A Healthy Advantage
Brad Gruber, chief operating officer at Health Extension Pet Care, discusses how his company’s diverse lineup of nutrition, grooming and training products are a perfect fit for independent pet specialty stores.
Pet Business: How did Health Extension get started? What inspired the creation of the brand?
Brad Gruber: Our family has always taken a holistic approach to life, especially where our diet is concerned. Having adapted this approach to eating for ourselves, we thought why wouldn’t we follow the same approach in feeding our pets? If we treat their bodies the same way we treat ours, then they will live long and healthy lives as well.
Being a family owned business in the pet industry since the 1960s, we started making our products with this thought in mind, using only healthy ingredients and not cutting any corners in making them. We knew our long-range plan was not to have an investment company buy us out or to be just another brand on the shelf, but to provide retailers with outstanding healthy products they can trust and be proud to sell as their own. So, Health Extension was born. In 2004, the company operated out of a basement with two employees. Today, we work out of a state-of-the-art facility in Deer Park, N.Y., three times the size of our previous location.
PB: How does your holistic approach to pet nutrition set you apart from other pet food companies?
Gruber: It’s definitely our culture. Continuing to locally source and combine the finest holistic ingredients to guarantee dogs and cats the nutrition they need is everything to us. No ingredient has ever been sourced from China. We select organic and naturally raised livestock from the highest quality farmers that have not been compromised by antibiotics, steroids or artificial hormones. We not only have the largest vitamin and mineral panel on the market (including organic apple cider vinegar, turmeric and colostrum), we were also one of the first companies to recognize what heat degradation does to vitamins, and worked persistently to make sure all the nutrients from meats and vitamins alike are fully absorbed into the body.
Our solution-based nutrition is designed to aid and address whole body health by supporting digestion, the immune system, skin and coat, and brain and heart health. We’re proud to say we’ve never had a recall and haven’t lost a taste test yet.
PB: Tell us about your supplement and treat lines. What makes these products stand out in the marketplace?
Gruber: We have a very well rounded line of products. Our overall product line strategy is to address what we call the four Ps:
Power: our food
Praise: our treats and training aids
Prevention: our supplements
Pampering: our shampoos, conditioners and colognes
All Health Extension supplements are made right here in America in a human-grade, FDA-inspected facility, with no sourcing from China. They are all formulated to ensure a healthy and long life for your best friend. Our chewable Lifetime Vitamins are formulated to support the immunity and digestive needs of growing puppies and adult dogs, and taste so good you can use it as a treat. Our Longevity Drops are packed with organic apple cider vinegar and essential B vitamins to boost energy and metabolism. Our Skin and Coat Oil has a high concentration of GLA [gamma linolenic acid] to promote a healthy coat and increase skin elasticity to reduce shedding. Finally, our Joint Mobility encourages growth and repair of tendons and cartilage, and collagen and tissue formation to support healthy joint function. We’ve always said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Health Extension treats are made with flavorful and nutritious proteins that pets will absolutely love without even knowing how healthy they are. All of our treats are made right here in America, are highly digestible and made with the healthiest natural ingredients. They range from our freeze-dried Nutra Nuggets, Bully Puffs and Bison Bites, to our flavored and functional Dental Bones and our grain-free, bone- and heart-shaped treats. All of these products complement the balance of our line, and when rewarded properly, are great training aids to use on a daily basis.
PB: What are some of the most popular products in your line-up?
Gruber: No doubt it’s our grain-free line, with our buffalo and whitefish, and chicken and turkey recipes for dogs. We use fresh meats and low-glycemic ingredients like chickpeas and lentils to help prevent obesity and offer relief from common allergies. We use cutting-edge ingredients like coconut oil, organic apple cider vinegar, turmeric and colostrum to aid digestion, help boost the immune system and provide a healthier, shiner coat. To complement these existing products, we’re now launching exciting recipes to round out our grain-free dry dog and cat lines with venison, duck, salmon and buffalo Little Bites, along with canned beef, chicken and turkey stews. For cats, we have six new really hot canned recipes coming that will help enhance our cat food line.
PB: What are some of the key features of Health Extension’s grooming and training products?
Gruber: We learned from our training school (started in 1975) that there was a need to develop all-natural products we could comfortably use to teach and encourage the behaviors we desired without causing physical, emotional or mental stress to a pet. That led us to develop a line of 100-percent natural products made in America that include our Housebreaking Aid, Pet Deterrent and Problem Chewer. All of our training products work to deter a pet from any unwanted behavior. Our most popular item, Eliminate, is a high-powered surface cleaner/deodorizer with the power of our unique enzymatic formula.
When we look at the “pamper” part of our philosophy, our thoughts naturally turn to grooming. When done regularly, grooming develops a bond with your pet and makes it a fun activity to experience. So, for the many people who like to groom their pet, our Health Extension Spa Care products are safe, effective, and pet and environmentally friendly. We offer a full line of colognes, shampoos and conditioners that leave a dog’s coat with a soft, shiny and healthy appearance.
PB: What are some of the newest and most exciting product introductions from Health Extension?
Gruber: Our All Life Stages grain-free dry dog foods—venison, duck, salmon and Little Bites recipes—are free of glutens, grains and unnecessary fillers. All of our recipes contain high levels of fresh animal proteins that are grass fed, free range or wild caught. Also adding to our grain-free dog food lineup are three very exciting canned dog stews, available in turkey, chicken and beef. A very innovative and exciting launch for us will be six new canned cat food recipes. We developed diets that are grain free and offer several different protein options to help decrease the risk of a food allergy, as well as keep cats from becoming finicky.
PB: In addition to providing a line-up of high-quality products, how does Health Extension help pet specialty retailers drive sales in their stores?
Gruber: We have an expansive library of POP [point-of-purchase] materials that we are continually increasing for our retailers—including shelf talkers, banners, literature, acetate store hours signs etc.—and we’re more than willing to develop any special type of signage a retailer might need specific to his store or to support a program he might want to run.
We have substantially increased our investment into public relations and social media while making sure we have the most up-to-date technology driving our website and its content, so pet parents have immediate access to the information they are searching for to fit the needs of their pets.
With the revitalization of our grain-free line, we now have a number of shippers available to encourage off-shelf displays and drive impulse sales of both our food and treats. Along with this, we’re now offering a stack-out program that has a beautiful and solid corrugated stacker to display the product, along with eye-catching signage to grab the shopper’s attention. Shortly, we will be doing our first clip-strip promotion, which will be available for the holidays.
Our goal is to have promotions and displays to hit the four shopping points of the store—on shelf, off shelf, clip strips and displays for the counter area. We also work closely with retailers in developing cross-merchandising programs and promotions on bundles of products to tie an entire purchase together. This helps get the retailer’s overall sale up and increase their profitability. Our field sales team actively trains and educates retailers and customers alike on the benefits of our products. We also arm our sales team with a unique toolbox to support our retail partners, which includes IRCs [instant redeemable coupons] and other special promotional aids to help them develop “roll-your-own” promotions.