Building on a Heritage of Quality
John Howe, CEO of Manna Pro, discusses how his company continues to expand the diverse range of products it offers for nurturing animal health and enhancing the bonds between pets and their owners.
Pet Business: Tell us about Manna Pro’s history. How/when was the company started? How has it evolved?
John Howe: Manna Pro’s roots go back to the 1800s and include pioneers of the animal feed industry. These businesses were eventually purchased by Carnation to form its animal feed division, which was spun off as an independent Manna Pro in the mid-1980s.
Almost 20 years ago, Manna Pro focused on building a line of products to support the “backyard farmer,” a consumer who raises animals like horses, chickens and goats as a lifestyle choice, rather than as a primary means of income. We see these consumers as pet owners, with a desire for a broad, high-quality product line to care for their pets. Over the last several years, we have expanded through acquisition into the traditional dog and cat pet space with wellness products, grooming products and flea and tick products.
PB: What is Manna Pro’s mission as a pet product manufacturer? What sets the company apart from others in the pet industry?
Howe: Manna Pro’s mission is to be the market share leader in select companion and pet categories through innovative, high-quality, safe and trusted brands that nurture life and enhance our consumers’ connection with their animals. Our consumers view their animals as members of the family, and we want to provide them with products that are consistent with that vision.
PB: Last year, Manna Pro acquired several prominent pet industry brands, including Espree, PetzLife and Corta-Flx. What were some of the factors that made the acquired brands attractive to Manna Pro? How have they improved the company’s product portfolio?
Howe: These acquisitions have given us the opportunity to deliver Manna Pro’s heritage of quality, value and service to a whole new set of customers and consumers, in addition to the sizeable growth opportunities we saw with these brands in our current channels of trade.
The demand for high-quality companion animal products continues to grow, and these companies are leaders in areas that complemented our existing product lines and help customers with a fuller range of nutrition and health issues.
• Espree provides care and grooming products for dogs and cats, and fly control and grooming products for horses, all of which are growing business areas.
• PetzLife provides all-natural oral care products for dogs and cats that are veterinarian recommended and sold in more than 7,000 veterinarian offices. U.S. retail sales of pet oral care products are estimated to grow at an annual rate of approximately five percent, reaching nearly $1 billion by 2020.
• Corta-Flx manufactures equine joint supplements that are used to improve mobility for competition horses, such as racetrack, barrel racing and jumping horses, as well as to improve canine health and mobility. With its acquisition, we were able to add a brand new category with ulcer management products and enhance our supplement offerings.
PB: What does Manna Pro’s acquisition activity say about the company’s growth strategy? Do you expect to be active in this way moving forward?
Howe: We have made ten acquisitions in the past seven years. We expect to continue to be active in this way and are constantly looking for products that fit our strategic segments and are consistent with our high-quality, value-added positioning.
PB: What are some of the latest and greatest product introductions from Manna Pro? What are the key features of these products?
Howe: Espree is following the strong trends and growth in the human hair care market by developing a line of dry shampoos. Our initial launch is two of our strongest selling formulas—Puppy and Oatmeal Baking Soda.
Espree continues to lead the industry by making it easy to groom your pet with our alternative grooming solutions—Solution Wipes, Dry Baths, Waterless Baths, Solution Sprays like our new Oatmeal Baking Soda Spray, and Odor Eliminating Sprays and Colognes. New solutions to the grooming category include our new Allergy Relief Shampoo and Spray, our Extreme Odor Eliminator Shampoo and Spray, and our new Oil Therapy product line.
Espree also has a full line of effective flea and tick products, including shampoos for both cats and dogs, sprays, indoor carpet and bedding spray and yard sprays. We also have unique solutions such as our Flea and Tick Wipes, which were recently featured on the Today Show as one of the best new pest control products.
Nutri-Vet introduced two products that are unique to the calming and digestive/specialty category because of the high levels of actives in each product. Super Probiotics for Dogs offers 20 billion live organisms (probiotics) in each chewable tablet. Ten different probiotic strains offer a different benefit for the gut. These “friendly” bacteria promote long-term digestive and immunity health and helps with occasional abdominal discomfort. Pet Ease Extra Strength for Large Dogs provides a unique combination of calming ingredients that helps to ease dogs through stressful events like travel, grooming and storms.
PB: What kind of sales and marketing support does Manna Pro offer to pet stores? How does the company use these types of services to stand out in a very competitive marketplace?
Howe: Manna Pro holds product- and ingredient-focused educational seminars and offers category analysis, focusing on maximizing space to sales and, even more importantly, category space to sales. In addition, we work with many retailers regarding updating their shelf POS. We will also sit down and tailor promotions programs specific to each particular retailer (flyers, price reductions and other vehicles that drive sales).
A couple of specific programs are worth pointing out:
Grooming Salon Program: Espree is focused on helping retailers grow their sales and customer loyalty in their service salons by leading the industry with more than 60 innovative solution formulas and product and service training.
Breed Profile: Espree is the industry leader in teaching pet parents how to groom their pet through our breed profile located on our website. We have more than 100 breeds profiled with grooming instructions. We have over 300,000 pet parents annually visit the Espree grooming training.
PB: What does the future hold for Manna Pro? Do you have any new products/lines in development for 2018?
Howe: This spring, Manna will be launching the Espree dental line of natural and highly efficacious products, including sprays, gels, treats, water additive and wipes formulated for consumer use and grooming salons.
Nutri-Vet is enhancing its puppy and kitten milk replacer with Opti-Gut, formulated with natural ingredients for immune support, including probiotics. Opti-gut supports gut health from day one, and during times of stress, such as environmental changes. PB