A Family Tradition
Tom Nieman, owner of Fromm Family Foods, discusses how this family-owned company has been committed to innovating the pet food category for more than half a century.
PET BUSINESS: How has the pet food category evolved since Fromm started selling premium pet food in 1949?
TOM NIEMAN: The pet food category has evolved quite dramatically since 1949, and Fromm is proud to be considered an important innovator in the industry. Fromm’s work in canine health led to the development of the first commercially available canine and feline distemper vaccines in 1939; this product helped changed the way people related to their dogs and cats. In 1949, Fromm introduced the first complete and balanced dog food that combined fresh meat and cereal into a dry kibble form that is still so popular today. Continuing our commitment to innovation, in 1986, Fromm pioneered the use of natural preservatives, utilizing mixed tocopherols as a natural antioxidant to preserve fats and oils in pet food.
Today, pets are truly considered to be members of the family by many pet parents. The special relationship that has developed between pets and people has helped generate interest in the best nutrition, the best selection and the best variety for super premium pet food. Fromm continues to evolve our line of dog and cat foods to meet the discriminating tastes of the pet and their “parent.”
We believe the evolution will continue with the advent of the digital age and social media. Pet parents are very involved in the wellbeing of their furry family members. They are more informed because they care more about the quality of foods they feed and the brands they support.
PB: For more than 100 years and five generations, Fromm has been a family-owned company. What does this say about the company, and what does it mean to your retail partners and consumers?
NIEMAN: Above all, our five generations of family ownership demonstrates the longstanding commitment and true passion we have for this business. It is a unique privilege to be a part of something your grandparents and great-grandparents created. It is also an amazing responsibility to continue their legacy of creating quality products that meet the needs of our customers. As a family company, we focus on what’s right for the pet and our brand; we’ve been doing that since 1904—it is a family tradition.
We are also very committed to establishing and maintaining strong, long-term relationships with our business partners. It is how the Fromm family does business. We are committed to our vendors, our suppliers and most importantly our retail partners. Fromm Family’s commitment to family-owned retailers has been a part of our heritage and will be a part of our future. Staying committed to our partners means a lot to our independent and family-owned retailers. Staying true to our course, whether that is in the way we formulate our food or foster our business partnerships has helped us succeed for five generations.
PB: In 2010, Fromm opened a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Columbus, Wis. How has the new facility improved the company, and how has it affected the company’s existing facility in Mequon, Wis.?
NIEMAN: Before the new plant was built in Columbus, Wis., all manufacturing was done in our original plant in Mequon. Built in 1925, the original plant’s purpose was to produce rations to feed the Fromm Bros. Nieman fox herds. The early 60s were very challenging for Fromm, given limited financial resources and the location of the plant in a rapidly developing suburban community. With practical, resourceful and imaginative engineering, we were able to retrofit the process into the existing footprint with enough production capacity to build the business to sufficient size to renovate and add on to the Columbus facility.
Opening our Columbus facility was very important for us to continue meeting the increasing demand for our food. The Columbus facility and surrounding land area allows us to continually expand to meet the growing needs of our brand. In fact, the day we cut the ribbon on the new facility, we broke ground on another warehouse. Today, we are making more additions and improvements, allowing us to continue growing.
The Mequon facility continues to have some manufacturing and is now a hub for research and development, as well as housing all the corporate offices, including customer service.
PB: Product quality and safety is a critical topic in the pet food category. How does Fromm go about ensuring the quality and safety of its food products?
NIEMAN: Quality and safety are one of the foundations upon which the Fromm brands are built. We have numerous steps throughout our manufacturing process to ensure quality of the ingredients, proper processing and, in the end, a quality product. One of our key steps includes taking multiple product samples from each batch and testing then in our on-site lab and sending them to an outside accredited lab for evaluation. No products are shipped from Fromm without going through this dual testing procedure.
PB: What are the hottest trends in the pet food category? How is Fromm responding to these trends?
Nieman: Some of the hottest trends call for variety and quality ingredients in pet food. Our Four-Star Nutritionals line answers this call with a series of artisan recipes designed to be interchangeable, providing variety with every meal. Within the Four-Star line we are also able to meet the demands for other trends. For example, grain-free continues to be a demand from customers along with omitting certain ingredients like chicken. With our Four-Star line, we offer five unique grain-free recipes for dogs and three for cats. This spring, we introduced our grain-free, chicken-free, potato-free Pork & Peas recipe for dogs which is a tropical take on Polynesian cuisine using pork, peas and tropical ingredients like pineapple, mango, melon and coconut oil.
To satisfy our feline friends we’ve also added variety to our Grain Free Four-Star cat offering with TunaChovey and Game Bird recipes.
PB: What does the future hold for pet food sales in pet stores, as well as Fromm as a company?
NIEMAN: We see a very bright future, both for the industry and for our company. With more informed customers, you are going to see higher-quality foods in the market. The demand for natural and holistic food positions independent retailers well, allowing them to become more hands-on experts helping pet parents find the best food for their dogs and cats. For us, this means continuing to support the independent retailers, striving to keep safety and quality standards high, and enjoying the work we do as a family. Consumers expect to find high quality products at high quality retailers. As long as we meet their expectations we are confident the future is bright our products and our company.