The Evolution of SO Bright Natural Pet Products
Tyler Thielmann, director of marketing for SO Bright, discusses how his company is evolving from a private-label manufacturer to a cutting-edge pet treat brand.
Pet Business: Tell us about SO Bright’s approach to making healthy, natural pet treats. What makes your company stand out from other treat manufacturers in the market?
Tyler Thielmann: SO Bright Natural Pet Products began when we decided that we wanted more control over the products we could make. While our family has been making private-label treats for our customers for more than 25 years, we have not held our own label since the 90s. While we offer our own ideas and innovative products to all of our private-label customers, we never really had any control over them beyond that. This is why we decided that we would have a go at creating a brand that was on the cutting edge—basically, a brand that showcases the best products we can create while not going overboard on cost.
So, I would have to say our approach focuses on being new and innovative at a great price point; and most importantly, sourcing and making as many of our products in the USA as possible. Right now, even our packaging is created in the USA, which I think you will find is a rarity in our industry.
Another great thing you will find about the SO Bright brand is that everything in our current product line is made and manufactured in our Wisconsin plant. This ensures that all of our products meet our strict guidelines for safety and quality, and our staff of just over 20 people keeps an eye out for each and every product. Start to finish, we make it and we are proud of that.
PB: What are some of the newest and most exciting treats from SO Bright? What are some of the key selling points of these products?
Thielmann: One of the great things about being a manufacturer in the pet industry is we get to experiment with new ideas when we come up with them. The limiting factors here are price and whether or not our machinery can make it—and if not, what machinery will we need to accomplish our goal?
Right now, a lot of our time is focused on the freeze-dried industry, which is on the rise. Freeze-dried products are great because they can be anything from single-protein products to complex blends and whole diets. Some advantages to these products include high palatability; short, easy-to-read ingredient lists; and high-nutrient contents because of the process. The newest product we will be launching is our freeze-dried cat line, which will have a great value.
PB: What are some of the key trends in the pet treat category? How is SO Bright responding to these trends?
Thielmann: While new trends are created in the pet treat category on a constant basis, there are three particularly important ones right now: recognizable ingredients, made in USA and variety. Treats should be a reward with simple and easily recognizable ingredients. The average consumer should be able to pick up a bag and understand what most of the things are on the label—just good wholesome everyday ingredients. Made in USA is something we will always stand behind because we are a USA-based manufacturer. Not only does this practice help ease people’s minds when it comes to food safety, it also provides jobs to the people who buy your product. Lastly, I think it is a good idea to have a bit of variety in your line. With the addition of cat treats, we will have 22 SKUs covering baked, grain-free, soft and chewy, and freeze-dried products.
PB: What advice would you give to retailers that want to increase their pet treat sales?
Thielmann: I was never in pet retail, but I think advice that I would give to any retailer would be to carry products that you can stand behind and support. Customers like finding out about products that you care about and can get excited over. I also think it is important to remain informed and stay on top of current trends, so if the customer asks, you know what you’re talking about.
PB: What does the future hold for the pet treat category, and for SO Bright?
Thielmann: I think the future will hold a lot of new and exciting things for the pet treat category. I know that we still have products we developed a couple of years ago that we have yet to launch because the timing hasn’t been right. I think you will continue to see a move toward USA-based manufacturing and ingredient sourcing. I believe food safety practices will keep advancing, and products will be safer than ever as a result. I think we will continue to find out what is good and healthy for our pets, and we will advance our products to respond.