Sojos co-owner Maggie Johnson shares the simple secret to the company's continued success and why its products stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Pet Business: Tell us about your products and the latest introductions to your portfolio of all-natural pre-mix foods?
Maggie Johnson: Sojos makes pet foods that contain gently dehydrated, human-quality ingredients like fruits, nuts, veggies and herbs—and then we add raw meat, which we freeze-dry ourselves. We also have recipes without meat, so the customer can select their own protein source. All of our recipes are grain free, except our original recipe, which contains top-of-the-barrel heart healthy grains like oats and rye flakes. Our newest addition to the mix is our Complete Cat Food, which is grain free and made with freeze-dried raw turkey.
PB: Pet owners—and, of course, retailers—are increasingly interested in the process by which pet foods are made and sourced. Give us a little behind-the-scenes peek into how your products are made.
Johnson: We make all our products right in Minneapolis at our own facility. This gives us the unique advantage of being able to oversee quality control and make fresh products daily. We even freeze-dry our own meat. We source human-grade ingredients and use only certified food-grade suppliers.
PB: What inspires innovation at Sojos—whether that’s new products or new flavors? Where do your ideas come from?
Johnson: We know when it’s time to come out with a new product because we have a close ear to the consumer. We take to heart the ideas and feedback storeowners and customers share with us. Much of our inspiration comes from a simple common-sense approach to health and well-being. We are passionately uncomplicated. Our products are simple, easy to grasp and purposeful.
PB: The market is being flooded with brands boasting all-natural products. What sets your products apart in that sea of pet foods?
Johnson: We’ve been around since 1985, so we’ve been around to see the natural products sector explode over the years. Our biggest differentiator is that we offer a shelf-stable raw diet, and it’s a diet made up of real food. No freezer required. No over-processed ingredients. Just add water. It’s simple. We also strive to be as simple, straight-forward and transparent as possible to stand out in a sea of choices.
PB: What advice can you give to retailers who are trying to navigate through the many food options to build a great pet food assortment for their stores? What do they need to look for?
Johnson: Retailers need to offer customers unique products that can’t be found in big-box retailers, backed by solid customer service and education. Independent retailers can better educate consumers directly and help them consider what they are putting in the pet food dish, why it matters, and how they can maximize the value of their dollar with unique and healthy products.
PB: Where do you see Sojos in five years? What can your customers expect to see from the company?
Johnson: If our current rate of growth is any sort of crystal ball, I would imagine that in five years time, Sojos will be one of the leading pet foods in the natural sector. But we won’t be undergoing face-lifts or making any drastic changes to the way we do business.