The business didn’t start in pet food; owner Pete Moolhuizen got an idea to breed rabbits for meat for high-end restaurants on a trip to Europe. There he saw rabbit breeders doing well in that trade, so when he got back to the US, he started raising rabbits on their farm in Western Michigan. The business was doing well, and then one day he got a call from a dog owner asking what they did with the rabbit heads and feet, the parts that weren’t used by restaurants. At that time, they were just throwing them away. The dog owner offered to buy the leftover parts, word spread, and before long the business was offering a variety of meats strictly to pet owners. They had to stop raising their own rabbits because the demands of the business didn’t allow time to properly care for the animals.
Taylor Ponds sells through a network of distributors and their foods are strictly one-species per package, something that anyone who owns a dog with multiple allergies will appreciate. They are not complete foods in and of themselves, but can be fed as part of a raw diet along with other nutrients. Except for these shows, the company relies on their distributors, word of mouth and their website for promotion.
The Taylor Ponds website lists 10 different species of animal meat available, including rabbit, deer, duck, goat and fish. All meat is from US farms, except for some venison that is hunted. Their display at the dog show included a number of dehydrated treats including chicken and rabbit feet and beef trachea. The Moolhuizens found the serious dog people at the shows contained a higher proportion of raw feeders than the more pet-centric attendees at the Pet Expo. Barb told me she was surprised by requests for liver, which they did not bring to the show. They plan to add more events to their marketing plan, next stop will be the Detroit Kennel Club show in March.
MediaPost reports that Purina’s Pro Plan brand is sponsoring a contest where consumers can win pet food coupons while voting to select which rescued pet and its owner will win a trip to the National Dog Show as well as a food donation to the shelter that adopted out that pet.
The Rally to Rescue program launched in 2005 and actively supports rescue events throughout the year; I’ve seen a number of pop-up tents with their logo donated to rescue groups at Pet Awareness events. This support direct to groups doing the hands-on work of pet rescue and re-homing is the most effective way to actually benefit homeless pets and rescue workers.
Purina is one of a number of pet food and product companies that promotes its company through support of rescue organizations and events; MediaPost cites both Frontline and Pedigree. As previously noted in this blog, a German Pedigree rescue promotion benefited not only homeless pets, but Pedigree sales in that country.
Primo Pads was a vendor at the Ann Arbor Kennel Club shows July 4th weekend, so I stopped by to purchase a pad for one of my dogs and exchange one that had been chewed. I decided to ask the business owner, Gary Berding, how he got into the business of making these durable, high density foam crate pads. It was quite a tale! After being hit with a severe case of blood poisoning which landed him out of commission for nearly a year, he found himself virtually penniless. While visiting family, he went to a flea market and noticed the busiest booth in the place was selling foam padding. The sellers were the parents of the owner of a foam manufacturing plant who were helping him unload excess product. The material was waterproof, non-toxic, and high density and was produced in large sheets. Within a couple weeks, Gary had a warehouse full of foam and needed to find customers. Initially he sold the foam for various athletic and household uses. Someone from a local kennel club happened to see his booth at a sports show suggested the foam would be great for dog beds and arranged to get Gary a booth at their show. The booth sold out twice the first day and he’s never looked back, focusing exclusively on the dog owner market since that time.
Primo Pads focuses on customer service, offers a money-back guarantee, and stays attentive to customer comments to keep improving the products. Upgrades include the addition of a heat sealed tough vinyl fabric covering and standardizing density so all mats are suitable for heavy dogs. Currently marketing efforts include booths at dog shows, a tri-fold b/w brochure, a website and word of mouth. Pads are sized for all common crate sizes and custom sizes are available by special order.
I spent last weekend at the Midland Michigan Kennel Club dog shows. These are fairly small shows with a limited number of vendors, but it’s the second all breed show I’ve attended in the past month where Canidae had a booth. This is a brand I’ve been familiar with as a holistic, high quality dog food and cat food (Felidae), but not one widely used among dog show people. I saw it as almost a cult brand popular with people who were dog “foodies” who subscribe to Whole Dog Journal. Canidae is making a deliberate effort to target show people this year, reaching out with fairly large displays, sampling, and coupons. The representative I talked to mentioned that the company recognized how influential breeders could be and decided to reach out to them. Canidae offers a breeder/multi pet discount program which allows people with multiple dogs who are also active in dog activities to get one bag of dog food free for every five purchased. I asked if they were going to get into sponsoring shows, as Eukanuba and Purina have done and was told they are considering it.
MediaPost reports that Purina and Oddcast have developed an application called Beggin Time which allows people to place themselves and a pet in a dance video which can in turn be emailed or “go viral” as we marketing folks like to say. The article refers to it as a Facebook app, but I could only request to be its friend from the Facebook side, I found it on the Beggin Strips website. You pick your own human and pet face and then they dance to the Beggin Time “Can’t Top This” song sung to the tune of “You Can’t Touch This.” It is indeed fun and I couldn’t resist sending it via the Facebook and email options to several friends.
As promised, I’m returning to my Detroit Kennel Club vendor interviews with a profile of Smucci custom pet beds. The owner/artist Debi Kahn was doing interior decorating when she got the idea for making beautiful furniture that doubled as pet furniture. She blogs about her DKC experience and includes some great photos from the event. Some of the inspiration came from her own pets; one of her cats likes to nap in the bowl shaped washbasins in her home, so she created wooden bowl beds for cats. Debi used some of her own photographs to create the fabric designs used in most of the beds; the photos are transferred to fabrics using a very high quality printing process that retains that photographic quality feel. The wooden bases for the beds have an artistic flair as well. Most have a high fashion modern art look, but one resembles a manger and the accompanying pillow is printed with a design based on a photograph of a slice of straw bale. Most of the beds unfortunately would probably not withstand the presence of a young Bull Terrier, but I’m sure many smaller and older pets would enjoy these artful comforts. Wonderful to see another person making pet furniture that fits in to a stylish decor.
The AKC announced today a promotion with Motel 6 which offers a 10% discount off stays at Motel 6 and Studio 6 motels. The official rules state that this is limited to one pet per room, which is the standard policy for Motel 6. I think it is actually one “small” pet, which my friend Lisa and I joked about incessantly the time we stayed at a Motel 6 on the way back from our national specialty in St Louis with 3 Bull Terriers ranging in size from 50 to 70 pounds. If they enforce the number of pets this isn’t going to be a great policy for people travelling to dog shows as they often take more than one, but it’s good to see a motel chain taking a pro-dog position by reducing rather than raising rates for people travelling with their dogs.
At last weekend’s Detroit Kennel Club show, I took some time Sunday morning to do another vendor review. Even though it appeared they sold less vendor space this year than last, I knew there was no way I’d get through the whole gamut, so I confined myself to one of the short sides of the hall. My interviews included Gretchen’s Creations, with interesting personalized plaster bas-relief artwork (including the option to incorporate cremains in the pieces), Sunbear’s Just Bones, who buys all their food ingredients at Kroger (not China), Smucci’s which makes astounding functional pet bed decor, and Lisa Welch Designs, a jewelry maker with lovely dog-themed designs. More to come!
MediaPost reports that Pedigree is re-purposing some of the ads shown on the Westminster Kennel Club broadcast through the DogTime media Sparky Media Center widget. Another Westminster advertiser, Toyota Venza is also participating with Sparky as are other leading pet brands. Although Pedigree was the sole dog food sponsor of Westminster, apparently the brand is willing to share space with at least one other dog food advertiser, Eukanuba, in the widget. The widget is an effective way to package a lot of advertising content in a compact space, and according to DogTime, generates engagement in the 3 minute per visitor range.
MediaPost notes a number of moves that Toyota is making to pomote the new Venza to dog owners. Toyota was the sole automotive sponsor of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show and has signed up to sponsor Cesar Milan’s Dog Whisperer in its fifth season. In previous seasons, Cesar drove Jeeps and other Chrysler products. Toyota plans to promote Vensa at dog-related events and websites and is following in the steps of other manufacturers, like GMC and Saab, in offering dog related vehicle accessories. Kurgo is mentioned as a partner for these products, although dog accessories are not currently mentioned on the Toyota website. I’ve never seen any of these attempts meet with great success, as the merchandise offered is frequently impractical and overpriced, but I will follow their efforts with interest. Since Honda has been a leader in the dog-friendly vehicle market, it’s interesting to see another Japanese manufacturer take this direction.