Jones Natural Chews has an extensive history in the meat industry. Their family heritage can be traced back sixteen decades and over six generations to Stephen Jones, a meat cutter in who lived and worked in Rome, N.Y., during the mid-1800s. Since that time, the business has found its niche in the pet industry. Not only has it found success, it has managed to continue as a stable, family-owned entity that is committed to quality, affordability and natural ingredients that are manufactured in the U.S.
Pet Age caught up with finance officer Laura Herr to ask how they have been able to accomplish their success.
Pet Age: Family plays a big role at Jones Natural Chews. Tell us how you have managed to keep this a family-owned business for nearly seven generations?
Herr: The Jones family has been in the meat industry for a total of 16 decades but not in the same business together. They started in Rome, N.Y. in 1870 and eventually moved to Wisconsin. So now, we have seven generations of Jones family that have been in the meat industry. My grandfather, Robert M. Jones, opened Jones Packing in 1952; this is where my dad, Robert L. Jones, started his career.
Family does play a big role in the management of the business. When we began to make dog treats in 1987, the family did everything, including processing and packaging the products. This has proven to be a huge asset of experience in the development of the company. We would never say that it is easy to run a company with family! It forces family members to work together and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. Because the business has grown tremendously each year since we started, the family has been forced to adapt and transform. I am proud of both the personal and professional accomplishments of the family. We have developed excellent teamwork. I would say mutual support and teamwork from the family is the most important element to the success of a family business.
Pet Age: What makes your products stand out in the industry?
Herr: Having a background in meat processing does give us a step up. We process the treats and chews using the same procedures we use at the meat plant for human consumption, which ensures both safety and proper handling of the products. From the first dog chew in 1987, we made it our mission to produce only USA products and to add no artificial ingredients. We also have careful testing procedures in place to ensure the perfect blend of moisture while still being a shelf-stable product. This helps keep the bones more consistent to a raw bone and not be overcooked.
Pet Age: What types of products can we see added to the collection in 2015-2016?
Herr: We are excited for the new products we are introducing. We have three new products that we’ll be introducing at Global Pet Expo. These include a new smaller steer pizzle curl, which will be ideal for the smaller dogs. Customer demand has dictated the introduction of the new bare knuckle, which is a beef crown knuckle that is processed down to the bare bone with no meat attached. This product will complement the existing 4-inch and 7-inch bare center bones in the product line. The most exciting product introduction is the new Rocky’s Rollers Soft Sausage Links. We are making these 7 to 8-inch links in beef, lamb and chicken flavors. They complement our existing Links product line but they are softer and more flexible.
We have a goal to introduce three other new exciting products at the SuperZoo trade show in 2015. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so you will have to wait and see.
Pet Age: Sounds exciting! How do you monitor quality assurance and what types of changes have you adjusted for over the years?
Herr: This is one area of the business that has required continuous changes and upgrades. We are careful to follow new regulations put in place both by the FDA and AAFCO in regard to our procedures. We now have full-time employees who focus solely on monitoring and controlling the HACCP inspection, OSHA programs and other safety programs at the plant. They are also responsible for enforcement of proper daily written verification of procedures and logs. We have strict procedures in place that include physical monitoring at every important step in the procedures. We also use AIB, an outside third-party audit inspection company, to ensure the effectiveness of the procedures.
Pet Age: What other types of changes have you seen in the industry over the years?
Herr: The pet industry seems like an ever-changing entity. Between distributor mergers and manufacturers changing their focus, it has been interesting. Over the years, the regulations have become broader and stricter. I would like to see more companies uniting together to stand up for the industry and continue to keep it in a healthy state. One of the most notable changes since we started seems to be the placement of the pet in the family as a family member and not just a pet or animal.
Pet Age: What changes do you think will be coming to the industry in 2015-2016?
Herr: There are some big changes in the regulation side of things coming in 2015 with the implementation of the Food Defense Act and Food Safety Modernization Act. The meat industry has experienced some big challenges in the last few years due to drought and reduction in beef herds. However, we are anticipating a full recovery by 2017.