A Company Living Off Leash
Forward-thinking company Zuke’s has been focused on natural products for active dogs for more than two decades.
The product market for people looking to live active lifestyles has existed for a long time, but back in 1995—when Zuke’s got its start—there just wasn’t much out there for pets. That’s why, when on a four-hour hike in the Colorado mountains with his chocolate lab, Zuke, Patrick Meiering wound up sharing his own energy bar with his dog.
The experience inspired him to start his own company to create exactly the kind of product he was looking for—a healthy, natural, dog-friendly energy bar. He named the company Zuke’s, after his four-legged companion, and created the PowerBone as his first product. Currently available in three flavors (chicken, beef and peanut butter), the PowerBone features a mix of fast-burning carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables and slow-burning coconut oil and oats for sustained energy before, during and after exercise.
That first product led to many more, and the company’s product line has expanded significantly since those early days. It now includes a variety of healthy options—from real meat, grain-free, and chicken-free to vegetarian, vegan and low-calorie. David Rizzo, Zuke’s director of operations, says, “All of our products are free of the common allergens wheat, soy and corn, and when we do use grains, they are low-gluten options like oats and rice.”
Carefully chosen ingredient lists reflect one of the company’s three core values—“Be Healthy.” At Zuke’s, they believe dogs teach us that living healthier leads to feeling happier, which is why the company focuses on creating treats and supplements for healthy, active dogs.
The second value Zuke’s espouses is to “Be Active.”
“We consciously created a company focused on exploring with your dog and pursuing a vibrant life that makes both pets and people happier,” Rizzo says.
The third value is to “Be Devoted.” It represents the belief that we should love our pets as unconditionally as they love us.
These core values are the foundation of everything the company does and have influenced every aspect of the business, from running its headquarters on “Green Power” to incentivizing employees to walk, bike, carpool or ride mass transit to work.
“Our mantra is ‘Live Life Off Leash,’” says Rizzo. “And that’s not just about getting outside. It’s about the spirit of breaking free and the pure joy that comes from bounding into the great outdoors together.”
Staying Focused on the Good Stuff
The industry has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Pets have become part of the family and pet owners seek to feed their pets diets every bit as high quality as (and in some cases better than) those they eat themselves.
Starting with a natural, healthy message in 1995—well before the trend truly took off in the pet industry—Zuke’s has maintained a forward-thinking approach. As the industry has changed, the team at Zuke’s has worked hard to keep up with the times without sacrificing its original philosophy. Its focus has always been life, nutrition and pets, starting with their very first product.
Today, that means considering pet owner concerns about protein allergies. While the company has always used only the highest quality ingredients, Zuke’s current product offering includes many items made with alternative proteins—including lamb, wild rabbit, pork, turkey, duck, salmon and venison—to accommodate pets who may have issues with more common protein sources. And none of its products include artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
But it doesn’t stop there. The company manufactures its products in the United States and New Zealand, according to strict safety standards that ensure quality control. Its facilities are SQF (Safe Quality Foods) certified, exceed Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines and meet the standards set by the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) for supplements.
To date, the company has never had a recall.
In addition to seeing their pets as part of the family, shoppers these days are generally more informed than in generations past, thanks in large part to the Internet. They tend to research products online before they ever set foot in a store. With this in mind, Zuke’s makes it easy for savvy shoppers by offering complete product ingredient lists on their website. Pet owners can click on any ingredient to learn where it comes from and how it benefits the health of their furry friends.
The focus on life, nutrition and pets goes well beyond Zuke’s products though. The company’s commitment to being ahead of the curve carries through to its headquarters, which runs entirely on electricity from clean, renewable energy sources. It also has a sustainable transportation initiative that credits employees up to $1 per day for choosing alternative methods for traveling to work, including walking, cycling, carpooling or riding mass transit.
“In addition to helping keep the environment clean, this initiative allows Zuke’s employees the chance to appreciate and be inspired by nature each and every day,” notes Rizzo.
New Look, Same Mission
This dedication to not only looking, but acting the part of an ecologically responsible company recently led Zuke’s to refresh its packaging with a new look and enhanced sustainability.
“Without changing the net weight of our products, we were able to reduce the size of the treat pouches by an average of 20 percent, which will save up to 1,320 pounds of plastic for every 1,000,000 six-ounce pouches sold,” says Rizzo, noting that the new packaging is scheduled to hit store shelves this fall. “That’s the equivalent of 59,874 water bottles. We also removed the metalized layer in the pouches to simplify material construction, which further reduces the carbon footprint.”
The packaging’s new look features a more prominent Zuke’s logo on the front of the pouch, a larger product window so shoppers can more easily see the product inside (to be “more transparent,” says Rizzo), a “sourcing flag” to call out where the treat was crafted and images that better represent the Zuke’s brand.
Packages now feature local pet lovers and their pups, with a topographical map of the Durango mountains in the background.
“We strongly identify with the spirit of outdoor adventure, and we wanted our packaging to better reflect this,” Rizzo explains.
While the industry has evolved since those early days and is now awash in a sea of natural, health-oriented pet products, Zuke’s dedication to its mission and attention to detail has helped the company continue to stand out. Its focus on living an active lifestyle takes the industry standard one step further.
The new packaging reflects this, and helps communicate it to pet lovers at the store level.
“Every detail of the new design is authentic to who we are as a brand,” Rizzo says.
It’s rare for a company to successfully stay true to its original core values despite seismic shifts in shopper preferences within their industry, but that’s exactly what Zuke’s has done. PB