Inspired from the Inside, Out

In recent years company president Tony de Vos has led the way in creating a new Cardinal–more devoted to pets, people and the planet than ever.


Cardinal Pet Care has a long history–the company was founded in 1948, right after World War II, by a chemist and a salesmen. The two men were providing supplies to beauty salons in Los Angeles when they discovered a number of those salons were actually using Cardinal products to bathe dogs in their backrooms. So Cardinal worked with the beauticians to develop a line of grooming products specifically formulated for dogs, and Cardinal Pet Care was born.

Today Cardinal Pet Care, based in Azuza, Calif., is a market leader in the category and is renowned for pushing the envelope with new product concepts and ideas. Its product offerings have expanded beyond grooming products, and the company also offers food and treats. It has grown to span three buildings–a manufacturing facility and two distribution buildings, one of which is specifically for food products.

Pets, People & the Planet
The biggest recent development for Cardinal, however, has been its new tagline and the goals it represents–Devoted to pets, people and the planet. “I think that’s the biggest part of the new Cardinal, and we do call it ‘the new Cardinal’ in some of our sales meetings because we have changed so much in the last couple years,” says Rick Foster, vice president of sales at Cardinal Pet Care.

The tagline, in large part, reflects the company’s efforts to go “green” and its drive to reduce its impact on the planet. Cardinal’s move to be a more ecologically friendly company, however, also goes hand-in-hand with its mission to meet the various needs of consumers.

 “If you can’t get the person to buy the product for the pet, it won’t help,” says Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing at Cardinal.

Denzer and Foster agree that much of the credit for the changes belongs to Tony de Vos, the company president. “I think it was really Tony [who inspired the change], by wanting to invest in solar panels and make a big difference,” says Foster. “He’s always wanted to offer things that are friendly to the environment, even before their time.”

 “He really stepped out of the box during the recession, expanding our company and going green,” adds Denzer.

The first step Cardinal took to build a greener company was converting its manufacturing facility to run on 100-percent solar energy. Making that change inspired the company to rethink every step of the process–from the big things, like converting to solar power, to the small things, like switching to an office supply company that provides recycling bins for paper and ink cartridges. “When you start looking at yourself as a green company... it changes the way you think of things,” says Foster.

Cardinal is alo in the final stages of converting one of its distribution centers into a 100-percent green facility, and Denzer says she’s also working to find more eco-friendly product packaging. “We’re not only selling high-quality products for pet specialty, we’re also trying to make a difference to make it a better planet,” says Foster.

Creating and Innovating
The second step in creating the new Cardinal was debuting a number of new product lines, with more in the works. Each of the new lines is what Foster calls a “lifestyle brand.” Consumers are increasingly focused on their particular values, says Denzer. They no longer just want a pet shampoo; they want something that speaks to their interests and who they are as a consumer.

Cardinal has examined the various ways in which different customers interact with their pets and  has created brands designed to appeal to each of these different types of interactions.

For example, the Viva La Spa line is a boutique line with Parisian-styled packaging, marketed for the smaller dog whose owner actively works to pamper their pooch. In comparison, the company’s R+R line of first-aid and medicated products is designed to solve specific problems, from itchy skin to minor cuts and scratches. The line is marketed to appeal to people who just want a fast, effective solution to their pets’ problems.

The company also plans to debut several new lines at Global Pet Expo, in Orlando, Fla., this month, including a new grooming line called Furrever Devoted, based around the idea of pets as our “Furrever Friends,” and a new dry dog food line.

Cardinal has been in the dog food business for about eight years; it began by offering high calorie dog food rolls for active dogs. Dog trainers, who used the palatable food as an incentive during training, scooped the products up. Before long, trainers were requesting that Cardinal create a training treat–and Cardinal delivered, with the Pet Botanics Healthy Omega treats.

Now, it is creating a dry food with the same palatability as the original dog food rolls, but in a more convenient and portable form, since many agility dogs and trainers travel frequently with their pets.

Each new product comes with promotional materials. “We’ve got to think it all the way through,” says Foster. “We’ve got to make sure it pulls off the shelf and that we generate trials right away.”

For the Viva La Spa line, Cardinal created a unique and eye-catching merchandiser in the shape of the Eiffel Tower to display the products. It also provides pet retailers and groomers the versatility to merchandise other products they may want to draw attention to.

Merchandisers like these, says Denzer, are really an attraction for independent pet stores. ”It’s a point of differentiation, a promotional vehicle that helps [retailers] get customers excited about coming in to the store,” she says.

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