Pet Age recently spoke with Daniel Willis, CEO of Zach’s Quality Dog Food, which is based in Texas.
How would you describe the philosophy behind your recipes?
I like to keep my recipes simple: Highly nutritious with no fillers or fluff. Each ingredient is considered a necessity and highly important. When formulated together, my ingredients provide a diet that is not only good for your dog, but is also something they enjoy eating. You see many brands adding little splashes – or fluff, as I call it – to the diet at very low levels, often with little to no nutritional value. These are meant to basically charm, if not deceive, the pet owner and only drive up cost. I’m not going to waste my customers’ hard-earned money. With Zach’s, you are getting the best dog food at the best price. My basic plan starting out was that each ingredient had had to meet or provide seven criteria: be affordably priced, easily digestible, naturally preserved, benefit healthy skin and coat, include balanced Omega-3- and Omega-6, high quality proteins and contain no fillers, soybean or corn.
Where is your dog food sourced from and manufactured?
Zach’s ingredients are all sourced in the United States. The food is currently manufactured in Ohio and Texas.
What kind of support can retailers who carry your food expect from you?
They are going to get “me.” What I mean is that I’m the owner, CEO, salesman, customer support and dog walker wrapped up in one. When retailers allow me, I love to get out in front of the customers at their stores. I enjoy talking about Zach’s, passing out samples and just giving the friendly hello to a passers-by. Obviously my plan is to continue to grow and develop my brand and someday I may have to drop a few hats and delegate more. However, I plan to always be out in front of the customers.
What is your perspective on the pet care community?
At its core, this is a community of love and acceptance. Especially pet owners, families with pets from all walks of life with have come across to me as the most accepting people I have ever met. I love to hear from my customers. I have customers email or even call to tell me thank you and how much their dog loves Zach’s or just to ask where they can purchase a bag.
I would be remiss not to mention that, on the business side, I have found less accepting circumstances. Being in the business world is tough, and I get it. However, being a black business owner in the pet food community, I have faced more challenges than I first expected. I have had many doors close in my face, but I just continue on with my head held high and on to the next one. With the movements over this past year, it has brought many things to light. Some painful reminders of the past, but at the same time an outstretched hand of new support. I look forward to what this community will become. I know there will be challenges along the way, and we will meet them head on, but I see a bright, inclusive and growing future.
When was your passion for making quality dog food awakened in you?
I grew up in small west Texas town, where I worked at the local feed mill and pet food plant for many years. I moved away years ago, but I brought with many a wealth of knowledge of the industry. Zach’s is named after my grandson, I remember watching him play with his dogs in the backyard when he was a little boy. It just warmed my heart. I am sure all grandparents can attest to wanting to spoil their grandchildren. He became my inspiration and my passion for Zach’s. I wanted to do something that could perhaps leave him and all my grandchildren with a legacy.
I woke up one day, and I just knew what I wanted to do. So I began study, ask questions, meet with the right people and I created a pet food brand that I thought would be worthy of using his name. Zach’s is recognized as one of the first national Black-owned pet food products on the market, if not the first. I am honored and humbled by that recognition. My grandson is all grown up now, and my dream for Zach’s is 17 years in the making. Through many trials along the way, that dream is still alive today.