the exclusive U.S. distributor of Acurel products, and then purchased the company in 2007.

Lou Dalwin, the grandfather of Eric Abbey, president and owner of Loving Pets and Acurel, was a founding member of APPMA, now APPA. Lou worked for Aquarium Stock Company, an aquatic company founded in [the] early 1900s, and he took over that business around 1930 and owned it through the 1980s.

Eric’s family history has such strong ties in the pet industry, so when an opportunity came along to not only distribute Acurel’s incredible product-solutions but also purchase and grow the business and product assortment, Eric jumped at the opportunity and Loving Pets purchased Acurel in 2007.

Q: You’ve been in the aquatics business for a while. How have you seen it change over the years?

Kline: The biggest competitive challenges in the aquatics segment of the pet industry center around the myriad of ways we define entertainment these days. With smartphones, video games, TV, etc., people get rewards instantaneously from stimulation and entertainment that they don’t have to work to achieve.

Retailers and manufacturers like Acurel are realizing, and acting on, the need to evolve. As a leader in innovation and proprietary delivery systems for vitamins and mineral absorption as well as water clarification, Acurel is working hard to be an educational resource for retailers so that they can offer easy-to-use, fast acting and highly effective solutions to their customers, from a starter kit, to an assortment of technology-based treatment solutions, all at affordable price points.

Q: We know you are always developing exciting products for aquariums and ponds. Can you tell us a little about your new products?

Kline: Acurel is creating new, innovative products both for the starting hobbyist to the experienced aquarist.

Acurel’s 100 percent made in the USA’s new aquatic livestock medication and treatment products include: Acurel Knockout IP (ich and protozoa treatment) and Acurel Knockout BF (bacteria and fungal treatment). Knockout IP and BF are all-natural oils combined with Acurel’s proprietary Absorptol technology to rid a fish of bacteria, fungus, ich and protozoa. Absorptol binds with these oils and delivers treatment directly to your fish for faster and more successful healing.

Acurel also offers general health liquids like Bodyguard RX and Healthguard. Bodyguard RX is a weekly vitamin booster and appetite stimulant, which will keep your fishes’ immune system up and help give them a steady appetite. Bodyguard RX also contains aloe vera for a healthy slime coat.

Healthguard is a weekly electrolyte treatment. Think of it like Gatorade for fish. It keeps their alkalinity levels up, which keeps stress levels down and promotes healthy immune systems. Healthguard also contains aloe vera, which boosts your fishes’ slime coat. Both Healthguard and Bodyguard RX contain Absorptol, which is an Acurel exclusive technology. It acts as a delivery system for vitamins and nutrients, so it takes all the vitamins and nutrients in Bodyguard RX and Healthguard directly to the fish.

Acurel Healthguard and Bodyguard Rx are for both fresh and saltwater fish. Acurel Knockout IP is for both fresh and saltwater fish, but not for use in a reef aquarium. Acurel Knockout BF is for fresh and saltwater fish, and safe for reef aquariums.

Acurel’s new solutions deliver a one-two punch to harmful ICH, parasites, bacterial and fungal organisms.

There is an entire ecosystem of bacteria in a fish tank. Sometimes when new hobbyists are setting up their first tank, they just want to get fish in it. They should realize that it is very dangerous to their fish if they do not build up this ecosystem of friendly bacteria in the tank first. This friendly bacteria gets rid of the very harmful ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites in the tank.

At Global Pet Expo 2014, Acurel will launch an Acurel Starter Kit that will be a great item for retailers to offer beginning hobbyists, offering an easy-to-use assortment of five must-have Acurel products to help you learn how to care for your tank but also to keep the fish environment clean and healthy.


Hear Us Roar

If you were planning to do something and suddenly learned that a substantial number of people were opposed to it, would you ignore them and go ahead?

It’s possible, depending on who they are and what it is you’re considering. 

But what if those people had the power to fire you?  Would that make you more likely to sit down with them, hear their concerns and try to find a solution?

That’s the situation elected officials face every time they consider a vote.  It’s one of the secrets behind the legislative successes of large-member organizations like the AARP and the National Rifle Association.  And it’s the reason PIJAC has been working diligently to build the pet industry’s grassroots activism capabilities.

The more we can do to effectively educate, motivate and engage local pet industry advocates each time relevant legislation comes to our attention, the more legislators will seek out our input before they introduce a bill or propose an ordinance.

To accomplish this, PIJAC has recently upgraded our online advocacy toolkit.  Using CQ Roll Call’s Engage platform, we now have the ability to more fully integrate email and social media into our efforts to make our voices heard by lawmakers. When we learn about an issue that will affect you, we can quickly and easily let you know, help you to submit a comment to your elected officials, and share it with your contact network to spread the word.

In the earliest days of advocacy, supporters were urged to write letters to their legislators. These handwritten missives gave way to the form letter and the preprinted postcard, both of which sought to make up for their impersonal tone with sheer volume of responses.  Old hands on Capitol Hill still tell stories of weighing piles of mail, for and against an issue, to gauge constituent sentiment.

When you respond to a PetAlert sent out by PIJAC, you get the best of both worlds.  Our system helps you identify your elected officials and pre-addresses your comment.  We then provide you with space to write your message. Not sure what to say or how to say it? Just click on any or all of the prepared points to add them directly into your comment.  When you’ve finished, one click and it’s sent.

Of course, we’re not the only ones who have this kind of technology. And even the best advocacy tools in the world can’t make up for a lack of participation.  That’s why PIJAC has coupled our technical upgrades with a push to grow our nationwide network of pet industry supporters.

With literally thousands of companies large and small across all 50 states and in almost every county nationwide, our potential pool of grassroots activists is huge.  We continue to work to identify and engage industry contacts so that we can make sure you and your staff are able to weigh in when legislation affects you at all levels of government.

Our strength doesn’t end with our employees and allies, either.  According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of American households own a pet. That translates to a staggering 82.5 million households, many of which include more than one registered voter, and all of which are served by the pet industry.

Legislation that hurts us indirectly hurts them, as well.

When you receive a PetAlert, the first thing you should do is take action yourself.  Then, consider sharing it with your customers and supporters through your website, social media and any contact lists you maintain. Our system can even help you do it.

Pet ownership cuts across generations, income brackets and party lines. The more of your customers whom you can get to weigh in on your behalf, the harder it is for a legislator to dismiss their comments.  As an added bonus, you’ll be able to identify who among your network you can turn to in the future for outreach efforts.

By continuing to work together as an industry, we can make an impact on elected officials at all levels of government.  And the more local voices we can bring to bear on a given subject, the greater the impact.

For more information on PIJAC’s PetAlert program, or to make sure you’re signed up to receive PetAlerts, get in touch with PIJAC today at or visit our website at

– Mike Bober

A Look Back At: The Willinger Bros.

I have been extremely fortunate to be able to live my hobby as a career my entire business life. I started out as a pet retailer and through hard work was able to be involved in all aspects of our business.

This experience has allowed me to travel worldwide, and visit and become friends with major pet product producers all around the world.

Today, as I work trade shows worldwide selling K-Line Pet Products, I deal with great young entrepreneurs who have almost no knowledge of who or what innovations paved the way for the success they enjoy today. As there are no books and nowhere to go today to learn about our rich past or the individuals who built the pet business from the ground up, I thought I’d start the process with a story about The Willinger Bros.

The Willinger Bros., Harding and Allan, were extraordinary in their vision of the future. They started a small firm called Wil-nes with their cousin, Harold Nestler, that launched most of the innovations we now take for granted in the aquarium field. Allan developed some of the first pumps, heaters and filters for aquarium use.

For example, heaters consisted of separate heating elements and themostats—two products and no pilot light.  Allan put them together in one piece and added the pilot light. At first they made these products in the kitchen of their NYC apartment with help from their parents and friends.

They sold the products to aquarium dealers in and around the city—many of whom sold out of their homes, not storefronts. The selection of fish was mainly goldfish and livebearers. This is how it all started.
Wil-nes became the Metaframe Corporation, which launched the following patented exciting new innovations: The Hush 1, 11 and 111 Air Pumps, The Adjustable Aquarium Heaters, the Dynaflo Power filter which led to all the hang on power filters we know today, the Aqua Vac, the first mass-produced stainless steel aquariums in multiple sizes, the first lighted Aquarium Hoods, the first realistic, plastic aquarium plants, the first mass produced corner and plastic injection molded undergravel filters.

And Metaframe was responsible for packaging products that had never been packaged before: Packaged filter media, packaged aquarium gravel, and a host of other conveniently packaged accessories like air tubing, algae scrapers, plant sticks, granular fish foods, and, last but not least, The Habitrail.

Allan Willinger was the fish keeper, engineer, inventor, designer and a strategic thinker who was almost always in the background. He also was the father of Jon Willinger of JW Products fame.

Harding Willinger was the expert marketer who, with Allan’s help, made sure all packaging met their precise expectations. Harding was also a brilliant businessman who saw the potential in the pet business and built the first national distribution system to get their products to the masses. Harding’s vision required more capital, so they sold a good portion of the Metaframe Corporation, to the Mattel Corporation and that’s when we saw monumental growth. His vision brought the first national advertising on TV and in national magazines such as Look and Life of Aquarium Kits and The Habitrail. Allan and Harding dreamt up a national campaign in search of a “Teddy Bear Hamster,” and help make gerbils big business.

At the time there were only a few small distributors in the U.S., and there was one in Chicago with a talented sales team. Harding recruited Pete Peterson to move to Florida, Walt Ebers to move to Los Angeles, and few others to distribute the Metaframe line to key markets. Many didn’t have enough funding, so Harding helped with liberal terms and big inventories.

Harding helped fish and animal suppliers make livestock available. On a trip to San Francisco, he found a young firm collecting brine shrimp for fish food.  Harding used Metaframe’s muscle to build the San Francisco Bay Brand of live and frozen foods.

After selling out of The Metaframe Corporation (and living up to their non-compete agreement), the Willinger Bros. re-entered the industry with Second Nature Aquarium Products.

The first launch was the Whisper Air Pumps. The Whisper pumps were made in Japan by the same factory that made the original Hush pumps. Allan said he learned a lot through his early years, and with Second Nature he was able to reach perfection. The Whisper pumps had a revolutionary silicone flapper valve and diaphragms in more sizes than imaginable. With the Plantastics aquarium plants Allan spent months making sure that each leaf was etched to ensure that it was a good surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow.  This was in addition to making sure the plants were the most realistic and lifelike possible.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the success of the Whisper Power Filters and the revolutionary Bio Bag that sold by the millions.

After selling Second Nature to Tetra, the Willinger Bros. retired. Sadly, both have passed on, but not without leaving a tremendous legacy. Allan’s son and Harding’s nephew, Jon Willinger, practiced law before joining the family business. He recently sold JW Pet to PetMate. Jon had great teachers, learned well and built his own legacy.

Besides their brilliant vision, marketing and product innovations, the Willinger Bros. paved the way and shared their love of the pet business with all those who worked with them, as well as for many other pet industry counterparts. They were gentleman to deal with, helped anyone who needed it and did business that was an example to all.

I was blessed to have these two as my mentors and fortunate to be able to learn how to do business by example.

– Phil Cooper

Premium Dog Treats

We recently sat down with David Caras, senior vice president of sales at Darford, to talk about the company’s philosophy and outlook.

Q: Tell us a little about Darford.
Caras: Since 1987, dog lovers have trusted Darford to provide tail-wagging goodness in treats for dogs of all shapes and size with discriminating tastes. Darford treats are baked in our own ovens using natural ingredients carefully selected from suppliers in the United States and Canada; all of our ingredients are sourced in North America.
We have passionate, dedicated Darford team members in Vernon, British Columbia, home of our corporate offices and one of our baking and packaging facilities,  and in Milan, Mo., our U.S. facility, which opened in 2013. Both of our manufacturing facilities are certified organic, with quality being our number one priority.  Baking premium, all natural, highly palatable dog treats is what we are all about.
We are constantly striving to improve our products and messaging, as well as create better ways for our distributor and retailer partners to merchandise Darford treats.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?
Caras: My main responsibility is managing sales in the United States and Canada, working closely with all of our key customers, our outside sales teams and customer support team. I am also involved in new product and packaging development, as well as marketing programs. I am not sure I truly have a typical day, but I can say that my days are always full and very exciting.

Q: The company’s core principles are passion, quality & trust. How does that factor into the products your company makes?
Caras: The pet industry is a passion-driven industry, and Darford has passionately been making pet treats for 27 years. However, passion is not enough, quality is paramount and is definitely number one on our priority list. All ingredients are tested by our in-house QC team as soon as they arrive at our facility. The treats are then tested after being manufactured and then tested again by an independent QC company before being released to our customers.
This is a long process and adds to our lead times; however quality is not something we will compromise. We believe this is why our customers and pet parents trust Darford, and have stood behind our brand since 1987.

Q: We know you likely can’t tell us specifics, but what are some of the new products you are working on?
Caras: We know 2014 will be an exciting year for Darford as we’ll be introducing several new products, new formulas, packaging improvements and display options at Global Pet Expo. Our top selling product families will include new shapes, new flavors and new sizes.
There will be something new added to all of our treat families; Mega Bones, Grain Free and Naturals; in packaged treats and bulk. I guess I can mention one of our new treats as they were launched in January: “Breakfast Bagels” in two sizes, small and medium, and in two flavors, Bacon & Cheese and Bacon N’ Eggs.  There could very well be one or two more new product introductions later this year, possibly in late summer or early fall.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at Darford?
Caras: What I like best about working at Darford is our company’s dedication to quality, and that we control our own destiny; we make our own products. If we want to change a shape or adjust a formula because we feel it will improve the quality or palatability, we can do that easily. We take a great pride in what we make, and have implemented the highest quality control standards. We make premium dog treats, making dogs happy all over the world–what could be better than that?


Looking Ahead to Global Pet Expo 2014

As we prepare to celebrate the 10th Annual Global Pet Expo in Orlando, March 12-14, 2014, it has been interesting to reflect on the show’s growth and its ever-growing importance as the first industry trade show of the year.

In 2013, the show broke all previous attendance records with 964 exhibitors, up from 630 in 2005, and 5,325 qualified buyers compared to 4,365 at the first Global Pet Expo. The growing international influence of this event is impressive with more than 18 percent of exhibitors being from outside the U.S. and buyers representing 72 countries.

Global Pet Expo is the place to see more new product launches than at any other show, and as we continue to attract more exhibitors and buyers, we also continue to expand our offerings.

With an expanded show floor in 2014, attendees will have the opportunity to see more of the latest innovations that in many cases will be making their debut at this show. We are expecting an increased number of exhibitors and that means more new products.

As a result, the popular New Products Showcase will be larger than ever, displaying more than 800 ground-breaking pet products. This is where we offer an exclusive glimpse of the fresh products entering the market. Buyers are invited to judge the year’s best new pet products, and the Best in Show will be presented at the 4th Annual New Products Showcase Awards Presentation on March 13.

We have also dedicated more space to our other special sections as they have consistently sold out for the past several years. These sections are the perfect way for you to connect with the specialty products that customers crave. The “Natural Pet” along with “The Boutique” and “Everything Aquatic” sections will feature more booths than in year’s past, and the “What’s New!” section will now be home to more than 150 exhibitors introducing themselves and their products to the pet industry.

And, there’s even more exciting news for the 2014 show. We are proud to announce Kathy Ireland of kathy ireland Worldwide, will be speaking at the 3rd annual APPA Professional Women’s Network Breakfast on Friday morning at the show. Ireland will be sharing her experiences that have made her an influential entrepreneur, and CEO of a hugely successful brand.

For more great business-building tips, check out the 2014 Global Pet Expo Speaker Series. This year’s lineup will feature experts who know the challenges you face, and can help you reap the rewards of implementing new ideas and tactics. And new this year, will be 15-minute mini sessions modeled after the famous “TED Talks.” They will be offered four times daily and will give you actionable advice that can improve your business.

And, while you are marking your calendars for all of the exciting events taking place at Global Pet Expo 2014, be sure to include the premier networking event of the year set for Wednesday evening. Our popular Networking Reception is the place to socialize with people you might never have another opportunity to meet. With the pet industry’s extraordinary growth, you’re sure to come across some new faces and familiar ones as well.

Above all, register to attend Global Pet Expo today. It truly is too big to miss.

Information about Global Pet Expo:

Presented by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), Global Pet Expo is open to exhibiting manufacturers, qualified buyers and media from around the world, and features the latest and greatest in pet product innovations-including more U.S. products under one roof than at any other show. For more information on the Global Pet Expo visit, or call 203-532-0000.

– Andrew Darmohraj

A Look Back At: The Ritzow Bros. – All-Glass Aquarium

There was a time when you walked into any pet store you would see a stack of 25, or more, 10 gallon aquariums or aquarium kits for sale. This stack of low priced starter kits helped create new aquarium hobbyists. Many of these hobbyists came back to buy larger sizes or multiple aquariums. This simple strategy drove growth in the aquarium hobby more than almost any other.

There was also a time when every aquarium had a stainless steel frame, because it wouldn’t rust, a slate bottom and was held together by a black non-toxic tar within the frame. Then, came the invention of silicone sealant by GE.

The Ritzow bros. in the Milwaukee area, avid aquarium hobbyists, saw the potential of gluing five pieces of glass together with silicone sealant and started making all glass aquariums using extruded plastic as frames to cover up the exposed glass edges. After a couple of years they also saw the need to improve and increase the production of glass aquariums and were one of the first to use one piece molded plastic frames. This simple, but expensive innovation, brought production from a few hundred units a day to well over a thousand. This was revolutionary because it brought down the cost significantly.

When I first started selling glass 10 gallon tanks in 1973 the distributor cost was $7.95 each. With the one piece frame that cost went down to $4.95. In the 1980s retailers were selling starter 10 gallon tanks for $4.99 as loss leaders and we couldn’t make enough of them.

I always felt that Jerry and Roger Ritzow deserved an industry award and recognition for almost single handedly growing the tropical fish hobby for over 30 years by being the leading supplier of low cost starter kits to encourage new hobbyists. Without these low cost glass boxes, we wouldn’t have sold air pumps, power filters, heaters, plants, gravel, fish, reptiles or small animals.

The Ritzow Bros. were brilliant engineers and marketers because they had a vision and developed many innovations that turned the fish aquarium into a piece of furniture that you would be proud to have in your living room instead of the garage. Their innovations included one piece plastic frames in sizes up to 220 gallon, state of the art full hoods with incandescent and fluorescent lighting, knock down wood aquarium stands, solid wood cabinets and canopies, bow front aquariums and stands in many sizes and mini-bow desktop aquariums. They started out with black frames only, then walnut wood grain finishes and ultimately introduced the revolution into oak trimmed aquariums.

With their expertise they turned a small aquarium company into the largest aquarium manufacturer in the world. They invested in technology and facilities that improved manufacturing at all levels, and year after year they continued to introduce new products that helped drive growth in the entire aquatics industry.

What impressed me most about the Ritzow Bros is the way they did business and the relationships they had with family, friends, customers and employees. In the early years, they had cash flow problems, as did all of their competitors, and had to tighten up liberal receivable and shipping policies. All of their customers rallied behind them. The Ritzow’s supported all community groups and local projects as well as the WPA, APA, PIJAC, Pet Industry Trust and many aquarium groups and societies. They are and were true gentleman and made doing business with them a pleasure.

The growth of the aquarium industry may have grown without their vision, but I doubt it would have grown as large or as fast, or would have been as much fun. Ask anyone who knows Jerry or Roger, or worked with them professionally and I’m sure you will hear how loyal, supportive and generous they were their entire career. Any dealer who stopped by to visit their booth at any trade show will remember the warm welcome they received as well as the giant cashews in the snack bowl!

In 2000 The “All Glass Aquarium” (the best possible description of the item they sold) Company was acquired by Central Garden and Pet. The brand disappeared because it was re-named. The aquarium segment of the pet industry saw a downturn. Kids today spend more time on their smart phones rather than keeping an aquarium. The stack of 25 aquarium kits has disappeared. For those of us who love tropical fish we still feel kids and parents alike would enjoy our hobby if we encouraged them with a new All Glass Aquarium.

The Ritzow Bros. are retired and doing well and still love the business. They’ve seen many changes and like me, they remember the glory days of fish keeping. We had many other friends who played important roles in the pet industry, but few had the impact or left the footprint of the Ritzow bros. Thank you Jerry and Roger for helping the tropical fish industry in becoming an important part of the pet industry.

– Phillip M. Cooper

Giving a Choice

We recently spoke with Charles Byrne, owner of Mammoth Pet Products, about the company’s motto and products.

Q: Tell us a little about Mammoth.

Byrne: Born in the ski resort town of Mammoth Lakes, Cailf. in 1995, Mammoth Pet Products has become a leading manufacturer of premium and value oriented dog toys.  In the California design tradition Mammoth offers over 300 category leading products under the Mammoth Flossy Chew,  Squeaky Rope,  Tirebiter, Dogsavers, Squeakies, and Mammoth Value brands. We are the world’s largest producer of cotton rope dog toys with our own manufacturing facilities in Mexico and China.  To put in perspective over the years Mammoth has produced over 100 million dog toys.  We believe in offering customers the best quality product, largest variety, and excellent service at a fair price.   Most importantly we believe in offering products that provide enjoyment for the end users, pets and the pet owner, at a great value.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

Byrne: A typical Mammoth day involves reading and returning emails and phone calls.  The majority of my time is spent on managing operations, developing new products and overseeing manufacturing  projects.  I also work closely with our sales team in tailoring customer sales programs. Most importantly everyday I am thankful for being in such a wonderful industry.  specially finding my niche in the dog toy category. Being in the pet industry since 1982 has truly made for an exciting career.

Q: From your Flossy Chews to your TireBiters, you have such a variety of products. Where does the company get their inspiration from for them?

Byrne: Yes, with over 300 products, Mammoth has a wide range of dog toys namely Mammoth’s Flossy Chew cotton rope toys,  Tirebiter rubber toys and various Squeaky plush toys. Innovation has been the leading force behind the company.  I like to think that product development is my true craft.  I practice the industrial design principles of “good design” and “form follows function.” I prefer simple functional design. Products should be innovative, useful, aesthetic, environmentally friendly, affordable and long lasting. My inspiration comes from the pets and environment around me.  Products should satisfies dogs play time while being durable. Most of Mammoth’s products are developed organically meaning they are influenced by past Mammoth designs and other products in the marketplace. Most of our products are developed in house.
It’s exciting when we come up with a truly revolutionary concept that creates a new product category benefiting the entire pet industry.

Q: You have a motto, “Play It Safe,” which deals with helping owners pick the correct toy for their pet. Why is that so important?

Byrne: Educating pet owners about dog toy safety is very important. Helping your dog to play safe is as important as keeping them happy and healthy.   Mammoth Pet Products wants to help dog owners and their pets enjoy play time to the fullest, everyday.  We believe that in addition to offering safe dog toys, that the pet owner is also responsible for their pets safety.  Pet owners should always supervise their dogs play time and know their pet’s playing habits.  It is important to choose the right toy based on your dogs playing habits. Never let your pet eat a (non-food) dog toy.   No dog toy is indestructible.  A dog’s toy should always be bigger than a dog’s mouth making it difficult to swallow.  Also for aggressive chewing dogs one should use a larger size toy or “extra strength” toy making it more difficult to chew apart.  For more information see our Play it Safe section at

Sustainability Top Priority at Petco

The Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition Interviews Jim Thomas, vice president sustainability, safety & environmental health at Petco. PISC is the collaborative playground for accelerating the rate of sustainability throughout the pet industry and is now over 50 members strong. To learn more about PISC or to become a member visit

Q: What inspired Petco to join the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition?

A: Petco is pleased to be the first retailer to join the Pet Industry Sustainability Coaltion. We believe PISC is ideally positioned to bring together industry stakeholders to focus on shared sustainability goals.

At Petco, our Vision is Healthier Pets. Happier People. Better World. We believe the “Better World” element of our vision can be fulfilled by working together with like-minded companies interested in reducing energy use, decreasing waste and conserving precious natural resources. In addition, we are familiar with the success of other industrywide coalitions such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and believe PISC is the equivalent platform for the pet industry.”

Q: What are the driving forces behind pursuing sustainability as a retailer?

A: At Petco we believe that reducing waste, using less energy and recycling materials saves money, is good for business and benefits the environment.  Pet parents really care about the environment, and our job is to provide them with products that are aligned with their values.

Q: As one of the biggest retailers in the pet industry you have budgets and dedicated staff that can focus on sustainability. Can you talk about the importance of vendors in helping you to pursue your sustainability goals?

A: Sustainability at Petco requires us to engage our internal teams and work with all of our suppliers to improve the products that reach our shelves.  If we look at Petco’s total “environmental paw print” it is clear that major environmental impacts reside in our supply chain. So, working with suppliers is the only way to impact our larger footprint.

Q: Why do you think your vendors should join PISC?

A: PISC is the only organization focused on for sustainability collaboration in the pet industry – it is also a great opportunity to tap into Natural Capitalism Solutions consulting expertise and to develop best practices to improve all operations. The relationship between buyers and sellers is important, and where else do you have Petco, PetSmart and peer companies at the same table?

Everyone in our internal organization somehow touches sustainability – from the purchasing agent working with buyers to the administrative assistant who makes sure that reports are printed double sided. From the vendor perspective- there wouldn’t be a single supplier that couldn’t benefit and shouldn’t be paying attention to sustainability. All companies generate waste, use materials, water and resources and there are potential ways to do it better.

Q: Do you think your respective companies will develop sustainability criteria for the products it chooses to carry similar to the Walmart Sustainability Index and others?

A: Yes, within 5 years I believe that sustainability information will be routinely available for all products. Good Guide is one of the first examples of this. Customers are going to demand more transparency and traceability. Arguably if you want sustainable products you have to ask suppliers questions in order to determine what to buy. At the end of the day we may not see sustainability as the #1 purchasing criteria but it will surely rise into consideration along with price, quality, and customer service.

Q: If you had to set a goal for how many of your vendors will join PISC by our 1-year anniversary at Global Pet Expo in 2014 what would it be?

A: We certainly hope that ALL of our suppliers will join because it creates a bridge for us to communicate with them around sustainability.

– Caitlyn Bolton

Keeping Ahead of the Curve

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.

It’s All About the Ingredients

We recently talked with Oscar E. Tenorio, product line manager at PureLife 4Pets, about the company’s research and how the line of animal supplements was born.

Q: Tell us how PureLife 4Pets got started.
Tenorio: PureLife 4Pets is a family-owned company that started trading ingredients between the U.S., Latin America and Europe in 2000. In 2009, when I started in the company, I was amazed at all these ingredients and one of them caught my attention. At that time, I just had moved from Charleston, S.C., to South Florida with my Weimaraner “Zizu,” and I think the humidity and hot weather gave him skin issues.
I took a concentrated Omega-3 ingredient we had and started giving it to him after consulting with our vet, of course. After I saw the results, I knew I had to explore more. We spent about 3 ½ years researching ingredients, their sources and designing the best combinations.
In August 2012, we launched four products: Joint Mobility, Antioxidant Protection, Immune Support and Omega-3 Support, which uses the concentrated ingredient I gave Zizu.

Q: Explain how research and testing play a part in your products.
Tenorio: For me, knowing that what we are putting in each product will create a health benefit for our pets is the greatest satisfaction of my job. With help from our lab and third-party testing we can ensure that our products do what we say they do and customers can rest assured that all of our claims and marketing material has been tested and audited.
We are active members of the National Animal Supplement Council, which ensures consumers are buying from a reputable manufacturer. The NASC seal is a privilege that signifies that the member company has been audited for implementation of specific quality-control standards.

Q: As product line manager, what’s a typical week like for you?
Tenorio: A typical week for me is anything but typical, but there are a couple of things I do every week. One is answer any communication from our website; I am actually the person that replies to any questions, testimonials and comments.
I also take part in a weekly staff meeting in which we review the week and plan for the next. I also enjoy going to the industry trade shows and local events, which occur throughout the year.
The amazing thing about this industry is that it is in constant change and there is always something new or improved, so I also spend time every week with the research and development team.

Q: Your slogan is, “when ingredients matter.” How does that reflect your company’s mission?
Tenorio: We chose that slogan because those are our roots: Ingredients. Dealing with the raw materials for over a decade has given us deep knowledge about the industry of supplements and nutraceuticals, and how to put them together to get the most benefit.
In fact, since I started giving the Omega-3 Support to Zizu, he hasn’t had any skin issues. We have received many testimonials from customers that have used supplements before on their pets for either joint or skin issues and they don’t seem to see a difference. But once they try PureLife 4Pets, they are amazed.

Q: Zizu, your dog, has a unique story. Tell us about it.
Tenorio: Zizu was born on June 28, 2006, north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. His mom was adopted the previous year after she lost her home and family to Hurricane Katrina. She was one of the surviving dogs that was left behind during the storm.
A family that had owned Weimaraners before, adopted her, and a year later she gave birth to a litter of six puppies. One of them is Zizu. He is truly my best friend. His personality and character have enriched my life in a way I never imagined.

Balancing Health, Price and Consumer Demand

We recently sat down with Kirk Young, executive vice president of Precise Pet Products, to talk about his role at the company, and their new grain-free products.

Q: Tell us a little about Precise.   
Young: Precise Pet Products was established by Texas Farm Products Company in 1992, at the start of the demand for “natural type” pet foods. Precise launched as one of the first to make natural claims. In addition to natural preservatives, Precise brought chelated minerals and Ester-C to pet food.
This family-owned and operated company has devoted itself to making high-integrity based decisions, which have resulted in some of the highest level and safest pet foods on the market. In 2008, Texas Farm Products brought me on board to accelerate the Precise brand by bringing new formulations, packaging and strategic guidance to propel the company forward while remaining dedicated to independent stores. We are at the precipice of completing that transition.
In 2010, we launched possibly the most advanced pet food brand on the market, Precise Holistic Complete, featuring human-grade ingredients. Ganeden BC30, a top-performing probiotic used in the Holistic Complete formula, is a probiotic I take daily. And now, with the coming relaunch of the original Precise as “Precise Naturals,” we will be updating, improving and strengthening the Precise brand even further.
Precise Pet Products will become Precise Pet Nutrition, reflecting our true business, which is nutrition. We research, we test, we make our foods with nutritionists and veterinarians, we are not investment bankers.

Q: Precise recently launched a new grain-free formula, why did the company decide to start this line?  
Young:    At Super Zoo 2013 this past July, we launched the start of our Precise Naturals line, with two new grain-free formulas. In 2012, we launched our Precise Holistic Complete grain-free formulas, with human-grade ingredients, after years spent researching, testing and ensuring we had the proper protein levels to avoid the growing problems associated with too much protein, as found in most grain-free products.
Our new Precise Naturals Grain Free line carries forward that same thinking, but with economics in mind.

Q: As executive vice president, what’s a typical day like for you?  
Young: My excellent sales team is working every day to spread the word about Precise, bringing our story to the market and educating the public on pet food nutrition. My work is dedicated to listening to their needs and working with them to bring forth the products, promotions, and tools necessary to help them do their job well.
In addition, strategizing consumes a lot of my day because our industry is changing “hyper-rapidly,” not just fast. We must think forward, anticipate trends and hopefully react in time to meet the quickly changing needs of the marketplace. Consumers have become more and more fickle about what they want. Changes are happening rapidly and it is growing more and more difficult to react.
I might also add, sometimes when a food is simply just right, as in the case of our Foundation and Sensicare formulas, you simply do not change it. So thinking clearly, not over-reacting, is part of the process as well.

Q: All of your dry food is made in-house and goes through a series of checks and balances. Tell us about that process.
Young: This would be better answered by Mike Compton, our vice president of quality assurance and nutrition. But in short, having our extensive on-site lab allows for us to conduct multiple point testing of in-bound ingredients, process testing and post-formulation testing. Looking at the numerous recalls over the years, the Precise team has done well and we have been quite fortunate.

Q: What are some of the community-related programs Precise sponsors?  
Young: Precise sponsors numerous community-related programs across every market. My team has authorization for direct decision making to work local community events as deemed relevant, to grow the interest in pet ownership and proper care. From rescue and adoption programs to working with service animals and military dogs, it crosses all spectrums.

This Is Not Your Father’s Pet Industry

The joke making the rounds of pet industry trade shows this summer was that the Pet Industry Distributors Association could hold its next member meeting in a Mini-Cooper; we would all fit and everyone would be headed in the same direction.

There is no question that distributor consolidation has been one of the biggest stories in the pet industry for the past few years. As the industry association representing wholesaler-distributors, PIDA has been at the epicenter of forces that are profoundly changing how business is conducted in the pet specialty channel.

Some assume that consolidation will diminish the traditional role of distributors in the channel or that business will be concentrated in the hands of a few large companies. Our experience to date has not borne that out.

PIDA membership has remained remarkably steady over the past decade, with an average of 54 distributor members. There are 57 distributor members today. Over the past 2 years, PIDA has added seven new distributor members. Many of these new members are niche distributors or pet food wholesalers who see PIDA as the place for networking with their peers, training for their employees and customers, and communications with suppliers who understand the value of distributors in the supply chain.

The results of PIDA’s most recent Industry Size Survey show that distributors’ market share is growing. Our 2013 survey results revealed that members did more than $3.3 billion in sales at wholesale last year, compared with just over $3 billion the prior year. This translates to $4.45 billion in retail sales, assuming a blended margin of 35 percent.

PIDA members operate 94 distribution centers, conduct more than 50 regional trade shows annually and employ more than 960 sales professions, including 560 field sales people calling on pet retailers every day. The typical distributor stocks more than 8,000 products and carries $10 million in inventory at any given time.  Remarkably, distributors made more than 3 million deliveries to their customers last year.

To borrow a phrase, this is not your father’s pet industry. Its growth into a $55 billion a year industry has attracted the attention of investors and multi-national corporations. The marketplace will ultimately determine how many manufacturers, retailers and distributors are needed to serve the needs of pet-owning consumers.

Demographic changes will provide opportunities for independent retailers who position themselves to take advantage of shifting priorities of consumers in their markets. Product selection and mix, services and marketing strategies will all factor into the success of well-managed pet stores.

Equally important will be a strong working relationship with local or regional pet product distributors. They can help you select products that consumers want and will make sure that your shelves are well stocked. They will help with your marketing by offering specials and providing flyers and other tools to reach pet owners in your area.

They will extend credit to help you manage your cash flow. In short, they will be an essential partner with a vested interest in your success.

PIDA was founded in 1968 by a handful of distributors who saw the need to learn from each other and improve business conditions in a rapidly expanding industry. The intervening decades have seen remarkable changes in how business is conducted in the pet industry. One thing that has remained constant, however, is the role of wholesaler-distributors in supporting independent pet retailers.

Let’s continue to grow together.

– Steven King

Thrown to the Sharks

Abe Geary, the founder of PetPaint, a high quality colored fur spray that is specially formulated, dog safe and veterinarian approved, recently appeared on the hit ABC TV show “Shark Tank.” Geary, who sought to change the way people celebrate occasions and holidays with their dog, spoke exclusively to Pet Age, about his appearance on the show, and his product.

Q: First, tell us a little about Pet Paint, and why you started the company.
Geary: PetPaint is the world’s first temporary color spray designed for the use on dogs. “Why,” we say “Why not” the whole idea came when Billie the Giant Schnauzer my dog, and companion, wouldn’t wear dog clothes. I thought how can I make something she doesn’t know she’s wearing… “lightbulb flicker.” I knew we would have a really fun novel product but I didn’t realize there is actually a demand for our high quality color sprays by groomers who have been looking for an easy to use bright color.

Q: Why did you decided to go on “Shark Tank”?
Geary: This is where everybody goes who is excited about their idea and wants to let the world see them get grilled by these brilliant or bullish sharks right? Every idea needs money and resources to make a real business, oh, and a great media bump never hurts either.
We got lucky here in that we submitted our investment package to a couple angel finance websites and one of the Shark Tank Producers contacted us.

Q: What was going through your head when the Sharks were talking about your product?
Geary: When you are watching the show everything is condensed, what you don’t see is the 65 minutes the actual negotiation takes. Every one of the sharks tackle the situation differently. Depending on what they are firing at you is what is going through your head.
Some of the time it was, “you guys don’t know my market like I do” and some of it was, “oh yeah, I should have thought of that.”

Q: Why didn’t you accept the deal?
Geary: Barbara shot a deal out there in what I thought was a way to grab up a huge amount of equity, other sharks were out so she had an advantaged position.
I like Barbara and would have loved to make a deal with her but not at the expense of the majority of my company. I had to turn it down as it would not have been fair to my vision.

Q: What was it like to be standing there in front of “the Sharks”?
Geary: This is a little shark tank secret, you actually walk down the intimidating hallway and into the tank then you have to stand and do a stare down for at least a minute before you can start your pitch. This is where the nerves start to kick in.
The time in the tank lasts over 60 minutes and it goes a hundred miles an hour. Imagine playing verbal ping pong against five amazing players all at once and when one of the balls falls off the table your chances of success drop by 20 percent.

Q: How has appearing on the show impacted your company?
Geary: I think they call it the “Shark Tank Effect” all has been great. The positive benefits started long before the show was even slated to air. Once people find out you are going to be on the show they are at least willing to hear what you have to say, so long as you are not an idiot to begin with, it opens doors.
As far as right now I don’t know what the total effects will be but as soon as I go through the 5,000 emails I just received I’ll give you a synopsis.

Q: What’s next for PetPaint?
Geary: PetPaint is going to be a household name and I feel it will happen pretty quickly. Our groomers who use PetPaint to add revenue to their shop have been reordering, our distributors are reordering and I feel we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to awareness.
Every time you see a colored dog just think back to when you saw that crazy guy on “Shark Tank” making dog paint.

Straight From Mother Nature

We recently talked with David Levesque of Kanberra Gel about how his product ended up in the pet industry and what is next for the company.

Q: Tell us about Kanberra, and how it works.

Levesque: Kanberra products feature a pharmaceutical-grade selection of Mother Nature’s own proven antiseptic tea tree oils, purposely blended in unique and effective forms.  In our initial product, Kanberra Gel, the blend is taken airborne through basic dissipation, allowing the oils to interact with mold, bacteria, fungi and some viruses to essentially rid the air of impurities and associated odors.
Kanberra Spray features the same unique blend, only here it’s immersed in a natural emulsifier that can be used for air and surfaces.  In fact, it’s so effective and natural, it’s safe for topical use on humans and dogs. Some of the benefits include air purification, flea and tick repellent, odor control and as a soothing wound healer.

Q: Kanberra Gel is made with Australian tea tree oil. What are some of the benefits of using it in your product?

Levesque:  For over 400 years tea tree oil has proven to have powerful, yet natural, antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. Many pet products, such as shampoos, use Tea Tree Oil in their formulas for this purpose.  At Kanberra the additional blend and innovative airborne delivery create a unique usage.

Q: Kanberra Gel was not originally made to be a “pet” product. How did you end up in the pet industry?

Levesque:  It comes as a surprise to many of our customers that Kanberra Gel was initially developed as an all-natural alternative to the harsh sanitizing chemicals used in the cleaning process of ventilation systems. We are part of a 20 year old indoor air quality company with a long history of being the largest ventilation cleaning contractor for the U.S. Navy. Kanberra was born from our desire to revolutionize this indoor air quality industry with natural solutions.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with Kanberra Gel.

Levesque: I came to our parent company, Indoor Air Professionals, nine years ago with an extensive background in retail and direct sales and was hired to assist in our residential air quality division.  At that time, the product, which became Kanberra Gel, was unnamed and used primarily in-house for our ventilation hygiene service.
Several of us used the samples of the product in other areas, such as our cars, homes, gym bags and boats. After launching some exhaustive market research and brand development, we established the Kanberra division. Our first major bite was in the global mega-yacht industry, and we’ve been playing catch up ever since.

Q: What’s next for Kanberra Gel?

Levesque: At Kanberra we’re continuing to build our line with complementary products that utilize our unique blend of natural oils. We hope to launch 1-2 new products each year, and most, if not all, will be functional across all our major market silos, from pets to natural product retailers to marine and RVs.


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