Pet Age’s Nicole Gifford spoke with Leslie Yellin, executive vice president of Multipet International, about the company’s starting point, success stories and vision for the future.
Nicole Gifford: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Multipet?
Leslie Yellin: Multipet was founded over 20 years ago by Mark Hirschberg, who grew up in the pet industry and wanted to leave his family business to start something on his own. He started out with toys. Since then, it has expanded out into treats and carriers, diversifying the company into what it is today.
Nicole: How did you get involved?
Leslie: I knew Mark through working at Central Garden & Pet, and we used to do business together. That was about 22 years ago. We became very good friends, and about 15 years ago he asked me to join his company.
Nicole: Do you have any products that have continued to be best-sellers since the company’s start?
Leslie: Yes. Mark initially launched a line called Look Who’s Talking, which are plush animals that you squeak and that actually make the real sound of cows or pigs or ducks. We still have those toys over 20 years later. They’re still out there in the market.
Nicole: What are some of your other best-selling products?
Leslie: Today our best-selling toy is our Loofa Dog, also known as Bobo. It’s been featured in over 25 television commercials and in major motion pictures. That’s our top toy. After that, a lot of people love and adore our Lamb Chop toy.
Nicole: I noticed that the Nature’s Bits treats are made in the U.S. Could you just tell me about the reasons behind that and the benefits of having U.S.-made products?
Leslie: Our decision to do that with our product line was because we had a strong interest in getting into the treat category but knew that consumers were looking for consumable items that were not made overseas. So the fact that it was made in the USA was a plus. But the biggest thing to us was that all of the products that go into it are actually from the U.S. There’s no importing any meat or anything at all. It is all completely sourced from the U.S. Aside from tasting really good, they’re nutritionally amazing. They incorporate berries and fruit. They’re cutting-edge for treats.
Nicole: Other than sourcing materials from the U.S., what trends have you seen lately in pet toys and treats? How have you responded to them?
Leslie: I think the biggest challenge we feel across the board is that the consumers we have now are the smartest consumers we’ve ever had. With their access to the Internet, they know their stuff. In order for us to succeed, we have to continually evolve and come up with new technology or take our existing items and refresh them, whether it’s new materials or different shapes and sizes, because this customer wants the best. Not only do they want the best, they want value and variety. That’s one of the things that really keeps us busy to the point of exhaustion, but we love it. That’s what makes us, I believe, very successful.
Nicole: Can you tell me about some of the newest products Multipet has out?
Leslie: At Global Pet Expo, we’ll be launching a lot of new items. One of them is the Kitty Shaker. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s a ball toy for cats, and you open it up and you insert what looks like a K-Cup, but it’s catnip. You close it and then roll it. It’s very interactive and it gives cats great exercise. You can even use it for treats. That’s one of my favorite new toys we’re launching. Plus, we’re launching this new line of pet carriers and backpacks that are something that I would use if I were going out. You would never know that there was a pet in there. They’re super fashionable and cool.
We’re excited because this year we’re also launching our new packaging and a new logo. Everything’s been completely redone. It’s very modern and it’s super fun, which is what we do.
Nicole: What do you think has been the key to Multipet’s lasting success?
Leslie: The most important thing as far as our success is our ability to facilitate any customer need. Maybe it’s because we’re a privately owned company, but if the customer wants to order a display with only red toys, we can do that – and we can do it immediately. We don’t have to go through levels of decision-makers and talking to different people. We can act on the spot if a retailer says tomorrow, I want to change this Loofa Dog to a breast cancer support Loofa Dog. We have a facility with people who are dedicated just to doing that.