Built for Success
Tuffy's Pet Foods general manager Jon Ebeling and sales manager Dan Schmitz discuss how a new production facility will contribute to the company's efficiency, product safety and growth.
Pet Business: Tell us about the new production facility that Tuffy’s Pet Foods is opening at the beginning of 2015?
Tuffy’s Pet Foods: We are building a state-of-the-art pet food processing facility. The facility will include the most advanced extrusion, drying, coating, cooling and packaging equipment. The facility is designed with food safety, efficiency and flexibility as the guiding forces.
The new production facility and warehouse addition will be 180,000 square feet and is an extension of our current facility in Perham, Minn. Of that space, 130,000 square feet will be dedicated to processing and packaging. This facility will produce dry dog and cat food for all of the Tuffy’s labels and our current co-packer partners. Our soft, moist treats will continue to be produced in our current plant.
Tuffy’s has been in the pet food business for over 50 years, and many changes have taken place over that time. Our current plant has served us well, but we feel the decision to build this facility makes us a much stronger player in this rapidly growing industry. Our super premium labels—NutriSource, Pure Vita, Natural Planet Organics, and Natural Planet—have grown to new heights, and our ownership’s commitment to these brands and the co-packing business is unmatched.
PB: How will the new production facility contribute to a high level of product quality and safety?
Tuffy’s: We have utilized both industry and internal experts to ensure a food-safe design. The production areas are all compartmentalized to provide physical separation of production processes between pre- and post-kill operations. Personnel will only be allowed to access the area that they work in.
With the recent recalls over the past couple years, we have cut no corners in this area. Food safety has always been Tuffy’s number-one priority, and our track record has proven this. With this new facility, there will not be a more efficient plant that recognizes food safety.
PB: How does Tuffy’s Pet Foods ingredients-sourcing practices ensure that you are producing reliable products?
Tuffy’s: We use a rigorous program to qualify suppliers. All potential suppliers must meet our stringent requirements and be approved by our quality-control manager before we will accept product from them. Once the ingredients arrive at Tuffy’s, there is additional testing of every ingredient before we begin the manufacturing process. By being in business for 50-plus years, we have developed unbelievable partnerships with our vendors. Not only does this give our customers peace of mind that they are getting the best ingredients, but also Tuffy’s is buying these ingredients at the best available prices. Many of these ingredients are sourced locally by area farmers, ensuring quality and consistency. All of these attributes are passed along to our customers supplying the best product possible.
PB: How does being a family-owned business make Tuffy’s a good partner for independent pet specialty retailers?
Tuffy’s: While the temptation of large companies and investment firms are constantly present, our family ownership has committed to remain privately held. Tuffy’s has also held to the commitment of not selling to mass retailers and remain selling only to family-owned companies. As different classes of trade are becoming larger players in the pet food market, it opens other opportunities, and by avoiding the large mass retailers Tuffy’s has entered these different classes of trade. This give our brands additional recognition without the discounting that comes with the mass channel.The independents have been very critical in the growth of our labels, and we have held true to our word by not selling to the large pet specialty retailers, such as Petco and PetSmart, or other large players in pet food such as Wal-Mart, Target and Tractor Supply, to name a few.