Tell us about Phelps Pet Products. What is the company’s background? Phelps Pet Products is an industry-leading full-service dog treat private label contract manufacturer headquartered in Rockford, Ill., which is strategically located close to many of our ingredient suppliers in America’s heartland and also geographically central to the U.S. population and key customer warehouses and distribution centers.
Founded in 1966 by Dick Phelps, who continues to be an active member of our board of directors at the age of 92, Phelps Pet Products has developed an expertise in the art and science of meat “jerky” dog treat innovation and manufacturing. We are the behind-the-scenes partner to many of the biggest, most influential, and most innovative brands and retailers in the industry, and we leverage our expertise to create and deliver a diverse range of innovative “meat-first” clean-label dog treats.
What is Phelps Pet Products’ approach to contract manufacturing? What makes the company a great private-label partner? We focus every day on being a great partner to our customers. While definitely an overused word, “partnership” really means something to us. Our team members thrive on meeting and exceeding customer expectations. This mentality of being a great partner permeates our organization. We do not want to disappoint. So, first and foremost, we focus on delivering outstanding customer service and reliability. We do what we say.
Equally important, however, is our approach to customer-centric innovation. We are on the forefront of many of the market trends, and that is why, for example, we were the first to introduce 100 percent plant-based “meatless” jerky dog treats at Global Pet Expo in 2020. We also were the first dog treat contract manufacturer to be accepted as a member of the Upcycled Food Association. We now also offer insect-based protein treats, as well as treats made from sustainably-harvested ingredients such as Marine Stewardship Council Certified salmon bites.
These key trends in sustainability are becoming increasingly important to consumers and to our industry. Interestingly, we rarely “sell from a catalog,” opting instead to create unique recipe treats for our customers. At last count, I believe we have created over 400 different recipes. While it certainly is easier to sell something we already make, we approach each customer and each project with a blank sheet of paper focusing in on developing products that fill the market opportunity.
Phelps Pet Products also markets its own dog treat brands. What are some of the most popular branded products you offer? In the last two years, Phelps Pet Products has developed and begun marketing its three different lines of dog treat brands—each positioned to address key market trends.
The first brand we launched, Callie’s Kitchen, focuses on dog treats made with the same ingredients you would find in your own kitchen. These clean-label treats are great-tasting and are made with easy-to-understand wholesome and nutritious ingredients.“
The Phelps Wellness Collection utilizes functional ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin and gingko biloba to help address life-stage and lifestyle issues for dogs. Like humans, integrating nutritious functional ingredients into your dog’s diet helps address conditions affecting a dog’s hips and joints, skin and coat, digestive, and even calming. The line does not use any CBD or hemp products, but focuses on AAFCO-approved ingredients.
Finally, earlier this year, we were so excited to introduce the Disney Table Scraps dog treats line in eight different recipes featuring eight different Disney characters from eight different Disney movies.
Of course, the Disney partnership is unique as it is the first major step into the category by the world’s No. 1 consumer brand, and the marketing power, creativity and consumer engagement that comes with the Disney experience certainly will bring further growth and attention to the industry. As you would expect from Disney, the initial line has something for everyone with treats that include USDA certified organic, sustainable salmon bites, 100% plant-based, and super food recipes. We anticipate it will be the biggest new brand launch of 2021/22.
What is Phelps Pet Products’ channel strategy? What role do independent pet stores play in that strategy? We think all retail channels have an important role to play, but our primary focus is on the independent pet store and specialty retail channels. Pet parents often look to the expertise and guidance of their local pet store associates. Of course, we also recognize the importance of having an online presence. More broadly, we also have found success in creating exciting programs at key regional and national retailers. However, we believe that the success of the pet industry continues to be driven by your neighborhood pet store. PB