A Perfect Union
WellPet prides itself not only on making the healthiest natural products for pets, but also on supporting specialty retailers, whom they consider the backbone of the industry.
In 1926, at the A. Hubbard and Sons bakery in Gloucester, Mass., a local sailor threw one of the bakery’s sea biscuits to his dog and Old Mother Hubbard (OMH) dog biscuits were born.
Flash forward to the 90s, when Jim Scott, Jr. took the helm of OMH. Scott’s dog Boomer developed cancer, so he and his team of animal nutrition experts, veterinarians and scientists set out to develop a truly natural brand of food that would aid in his dog’s wellbeing. The result was Wellness, a pioneering natural brand that contains only whole foods, with no wheat, corn, soy, or added artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. And to this day Boomer is happy and healthy.
Two years ago, the Berwind Corporation, a fifth-generation family-owned company with an entrepreneurial spirit, purchased Old Mother Hubbard/Wellness. Berwind already owned Eagle Pack/Holistic Select, a food manufacturer with a strong history of creating high-quality, natural food for pets and a rich heritage of nourishing Alaskan sled dogs through the grueling Iditarod race. When the two companies united, WellPet was born, embracing a company promise of “doing whatever it takes to make the healthiest natural products for the pets that depend on us.”
A lot of rigor goes into product development at WellPet. “We start by determining a consumer need, which means identifying that the food is something that is truly going to help the pet,” says Mark Shuster, the company’s vice president of marketing. “Pets depend on us, and we want our consumers to have confidence in the fact that we’ve created innovative products that follow the strictest quality standards. We want them to know they can trust us.”
This attention to quality goes from source to bowl and begins with the ingredients. “What we put on the bag is what is in the bag,” says Shuster. “And when we put a specific ingredient in a product, it’s only in levels that are meaningful. For example, if the food contains glucosamine, it is at a level that is going to be helpful for the pet.”
The company’s high standards extend beyond the ingredients to where the products are manufactured and what testing procedures are used. WellPet uses a human-food auditing firm and mandates all of their suppliers to have a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) program. “This is far beyond what is expected or required in our industry,” says Shuster.
Supporting Specialty Retailers
WellPet prides itself on being able to build strong partnerships with specialty retailers. “This takes shape in many ways,” explains Shuster. “One way is with our sales force, which is the largest dedicated to the pet specialty channel. This means that we are out there, not only to sell, but to listen and support. We really help educate retailers about quality nutrition.”
In addition, WellPet’s comprehensive educational program includes DVDs and online training, which appeals to the younger, more tech-savvy sales associates. There is also a veterinarian on staff to answer questions, as well as a plethora of in-store support materials available to educate consumers.
“On one end, we are very consumer-centric, as it relates to providing innovative, quality products that have the best natural ingredients and are well-tested,” says Shuster. “On the other side, there is the recognition that our retailer partners are important, and our goal is to make sure we are providing them with the support that they need to succeed.”
Right now, a lot is going on at WellPet. Over the past two years, based upon extensive consumer research, the company has clearly positioned its four brands, expanded product lines and enhanced packaging. Last fall, it re-launched the Holistic Select line. In the first half of this year, the company launched Wellness Stews and re-launched Eagle Pack.
“Later this year we are planning to re-launch the Old Mother Hubbard brand, with a packaging re-fresh and some new innovative products,” says Shuster. “There’s a lot going on, and it’s all very exciting.”