Sales manager Dan Schmitz discusses how Tuffy's Pet Foods, the makers of NutriSource, Pure Vita, Natural Planet and Natural Planet Organics, is building on 50 years of experience to blaze new trails in pet food.
Pet Business: How has Tuffy’s Pet Foods evolved since it got into the pet food business?
Dan Schmitz: Tuffy’s is celebrating our 50th year of producing pet food. Our super-premium line, NutriSource, is also celebrating its 10th year. During those 10 years, we have grown into a national company, as we are in all 50 states—as well as all of Canada—and we have also gone international with our four super-premium labels.
PB: Tuffy’s Pet Foods offers food products under a variety of brands, including Nutri Source, Pure Vita, Natural Planet and Natural Planet Organics. What sets your various brands apart from one another?
Schmitz: Our NutriSource line is certainly our “mainstream line” and is the broadest, as we have dry and canned diets for both dogs and cats, as well as soft/moist treats and baked biscuits for dogs. We also have grain-free products in our NutriSource lineup. These are all-natural, meat-first products that contain our exclusive Good4Life mineral pack.
Our Pure Vita line is our true single-source protein line and is also a holistic food fortified with fruits and vegetables. This is also our fastest-growing line, and we attribute this to the industry trend in super-premium pet food. We have expanded this line into dry and canned for both dogs and cats. Our dry dog diets are available in both grain-based and grain-free recipes. Our treat line includes functional, soft/moist treats, as well as a freeze-dried product. Our most recent product in the Pure Vita lineup is an all-natural salmon fillet for both dogs and cats. This product was just introduced at last month’s Global Pet Expo. It is a cooked salmon fillet intended to be fed as a topper to our dry kibble.
Our Natural Planet Organic line consists of two certified-organic diets for dogs. One is a chicken-based product, and our newest introduction is a turkey-based product. Both are certified by Oregon Tilth. We also offer an organic cat food that is chicken-based and certified by Oregon Tilth. Canned offerings for cats and dogs, as well as soft/moist treats, complete our Natural Planet Organic lineup, all of which is certified organic. In addition, all of the dry diets come in an earth-friendly, compostable bag that is manufactured in the USA.
Our newest line is Natural Planet, which comprises diets that contain select organic ingredients, as well as select non-GMO ingredients. Like all of our dry products, these diets contain our exclusive Good4Life mineral pack. We currently offer two exotic dry formulas for dogs. We have a rabbit-and-salmon-based product, and a duck-and-whitefish-based product. Both of these diets are grain- and gluten-free products and come in a very attractive, re-closeable poly bag.
PB: What are some of the most important trends in the pet food category? How can retailers make the most of these trends?
Schmitz: Certainly, the hottest topic now continues to be grain-free products. However, there are other trends that we are addressing, such as exotic-protein sources, single-protein sources and limited-ingredient diets. The treat business is also an ever-expanding segment; and with the recent China jerky scare, the need for domestic treats is at an all-time high.
PB: Tuffy’s Pet Foods recently introduced Wild Salmon varieties for dogs and cats to its Pure Vita line, as well as two new grain-free recipes to its Nutri Source line. Tell us about the new products and what sets them apart from other products on the market, including your established formulas.
Schmitz: Our Pure Vita Salmon Fillets are one of our two exciting product introductions at Global Pet Expo. This is a unique and cutting-edge offering—this type of product is not something you see everywhere. We have done several test feedings and found that even finicky cats go wild over the product, and since it is an actual salmon fillet, it is a very healthy product for both dogs and cats. The excitement level we received at Global Pet Expo was outstanding, and our regional sales reps throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as our international partners, are raving over this product.
Our NutriSource Grain Free cat food is also very exciting for our group and was received very well by our customer base at Global Pet Expo. With the growing segment in grain-free products, we filled a void by adding this to our NutriSource dry cat food lineup. All of the cat foods that we manufacture at Tuffy’s Pet Foods have been known for their incredible palatability. We are certain that this food will be the same when it comes to this very important factor. These grain-free products come with fish-based protein sources [Ocean Select], including trout, whitefish and salmon, and meat-based protein sources [Country Select], including chicken, duck and turkey. We have also addressed the feline obesity issue by adding a fat-burning ingredient to these diets. Carniking, a trusted source of L-carnitine, is in both formulas.
PB: Are there any common mistakes that you see small, independent pet retailers make in the food category? How can they avoid or overcome these mistakes?
Schmitz: Small retailers are sometimes tempted to support new foods from companies offering “free goods” or “dollars off.” A company such as ours, on the other hand, offers exceptional sales support through in-store demonstrations, sales training, event planning and support, customer loyalty programs, sample programs and monthly promotions. In the long run, service prevails and will ultimately result in more profits for retailers. The temptations of an easy sell because of price never matures into brand building.
PB: What does the future hold for Tuffy’s Pet Foods, and the super-premium pet food category overall?
Schmitz: We are experiencing very exciting times at Tuffy’s Pet foods, not only because of a consistent sales growth pattern that is amazing, but also because we are constructing a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Perham, Minn. This will be the very safest pet food facility possible and will give us needed additional capacity. There is more news to come on this subject.
We are also very blessed to remain a privately held company under family ownership. In today’s ever-changing environment, with large investment companies taking over smaller companies, our ownership has maintained the family control and upheld family values. This trickles down to all of our employees, resulting in the production of the best, safest pet foods manufactured today.