A Natural Progression
Joe Wallington discusses his new role as president of Jones Naturals, as well as the multi-brand strategy that the company is using to drive growth in the dog chews category.
Pet Business: Last month, you were named president of Jones Naturals. How has your past professional experience prepared you for this role?
Joe Wallington: My background has been pretty diverse. While most of it has been in senior management roles in large consumer packaged goods companies—including eight-plus years with Nestlé Purina—I also had a nine-year stint with a small start-up company. That small company experience has really helped me in my role at Jones Naturals because it can often be difficult to transition from a huge company where you have people doing a lot of things for you to a small company where you are a secretary to senior executive and everything in between. So that diversity really prepared me and made Jones Naturals a great fit.
PB: What made this an attractive organization to join?
Wallington: Jones Natural Chews has been a well-respected brand in the pet industry for 30 years. Given the added resources that Azalea Capital will provide to the Jones family of brands, I saw a tremendous opportunity to grow the company at an aggressive rate. It will be a rewarding challenge to play a key role in helping Jones Naturals achieve its growth targets over the next four to five years.
Since the 1850s, the family-owned Jones Naturals has emerged from six generations of butchers and a hometown meat market to the leader in natural, 100 percent American-made dog treats and chews. That heritage continues today from America’s heartland, with more than 85 meat cuts, chews and snacks for dogs of all sizes.
Jones has the highest quality and safety standards in the business. In addition, Jones is a leader in providing innovative products, which drive industry growth.
PB: Was there anything that surprised you after joining the company?
Wallington: The high integrity and positive attitude of the people in the Jones organization is something I have never seen before. This company has great people, great product and an optimistic outlook for tremendous growth in the future.
PB: Are there any other key organizational changes that retailers should know about?
Wallington: The Jones family will continue to play an instrumental role in the daily operation of the business. Several additional resources have been added in key areas of finance, sales and marketing to help take the company to the next level.
PB: Earlier this year, Jones Naturals announced a new channel-driven brand strategy that will be segmented into pet specialty (Jones Natural Chews), farm and feed (The Country Butcher) and private label. What led the company to take this approach? What are the key differences between these segments of the business?
Wallington: Actually Jones will have a multi-brand, multi-channel strategy that will include other channels like hardware and grocery. The Jones Natural Chews brand will be limited to existing customers and expansion within the pet specialty channel. We want to protect the margins that our loyal Jones Natural Chews customers enjoy while enjoying new growth in channels with Country Butcher and a third brand to be announced, so we can ride the growth wave of the natural chews and treats segment.
PB: The company has also refreshed the branding for Jones Natural Chews. What are some of the elements of this brand refresh?
Wallington: Jones Natural Chews is showcasing a new look for its iconic Rocky mascot. The new Rocky, a playfully salivating pup, embodies the fresh, fun characteristics of the Jones Natural Chews brand and underscores the company’s commitment to provide pure, nurturing treats for dogs.
In addition to the new look of the packaging, Jones Naturals has invested in improving organic search engine results for key terms like “natural dog treat and chews.” A new website will be launched later in the fall, highlighting the three brands, plus Jones Naturals’ corporate capabilities for customers searching for a private brand manufacturing partner.
An all-new Jones Naturals Corporate video is available in the “About Us” section of the Jones Natural Chews website (jonesnaturalchews.net).
PB: For retailers in the farm and feed channel, what are some of the key attributes of The Country Butcher brand?
Wallington: For those retailers carrying or considering carrying the Country Butcher brand, the packaging graphics have been fully updated and highlight the Made-in-the-USA benefit. In addition, The Country Butcher is made in the same great facility as Jones Natural Chews. Jones Naturals’ facilities have the highest quality and safety standards in the business and recently achieved SQF certification—one of the toughest third-party quality and safety certifications in the industry. In addition, Jones Naturals offers the highest customer fill rates in the business—nearly 99 percent order fill rate!
PB: Tell us about Jones Naturals’ private-label business. What types of products are available? What are some of the benefits to retailers?
Wallington: Jones Naturals offers all USA-raised, -sourced and -manufactured chews and treats. We offer a wide range of chews, treats, jerky and other natural offerings. Jones has the capability to develop private-brand packaging for customers or use pre-developed customer packaging.
PB: What are some of the latest and greatest products from Jones Naturals?
Wallington: Some new items include bully-basted and smoked pork skin, snouts, chicken and rice and cheese and bacon filled beef trachea and hooves, puffed and smoked chicken and duck feet (nails removed), chicken and beef bark burgers and snap treats, liver log jerky, beef ligament strap and more. They are all USA raised, sourced and manufactured with the highest safety and quality standards in the industry. Our 99 percent fill rates keep our customers in stock and extremely satisfied with our customer service.
PB: What does the future hold for Jones Naturals?
Wallington: Aggressive growth through innovation and new points of distribution in our multi-brand, multi-channel strategy while protecting distribution and pricing integrity of the Jones Natural Chews brand in the independent pet channel. In addition, we will have front-page organic rankings for keyword searches like natural dog chews/treats and others driving consumers to purchase our products.
All of this will help us stay at the forefront of one of the fastest-growing categories within the pet products market. Right now, dog chews only have 35 percent household penetration, so there is a huge opportunity for retailers to reach the remaining 65 percent of dog owners out there. To make the most of that opportunity, we encourage pet stores to increase awareness of natural chews with their customers by using strategies such as cross merchandising. For example, most retailers are already running very aggressive ads for low-margin pet foods to drive traffic into their stores, so why not take the opportunity to use merchandising tools like clip strips within the food aisle, customer scan data to provide a trial incentive coupon for chews/treats to those customers not purchasing this segment and off-shelf displays along with dry pet food feature ads to expose shoppers to higher-margin chews/treats? PB