Tasman's Natural Pet Rawhide
Ken Ludwick, manager of Tasman’s Natural Pet, explains how tight control over where and how the company’s raw materials are obtained enable it to reliably produce safe, high-quality rawhide chews.
Tell us about Tasman’s Natural Pet’s approach to producing high-quality dog chews and treats. What makes the company stand out in a crowded marketplace?
We are a division of a family-owned company founded in 1947 by Mr. Goodman Tasman, which has been supplying the world leather industry with USA-raised cattle hides ever since. In 2007, we added American Bison Hides to our productions.
Our approach is unlike any other rawhide chew manufacturers, both in how we obtain our raw materials, as well as the proteins from which they are derived. We make collagen-based chews from American bison, Texas wild boar and now American Angus. The first step in the production of our rawhide chews starts with our parent company collecting bison, wild boar and Angus beef hides directly from harvesting facilities in the U.S. We then transport the hides to one of our initial processing facilities in Texas or Nebraska. Thus, we know exactly where the hides used in our dog chews come from and when they were harvested, so we can trust the animals were raised and harvested humanely in the U.S.
Most, if not all, beef rawhide manufacturers must purchase their rawhide materials (bottom portion of a split cowhide) from leather manufacturers, often from multiple leather facilities. Another big difference with our processing is the fact that we often use the entire hide, not just the bottom layer that is typically split off and used by all beef rawhide chew companies.
What are some of the challenges facing the rawhide chew category? What are some of the misconceptions pet owners may have about these products?
Our products enjoy a loyal following, likely due to the uniqueness of our proteins and how we produce them. But I’m afraid our beef rawhide colleagues are facing daunting opponents. While we’re not anxious to promote our competitors, we believe strongly that honesty and integrity are far more important than competitive rivalry.
The rawhide chew category is under attack in the independent channel from companies marketing various “rawhide alternatives,” which are either collagen
based or lab created from 30-plus ingredients, ranging from corn to titanium dioxide. We have no issues with the latter, because if consumers want to give their pups lab created products that are honestly labeled, they do so at least having truthful information.
Collagen-based “rawhide alternatives,” however, can be particularly deceiving because they are made from animal skin, like beef or water buffalo hide. The cheek skin of a cow or water buffalo is still physically, chemically and structurally the same as the skin from the rest of the cow or buffalo. Pork skin is also collagen, baked or not, bleached white or not. We should know, we make leathers from bovine, ovine, cervine and porcine skins, and if we can make leather from a dog chew, it’s collagen—aka animal skin or animal membrane.
What are some of Tasman’s most popular chews and treats? What are the key features of these products?
Our Bison Rawhide Chews are, by far, the most popular product we produce. While we have multiple shapes and sizes available, our Large and Jumbo Rolls are clear favorites with pet parents of medium and large breeds. Our Jumbo Rolls are similar in appearance to Cheek Rawhide Rolls, but they are typically 200 percent heavier or more—not puffed up—and far more durable, making them less prone for chunks to be easily torn off and gulped. Our Bison Rawhide Chews may look similar to typical beef rawhide chews, but American bison hides have slight differences in structure to beef rawhides, and the top grain layer is often included. Our lack of heavy duty de-greasing also leaves our rawhides with a more natural, often dark, appearance.
In addition to the differences in physical structure, many have found our Bison Rawhide Chews are suitable for most dogs suffering from various types of food allergies—even beef allergies. We have literally had customers call us in tears, thanking us for making a chew their dog could now enjoy without any allergic reactions. We also strive to not de-nature the bison rawhides, which would leave them puffy, expanded, lightweight and less durable. Rawhides should be dense so that they are gnawed and chewed, not easily torn into large pieces.
What are some of the company’s latest innovations in the chews and treats category? What makes these products unique?
Our latest introduction to the market are chews made from the skin of wild boar, humanely captured in Texas and harvested under USDA inspection. Dogs go absolutely crazy for them, and pet parents take comfort in knowing they now have a great, honestly natural, pork chew alternative to the highly processed, bright white pork skin chews coming from China.
We wouldn't call our Wild Boarhide Chews an “innovation,” as we are simply making a viable and unique dog chew from a single ingredient created by nature, not in a lab. We’re big fans of “less is more”—as in, the less you do to a product, the more beneficial it will be for our pets. Our New Wild Boar and Angus Beef Liver Simply Jerky is also available in limited supply and are single-ingredient treats made from hand-sliced and dehydrated wild boar and Angus beef liver.
In addition to chews and treats, Tasman’s also offers leather pet collars and leashes. What are some of the key selling points of these products?
We owe our entire bison rawhide chew creation to our earlier work in 2007, when we purchased a leather tanning facility in Hartford, Wis. It was there we developed and marketed American bison leathers to shoe manufacturers and fashion companies worldwide. Bison leathers can be very unique and beautiful looking, so we thought, “Why not use our own bison and elk leathers to create unique, one-of-a-kind collars and leads?”
The longer, more horizontal fiber structure of bison allows for leather to be more “mellow” than cowhide leathers, while giving them higher tensile strength. Elk skin leather is extremely soft and supple, yet durable. Combine the beauty, softness and strength of the bison with the softness of the elk with solid brass or stainless steel hardware and it makes a collar that looks great and is comfortable for the dog.
Aside from offering a variety of high-quality products, how does Tasman’s help retailers drive sales? What types of sales and marketing support does the company provide?
We are a very small company in the pet products world, but we are always open to working with our independent and family-owned retailers in any way we can to promote our unique products. Most have never seen our products before, because no one has ever made them until now, so it can take a while to educate store team members, as well as consumers.
We make in-store signage and rack cards available to help educate consumers about our chews, as well as wire floor display racks and counter display packaging. We will often work with retailers and our distributor partners to offer promotions and discounts throughout the year.
We always direct retailers to our FAQ section on our website, as they will inevitably have customers with questions, or questions themselves.
What does the future hold for Tasman’s? Do you have any new products or product categories in development?
Bison and wild boar are very finite in availability, thus we plan to remain a small, niche pet products manufacturer committed to independent and family-owned retailers. We are, however, launching our first beef rawhides made exclusively from USA-raised Angus beef. We will be offering the Angus rawhides in our new On-Hide line, as well as in our POS display cases. We are also exploring and testing ground bison rawhide chew products. PB