By Pet Age Staff//November 1, 2023//
By: Pet Age Staff//November 1, 2023//
By now, you’ve seen a variety of different emblems on product packages, labels and promotional items. More brands than ever are making certifications a part of their mission of transparency, which is a popular strategy to connect with consumers.
Pet Age recently contacted several members of the pet care community to learn more about a variety of certification programs that they have attained or offer.
Beth Sommers, founder, Pure and Natural Pet
What made you choose to pursue a certification for USDA Organic for your products?
For me, it’s personal. Years ago, I had a dog who had a horrible allergic reaction to something, but I was unable to identify if it was her food or her shampoo. The product labeling and ingredient panels on her grooming items didn’t tell me anything that I could properly investigate, so I started doing some research on my own. What I learned was that there are no rules or regulations for the labeling of grooming products in the pet industry unless they are USDA Certified Organic. When I started Pure and Natural Pet in 2015, I vowed to be transparent on my product labeling, and knew that seeking USDA Organic certification would be the most thorough route to this goal.
How would you describe the process of achieving USDA Organic certification?
Getting USDA Organic certified is difficult, time consuming, and costly – but very rewarding and well worth the bother. All facilities, including manufacturing, warehousing, and office spaces must be inspected, and you are asked a considerable number of questions about manufacturing and filling processes, quality control and cleaning practices. You also need to be able to prove that all your ingredients are sourced from places that are themselves certified USDA Organic. All in all, the initial push to get things rolling takes about eight months, and once you have obtained the USDA Organic certification, you are required to revisit a shortened version of the process (about 8-10 weeks) once a year to maintain it.
What are the benefits to your company having USDA Organic certification?
The benefit to our customers is that they can tell at a glance that our products are safe for their pets. For our company, being certified USDA Organic brings peace of mind and the satisfaction of knowing that we have risen to the austere standards of the USDA.
Why do you feel a pet company should pursue a USDA Organic certification?
It’s taken a little while for the pet industry to catch up with the national trend of organic ingredients and transparent labeling, but the movement is growing and it’s here to stay. Consumers are getting savvier and know that the promises of “natural” and “healthy” mean nothing without a USDA Organic certification to back them up. Companies that don’t take the time and effort to become certified might find that they are being left behind. And besides, at Pure and Natural Pet we think it’s the right thing to do.
Jim Galovski, founder, Guardian Pet Food
What made you choose to pursue a B Corp certification?
I founded Guardian Pet Food Company with the desire to be something MORE than just another pet food company. I chose freeze-dried and no artificial or synthetic ingredients for the betterment of the pet. I also want to do something for the betterment of people and the planet. When I started looking at the various organizations and certifications, the folks at B-Corp stood out as the most adherent to a philosophy of doing good. What started off as a benchmarking idea grew into an actual desire to “walk the talk” of sustainability and creating a business that is actually a force for good.
How would you describe the process of achieving B Corp certification?
The process is very intense and time consuming. You must take super deep dives into your business processes and make sure that the entire organization is aligned. The B Impact Assessment covers 6 sections and has over 200 assessment questions. Once you are done with the self-Assessment, you need to submit it to B-Corp, and they follow-up with an audit that can take several months to complete. You get the opportunity to justify your answers and correct any areas that are within range. Make no mistake, to become certified, it requires legal changes to your company’s charter and other business documents. It took us a long time but I’m glad we did it.
What are the benefits of having a B Corp certification?
I didn’t start after getting B-Corp certification with the expectation of benefiting from it, at least financially. I know that may sound crazy, but the purpose was to create something different; something that was about more than just money. Guardian may not have the largest consumer base but the base we have is incredibly loyal. They love our products and appreciate our efforts to leave the space a better place than the one we entered. With an eye to the greater good, my hope is that new companies will start with B-Corp Certification and that the bigger companies and multi-national conglomerates will strive to do better than just giving half-hearted, marketing lip service.
Why do you feel a pet company should pursue a B Corp certification?
It says a lot about a company that wants to do more than just make money. No one needs more practice in making products, companies have to make money, but they don’t have to make it to the detriment of everything else. With a B-Corp, you are doing right by your employees and your suppliers. You are considerate of the environment and conscious of the impact you have on it. The biggest reason to get certified is that it creates a “North Star” for the company to follow and it provides filters for every business option/decision to pass through.
Megan Tuttle, director of impact, Open Farm Pet
What made you choose to pursue a GAP certification?
One hundred percent of Open Farm’s animal proteins have been certified by GAP or Certified Humane (CH) since the first day we launched as a brand in 2014. When our founders, Jacqueline and Isaac, adopted their first pug, Bella, they had a difficult time finding a pet food that aligned with their own values that delivered on the nutritional needs for their new family member. While researching, they noticed that there was a gap in the market for pet food that prioritized animal welfare, which prompted the idea of making ethically sourced pet food. They began researching how they could challenge the ways that pet food had been made while still delivering a high-quality product. Their work was guided by three principles: Sourcing the highest quality ingredients; supporting farmers who treat their animals right; providing full transparency to customers. After years of work, they launched Open Farm in 2014 with the simple idea of providing pet food that is good for your pet, for farm animals, and the environment, all at the same time.
The soul of our brand was built on sourcing meat with the highest animal welfare standards available. Open Farm believes that animals in our supply chain should be treated with kindness, compassion, and respect at every stage of their life. This is our purpose come to life – raising animals in this way is how we’re able to source the best responsibly sourced ingredients. We are proud to work with GAP certified farmers and ranchers who share our values and vision for animals and the planet.
How would you describe the process of achieving GAP certification?
One of the biggest components of achieving GAP certification is making sure the proteins are segregated and traceable throughout our supply chain. Our Food Safety and Quality Assurance team has a very structured process to make sure that they know exactly how much GAP protein we use, what products it goes into, and where it comes from. The other biggest piece is the review and approval of our artwork which includes review of our packaging materials and ensuring that our protein suppliers, famers and ranchers are approved for to use GAP claims. GAP is a great partner.
What benefits does having a GAP certification offer your company?
We believe that ingredients grown and raised in the right way have a positive impact on the supply chain and are higher quality and more nutritious for pets. This translates to a better life for animals, a better livelihood for farmers, and a lighter touch on the planet. We set out to do things better, and that means doing them differently and obsessing over every detail. When it comes to selecting farm partners for all of our animal proteins, we work with farmers and ranchers who create environments that enable each animal to live their best life. Our farms and ranches, no matter the species, not only ensure the animals’ health & safety, but they create environments to enable the animals’ natural behaviors by providing enrichments and ample room to roam. Conventional farms aren’t typically structured to optimize for animal welfare outcomes, they’re often smaller with more animals in each barn or pasture. In conventional farming there also isn’t a strict code to follow the way that there is on our farms, and there aren’t annual audits to ensure the health and safety of all animals. This often can lead to stressed and sick animals in conventional barns, which translates to lower quality meat. We want to source better meat from a better place, so we obsess over every detail of what each species needs in order to live their best, most natural life.
Why do you feel a pet company should pursue a GAP certification?
Animal welfare is not only important to our founders and to our employees, but it is also important to our customers. We know that pet parents purchase Open Farm because of the obsession we have with animal welfare, and it is one of the top reasons they buy Open Farm, in addition to quality and nutrition. We also see this prioritization come across in our customer experience inquiries, with questions about our standards being the second biggest focus area for Open Farm customers. Pet parents are motivated by ethical sourcing and animal welfare; so much so that not only do pet parents look for food with high animal welfare, but that is the number one attribute that they are willing to pay more for.
We know that pet parents care deeply about what they feed their pets, where the ingredients come from, and how the animals in the supply chain are raised. A 2023 survey from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) found that 87 percent of pet parents would switch to another brand that prioritizes ethical sourcing. Open Farm will continue to source all of our farmed animal proteins according to the highest animal welfare standards available.
Carmen Rustenbeck, executive director, International Boarding &Pet Services Association (IBPSA)
What is the primary certification that you offer?
The Risk Management & Facility Safety Certification Program provides facilities and their employees with a safe and healthy work environment in order for them to conduct their day-to-day business. As part of our mission statement, we educate on safe practices in the pet boarding and daycare industry. We see this certification as the first step in our soon to come Facility Accreditation Program.
How would you describe the process of achieving this certification?
One must apply to IBPSA. Within the application are questions to evaluate their current safety processes. This includes submitting documents such as OSHA logs, training documents, safety meetings records and any action taken by a government entity as it relates to safety & health. Within the next 90 days the process of inspection and review begins. This process includes pre and post reviews and onsite inspection with facility walkthrough. Management will receive a comprehensive report. Facility is given the opportunity to fix any deficiencies. Once the report is complete it will be submitted for approval to IBPSA. Once approved the certification is good for one year at which time if no OSHA action has been taken against the facility, a document review will be requested by the certifying committee. Following which IBPSA has the right to request an on-site visit on a periodic basis in year three.
What are the benefits of having this certification?
Decrease in accidents for employees, potential for an insurance premium discount and a safer environment in which to do business. Also, the management requesting and receiving this certification shows current and potential employees how much they care for their employees while at work.
Why should a member of the pet care community pursue this certification?
Most facility accidents occur because proper safety standards and protocols are not followed or understood. Sometimes this is due to a lack of training or inadequate safety programs. This certification will provide the safety standard by which all pet care facilities should aspire to.
Kristy Grejdus, sales & marketing assistant, FM Brown’s
What made you choose to pursue an SQF certification?
Our customers expressed the importance they placed on food safety, and we listened. We implemented SQF procedures and gained our certification in September 2017.
How would you describe the process of achieving SQF certification?
The process to get SQF certified was straightforward. We learned about the specific Code that applied to our food sector category, conducted a gap analysis, created new or updated documents to conform to the Code, and registered for SQF Certification. We then prepared for the audit, and finally scheduled and conducted the audit. The company is audited each year following, ensuring that we remain compliant.
What are the benefits to your company having an SQF certification?
Our SQF certification sets us apart from our non-compliant competitors, and it instills confidence in our business partners and end consumers. Following stringent industry regulations and best practices ensures that our customers receive the highest-quality pet and wild bird foods that they expect from Brown’s.
Why should a pet food manufacturer pursue an SQF certification?
Achieving an SQF certification takes work and accountability which becomes a symbol of assurance for our customers. A pet food company that puts forth that level of consistent effort is one that cares, and worth trusting with a pet’s well-being.