Keeping Up with the Joneses
Darren Jones, vice president of research and development for Jones Natural Chews, discusses the company's latest introductions and why it chose to bring back its very first dog product.
Pet Business: Jones Natural Chews is a family business that has been in the industry for quite some time. Tell us a little about how the company and its history.
Darren Jones: I’m the sixth generation of meat processors, so we came from the meat processing side of things. We also have sausage manufacturing in our background. We came to doing treats for dogs as a kind of a side deal in our retail store.
We’ve been making [all-natural, U.S.-made meat] products for dogs for years—starting in the 1970s and before—but we didn’t start selling it at retail until the 1980s.
PB: We are just all coming off of Global Pet Expo, where you debuted new products. Can you tell us about them? What was the inspiration behind the development of those products?
Jones: There is a need for filled bones, and people have been asking for them from us. I wanted to do one that was unique to our industry—one that I would want to feed to my dog. So that’s why I came up with the beef-filled bone we produce. The Bandit’s Bone has beef, molasses and an anti-oxidant in it. Those three ingredients are all that’s in it. Considering the benefits of those ingredients together, along with the way we manufacture them, it has got to be the toughest product out there for the dog to get out of the bone—meaning hours more entertainment for the dog. It will keep a dog occupied for a long time.
The Jampacked Jawzers chicken-filled bone is a good product, as well, and we’ve brought back the first product we ever made—Chuck Sticks [all-natural chews from the chuck section of the cattle]. It was the first treat we ever made for dogs. We discontinued it awhile ago, but brought it back because people were asking for it.
The other product we’re manufacturing is the Wheezer Stick—it’s made of weasand meat.
PB: You also debuted some new packaging recently. Can you tell us about that?
Jones: We did a redesign of our standup pouches. We still have our colors, but we wanted to soften them up with some naturals [hues]. All of our materials will eventually be changed to that.
PB: What consumer trends are driving sales these days? Are people still willing to spend a little to give their pets something special, particularly something all-natural and made in the U.S.?
Jones: Since we’ve been natural from the very beginning, it’s not a trend for us. Some of the other folks have come up and changed who they are as a result of the trend. We haven’t done that. We’ve been natural from the beginning. What we are seeing is that it is gaining in momentum and popularity. As you know, the shift happened years ago, but it seems to have continued down that path.
And made-in-USA [products] seem to be resonating even still. It was big a couple of years ago, but it continues to resonate.
The education level [of the retailer] about products made in the U.S.A. seems also to really resonate with a lot of folks. Retailers should know where the sources of the raw material in products came from. I personally think that knowing a product’s source and that it is made in U.S. helps sales.