Redbarn Raises the Bar
The owners of Redbarn Pet Products emphasize an ambitious culture of innovation, development and growth, while not losing sight of the value of their employees.
Could the people who run Redbarn be any tougher on themselves?
The Long Beach, Calif.-based company manufactures more than 350 products in the dog and cat treat category and provides merchandise to over 9,200 retail stores across the country. On top of that, Redbarn Pet Products developed a solid reputation for producing high-quality products, as well as providing a strong level of retail and consumer support.
By virtually all industry standards, it is a company on the rise in many of the most competitive segments of the pet care industry. And that is no easy task.
But are the owners content?
“Are we successful?” asks Jeff Baikie and Howard Bloxam, the co-owners of the company, founded in Canada in 1996. “That depends on your definition of success. We still think we have a long way to go before we consider ourselves successful. We are proud that we have developed a company that provides jobs for over 400 people and are content in the fact that we have created an environment where people enjoy coming to work each and every day. However, being content doesn’t mean we should be complacent; there are always areas we can improve on and continue to grow.
“We try to empower our people with confidence and knowledge and ask them to make decisions as if it were their own company and, most importantly, have fun doing it.”
Taken from a different angle, are they happy with Redbarn’s status in the industry now? “We are not displeased,” they note. “But, you can never rest on your past accomplishments. As a business, if you are not growing, you are dying and we must continue to be a leader in innovation and product development. We still have goals that we want to achieve, but we are confident that with the team we have in place and our basic business principles we will be able to accomplish them.”
Those plans include adding products on a regular basis. According to Rashell Cooper, Redbarn’s marketing director, the company’s game plan is to add a minimum of six products every year, including creating new items for its cat product line, which was first introduced in 2013. The company offers such items as bully sticks, rolled dog food, canned food for dogs and cats, natural chews and natural bones.
“We have built this company through an amazing and very professional sales team,” she says. “On top of that, we study the competition and we make sure that we are the best in the market. It is all about quality assurance. We have three labs that work very hard making sure we offer the best quality products on the market to our retailer partners and their consumers.
“Our strategy is to build trust through the quality of our product and create a bond with consumers that we are a trusted manufacturer. The retailer benefits by getting a loyal customer who is comfortable with our products and trusts us.”
Allison Arcos, Redbarn’s media marketing manager, says that as consumers become more knowledgeable about products for their pets, they are looking for healthier items. “It is very clear from what we see that consumers want grain-free products and they want products that are not processed with artificial chemicals, preservatives or flavors,” she says.
Adds Cooper: “Many of our products are all natural with no preservatives or colors. They are made at our own plants either in the United States (Kansas) or in South America (Paraguay). We have processes in place that ensure we have the quality products on the shelves that bear the Redbarn name, and consumers are comfortable with that.”
The company, which has about 400 employees scattered around its various locations, is always ready to help its retail partners merchandise its line. Redbarn offers a number of promotional tools for retailers, including display racks, shelf talkers and gondola signs. The company also offers educational brochures, and its sales team is prepared to assist retailers with cross-merchandising tips and in-store demos that spur more interest in the brand. Arcos says that Redbarn is very active on Facebook and Instagram and also offers digital coupons to build awareness.
Perhaps Redbarn’s corporate philosophy and desire to help its retail partners and consumers come from its humble beginnings. Baikie and Bloxam, who met as teammates on a youth hockey team, founded the company in Montreal before moving to southern California in 1998. They note that it was very difficult getting the company off the ground at the start, plagued by cash flow issues and finding the financing needed to grow.
“Most growing business are always short of cash, and we were no exception,” they say. “Unfortunately, for the most part, banks are only willing to lend you money when you no longer need it. We were fortunate enough to develop some great relationships with key suppliers that gave us extended terms, and they acted as interim banks and helped finance our growth.”
The first product offered was the premium rolled food. It was quickly followed by the bully stick, and with demand growing, the partners purchased a factory in Paraguay to increase its capabilities in 2004. Six years later, they opened another plant in Great Bend, Kan., as sales and demand continued to increase.
Future plans seem set as well. Cooper says that the company is keeping an eye on human trends and how they can cross over to the pet world. “The way we see consumer behavior is that they think, ‘if they can live a more healthy lifestyle, why can’t my pet?’” she says. “It will trickle from human to pet care, and that should result in more sales for us and our retail partners.”
Baikie and Bloxam take a little different angle on the future. “Business is not complicated, and we try to keep things simple with these three fundamental philosophies,” they note. “One is to have fun, another is to always do the right thing, and also to treat people the way you would like to be treated.”
With the emphasis on keeping the pipeline full of new and innovative products and a packaging redesign that was started last year, they seem set for a bold future.
“We want to continue growing our brand and make sure we are looking after our customers,” they add. “We know it’s an old adage, but we preach it day in and day out. Our customers sign our checks and we must make sure they are always our No. 1 priority.”