Pet Age recently spoke with Andy Wunsch, vice president of marketing and sales for West Paw, to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from the succeeding during the pandemic to the company entering the treat sector.
What impact did COVID-19 have on West Paw, including its new product launches?
This has been a challenging time for everyone including the team at West Paw and everyone here has worked hard to do their part so we could meet this new challenge head-on and thrive beyond the pandemic.
We implemented a “Swap Stock Program” to help our retail partners stay stocked with products in case they are experiencing delays with pet products impacted by Covid-19. Our goal was to ensure retailers remain profitable and continue to serve customers with fully stocked shelves.
In May, we rolled out a major product launch with our new treats collection several weeks ahead of schedule, and we are seeing great interest and enthusiasm with these new treats.
Why is it important that West Paw products are made in the United States?
West Paw manufactures 98 percent of our products in the United States. This is a huge source of pride for our team, a job creator, a key differentiator and a revenue generator for West Paw. Made in the USA is a critical factor and differentiator for us. Combined with our sustainable manufacturing practices and our B Corp certification we remaining a U.S. manufacturer since 1996 has not always been the easiest thing to do, but we feel it is the right thing to do for our community, our employees, our customers, and dogs!
What kind of planning goes into the design of West Paw toys?
One of our core tenets as a brand is “Thoughtfully Designed” and we work hard to live up to that value. The product development process from start to finish takes about 18 months. A key component to that process is understanding the needs of the marketplace so we conduct extensive research across our consumer and retailer base to determine products and category opportunities. We believe it’s important to hear directly from our consumers about what kind of problems we can help solve through our products. With retailers, we know they have a pulse on what the consumer wants to buy and they help us understand what they need from us to help them best serve their customers. The feedback we receive is used in developing, marketing, and selling our products.
What motivated West Paw to release its line of freeze-dried raw and creamy dog treats?
West Paw was motivated to get into the dog treat category because we wanted to create a healthy treat for dogs that echoed our values: make them healthy, make them safe, and make them responsible.
West Paw treats are sustainably-sourced, simple, meaty single-protein snacks, balanced superfood blends, and creamy treats that pair perfectly with our award-winning treat toys.
The high-quality proteins we use in our treats are from parts of the animal that are outside of the typical human food chain in the United States. By focusing on using proteins that most people in the United States do not eat, and are typically wasted, our treats are more sustainable because they are keeping high-quality proteins that are nutritional and dogs love out of the landfill.
What are the advantages of West Paw taking the self-distribution route?
Some of the advantages of us distributing our products, straight from our facility in Bozeman, Montana, is control over our delivery schedule making our lead time is typically far better than ordering through a distributor. We can be flexible in our promotions – we can easily shift if needed. We pride ourselves on having great relationships with pet store buyers and we are always learning from them. Our offices are in the same building as our manufacturing facility so we can know almost instantly what our inventory on-hand is and can therefore control what products we promote. We have better margins and lower retail prices as there isn’t a “middle man” to pay. Not having a 3rd-party involved allows us to manufacture in the US, use the highest quality materials, and use sustainable raw materials.
What does it mean for West Paw to be a Certified B Corporation?
In 2013, West Paw joined over 2,500 companies from around the world to become a certified B Corp. B Corp’s aim for a more balanced “triple bottom line”—measuring success not just by profit, but how we treat our people and planet. Certified by the non-profit B Lab, B Corps hold an above-and-beyond commitment to healthier employees, sustainable practices, transparency, and accountability.
B Corp certifications communicate to our retailers and our customers that we seek to be a transformative business leader that unleashes our people’s greatest talents to create amazing pet products.