Something Old, Something New

Ainsworth Pet Nutrition marries a strong core business with new acquisitions and brand innovation to form a company that drives traffic and sales.


In recent years, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition has undergone a relatively quiet transition, adding to its portfolio through acquisitions and in-house brand development, while expanding its reach throughout the country. The company has supported this growth with augmented manufacturing capabilities and by building up its sales, marketing, and research and development departments. Now, with a still-growing family of branded pet foods and snacks, Ainsworth aims to share its recent success by driving traffic and sales in small pet shops across the country.

Those who don’t immediately recognize the Ainsworth name may know the company better as Dad’s Pet Care. The company announced its new name along with an expanded portfolio and a strategic restructuring of its operations and divisions this past fall.  The name, while new to the industry perhaps, has deep–rooted origins in the company–Dad’s was founded in 1933 by George Ainsworth Lang, Sr., and his father.

Ainsworth is well established in  the mass market with brands such as Rachael Ray Nutrish and Dad’s, under its Dad’s Pet Care Division. The company, however, is also funneling much of its energy into its pet specialty division, which comprises a bevy of ultra-premium brands that the company says are getting consumers to turn to their local pet shops for their pet food needs. 

“We’ve had a great response to our new Ainsworth Specialty Brands division,” says Chief Executive Officer Sean P. Lang, the great-great grandson of George Ainsworth Lang. “We’ve had strong distributor acceptance that will result in our products being available in more than 2,000 independent pet and farm/feed stores nationwide.”

The company’s pet specialty brands include VF Complete, the recently re-launched Enhance and The Source, and Back to Basics, a brand that Ainsworth has reformulated with real organ meat and will re-launch in March. The company has no plans to rest on those laurels. “We plan to continue to expand by making aggressive investments in growth and innovation over the months and years ahead,” Lang adds. “We are on track to double the size of our company by 2015.”

Among the things that are keeping the company on the fast track is its commitment to food safety. Lang says the industry is bound to magnify its focus on food safety in coming years as consumers become increasingly particular about the content of pet food. Ainsworth, he adds, is prepared for the scrutiny. “Safety is what Ainsworth Pet Nutrition does best,” he says. “We implement our food safety program with the same stringent requirements that you would find in a baby food production facility, and I’m not exaggerating about that.”

Mark Miller, director of Ainsworth Specialty Brands and Innovation, points out that the company manufactures all of its products in the U.S.–an attractive selling point for many American consumers–and the company has a tight rein on its supply chain.

“We make everything we sell,” Miller says.  “It enables us to more effectively trace all of our ingredients throughout the entire supply chain. Our food safety and ingredient inspection program is unsurpassed in the industry–it is our number-one priority.”

The supply chain is also the first step on the road to building a strong rapport with retailers, Lang adds. “Solid relationships start with a reliable supply chain,” he says.

The company prides itself on having fine-tuned its order fulfillment processes–having paid particular attention to smoothing out issues the company had with newly acquired brands. Lang says Ainsworth consistently supplies product “on time, every time.”

“This is ingrained in our culture, and we are bringing that capability and attitude to specialty retail,” he says.

While the company has an eye trained firmly on the future, the company is also secure in its current standing within the pet specialty market. “Many operators in the specialty category have a comfort level with us because they know we have no temptation to take our [specialty] brands to mass market,” he adds.

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