A Wholesome Approach to Rawhide
John Bosserman, sales and marketing manager for Wholesome Hide, discusses his company’s commitment to producing only the highest quality products using USA-sourced beef hide.
Pet Business: Tell us about Wholesome Hide. How did the company get started? What inspired you to get into the dog chews business?
John Bosserman: Wholesome Hide started in 2008 when Steve Duensing bought out his partners of Southside Pet Products in Chicago and changed the name to Wholesome Hide, Inc. Prior to that, Steve was the plant manager for Harper Leather, which was the largest rawhide dog chew manufacturer in the world. He has a total of 26 years experience producing rawhide chews.
Steve has a background in sheet metal and equipment repair and maintenance. Manufacturing dog chews borrows from that experience in that it is taking flat sheets of material and forming them into useful products. It’s also rewarding to produce a product that contributes to the health and well-being of pets.
PB: How does your approach set you apart from other rawhide companies?
Bosserman: We put a strong emphasis on producing the highest quality products using USA-sourced beef hide and other ingredients. One hundred percent of our products are made and sourced in the USA. That gives our customers peace of mind knowing that Wholesome Hide rawhide treats are not overly processed and are healthier for dogs.
Rawhide manufacturing is not a heavily regulated industry. It’s not uncommon for companies that sell rawhide chews to buy some or all of their products from Mexico or other countries and label them “Made in USA” or “Made in America.” This allows them to offer their products at a lower price. But it’s not what the consumer wants or is expecting. That practice is also potentially dangerous, as countries producing rawhide in tropical climates don’t have a good track record when it comes to preventing salmonella outbreaks.
PB: Your products are certified Made in the USA. Why is this an important feature to you? Why should it be important to retailers?
Bosserman: We can say that our products are made in the USA all we want. At some point, it just becomes another marketing claim. That’s especially true when other companies say the same thing and may blend import product with genuine USA product. We wanted an independent third party to make that claim for us.
Made in USA Certified audits our purchase and production records and talks to our suppliers to make sure our claims are accurate. That’s important for retailers because product sourcing is so confusing these days, and yet extremely important to consumers. This is Wholesome Hide’s way to assure them that every single rawhide treat is, in fact, made and sourced in the USA.
PB: What are some of the newest and most popular products in the Wholesome Hide family? What makes these products stand out in the marketplace?
Bosserman: We have 26 years of rawhide manufacturing experience. If it can be made from rawhide, we’ve probably made it. That’s why we’re focusing on introducing unique products that would be difficult to make anywhere else.
We’re seeing a lot of growth in the “crunchy” market. These treats consist of ground rawhide that is extruded into shapes and dried. We’re also blending the rawhide with dried vegetables, fruit, nutraceuticals and even dried duck, chicken, pork and bison. The unique shapes and flavor combinations are going over very well at the retail level.
PB: Beyond offering retailers a lineup of high-quality products, how does Wholesome Hide help retailers drive sales in the rawhide category? What types of sales and marketing support do you offer?
Bosserman: We advertise in trade publications, such as Pet Business, to promote the uniqueness of our product. We also do some consumer advertising to build brand awareness at the user level. We offer promotions on new product introductions and trade show specials and offer retailers point-of-purchase materials, shelf-talkers and signage.
PB: What is your opinion of the rawhide category overall? What are the challenges and opportunities facing pet stores in this category today?
Bosserman: One of the biggest challenges, aside from sourcing issues, is the ongoing perception that rawhide is somehow bad for dogs. An online search for rawhide will reveal many conflicting claims. Some are downright false or may apply to imported rawhide chews, but not to ours. For instance, our rawhide treats do not expand in a dog’s stomach. They are not made using arsenic or formaldehyde. And our treats are not “painted” white.
We produce our chews with fresh, thick rawhide. We do not add any preservatives, whitening agents or chemicals to add weight to the product, just fresh USA beefhide. Dogs have been gnawing on hide for thousands of years and many veterinarians recommend it to keep dogs’ teeth and gums healthy. Rawhide is also naturally high in protein and low in calories.
There’s been a movement toward chews that contain no rawhide and are supposed to be healthier. The ingredients list of those products will typically show several chemicals added as flavor enhancers and preservatives. Wholesome Hide essentially has one ingredient—fresh USA beef hide.
PB: What does the future hold for Wholesome Hide and the rawhide category overall?
Bosserman: We feel that the category will grow as more consumers move away from imported treats, rawhide in particular. We also see that consumers seem to be embracing the fact that rawhide can be a good and healthy treat for their dogs.