Rebekah: Tell us a little about how CHOMPER got its start.
Menno: The CHOMPER team had been in the design and manufacturing of pet toys business for many years but in 2010, we got our start when we saw an open door and an opportunity to grow a new brand of top-quality dog and cat toys.
CHOMPER is unique in that we offer all of the “food groups” of toys to meet the needs of consumers; from treat-dispensing to toss and tug to fetch and retrieve to soft and cuddly. We reviewed each food group of toys and set out to develop new innovation within each of those food groups. Our goal was to offer the best of the best in each food group of play and a “One-Stop Shopping” experience. Our “One-Stop Shopping” approach was intriguing to customers and would provide retailers and distributors throughout the world the opportunity to partner with one manufacturer for all categories of toys. The CHOMPER collection was designed to offer innovation, quality, durability, value, as well as tail-waggin’ fun for your pet!
A team was then assembled to execute a global marketing strategy initially focused on the European market. We visited leading retailers and distributors in an effort to form partnerships – our goal was to add significant partners in every market and bigger was not necessarily better. Our partners needed to share our vision for long-term cooperation, relationships were more important than orders, as we knew the orders would come as relationships were established. Once the international partners were assembled, we then took the CHOMPER marketing and partner strategy to the United States. The search for leading distribution partners had begun, partners in which consistent teamwork and commitment would lead to mutual long-term success, and enjoyment.
Rebekah: So then are your customers predominantly based in the U.S. or throughout the world?
Menno: CHOMPER has customers/partners throughout the world. In the early years of the brand, customers were 100 percent outside of the U.S., in countries including the U.K., Germany, Spain, Russia, Singapore, Australia and Canada. My home base of Amsterdam allows me to visit customers on a consistent basis so new ideas and products can be presented frequently while further developing strong working relationships. It also helps that I speak several languages; therefore, I’m able to connect easily with customers in different countries with different cultures.
Our distribution partners in the U.S. are Boss Pet Products Inc. and Phillips Pet Food & Supplies. Boss was an early adopter of the CHOMPER line and was integral in our early success in the U.S. market and remains an important partner today. The addition of industry-leader, Phillips, was the final piece of the CHOMPER distribution and marketing plan. The relationship has proven to be rewarding for both companies and we look forward to growing together in 2015 and beyond.
Rebekah: How did your partnership with Phillips come to be?
Menno: Our goal from the beginning was to establish an industry leader in each market. With the rapid consolidation of distributors it took some time to happen. Fortunately, several years ago we met key personnel from Phillips at a trade show and after a combination of patience and persistence, we were able to schedule a meeting to review the CHOMPER product line and marketing strategy. The meeting went well and the partnership was established soon thereafter. Phillips welcomed the opportunity to represent CHOMPER and we were enthusiastic to be working with such a well-respected company.
Rebekah: In the large category of pet toys, what makes CHOMPER unique? Do you focus on certain categories of toys?
Menno: We’re unique in that we design, manufacture and market all the food groups or categories of toys. Our ability to combine several materials into one toy is appealing to our customers. We throw TPR, ballistic nylon, specialty rope, plush and fleece into the creative blender and press mix! The results are unique and innovative combinations of raw materials not usually seen in the pet toy market.
We are also known for referring to our customers as partners—we will go above and beyond to ensure mutual success.
Rebekah: Any new products or innovations in the works that you can tell us about?
Menno: We continuously have new designs and innovation in the pipeline. Tom McCann, founder of CHOMPER, has made the innovation process a priority for the entire global design team. I often laugh as it’s 10 a.m. in Amsterdam and at 4 a.m. EST. and I see a new design idea come across my email from Tom. The team lives dog toys 24/7. Our partners are global, as is the CHOMPER team, with team members scattered throughout the world from Holland to the U.K. to Canada to Connecticut to California to the Midwest.
Lastly, we will be introducing several new toy lines in the spring of 2015, and we are moving into the design phase of creative ideas in other pet product categories. Once developed, we will introduce these new categories to our partners throughout the world. Stay tuned.