Founded in 1995—a time, according to Weiss, when the petfood industry was not interested in natural—Ark Naturals has continued to steadily grow while sticking to its initial goals.
"We started this business before it was fashionable," declares Susan Weiss, founder of Ark Naturals, Natural Products for Pets. "We believed and still believe we can make a difference." Founded in 1995—a time, according to Weiss, when the petfood industry was not interested in natural—the company has continued to steadily grow while sticking to its initial goals.
"I can remember a (trade) show in the late ‘90s, where I was trying to induce a retailer to carry natural," Weiss recalls. "And she said to me, 'No one is interested in natural.' I can remember when I would walk into a pet store and tell them that they needed to put a small sign up that said natural corner. That was a revelation to retailers!"
Fifteen years later and the demand for natural products has grown explosively, with Ark Naturals doing better than ever. In 2009, its profits were up by 10%, and Weiss predicts that the final 2010 numbers will show double-digit growth. "I think one of the things that has made us so successful is we had to figure out tools to stay in business by making it understandable to the retailers so they wouldn’t shake in their shoes about whether they could understand enough to sell natural," Weiss says. "We continue to work hard. We continue to question our formulas as science is ongoing and we have to be flexible and re-think what we held as absolutes."
In 2009, Ark Naturals introduced its pet dental line—including Breath-Less Brushless Toothpaste and Breath-Less Plaque Zapper—and won the 2009 Pet Age award for the most requested product by retailers. In 2010, the company introduced three new products, including Paws in the Pie, low calorie, low sodium, wheat-, corn- and soy-free treats for small and large breed dogs. And the product line only continues to expand—the company will unveil several new products in March 2011.
"I can remember when I would walk into a pet store and tell them that they needed to put a small sign up that said natural corner. That was a revelation to retailers," recalls Weiss, of the 100% natural line of Ark products.
"One of the problems with growth is trying to remain hands-on," says Weiss. "As our products move into distributor environments, it gets more difficult to stay in touch with our retailers. Growth means the juggling act gets harder, not easier." Ark Naturals tries to keep all those bones and biscuits in the air by providing exceptional customer service with live people to talk to and getting back to customers quickly, says the company. Weiss also emphasizes the importance of maintaining inventory, maintaining quality control and providing education to both retailers and pet parents.
"One of the things I worry about is how our message is being delivered," Weiss says when asked about what keeps her up at night. "What I mean is, how is the pet guardian interpreting it? Do they know how to use the product? Do they know when to use the product? Do they think if they use Ark Naturals (or any natural competitor) products that they never have to consult with a vet?" Ark Naturals tries hard to encourage pet guardians to ask questions and get the right answers and thinks working with Association of American Feed Control Officials to improve labeling and ingredient claims is the key. Weiss describes pet parents as "self-diagnosing" because they think they know what glucosamine is or what probiotics do, and often decide if their pet really needs it without getting any kind of advice. "I don’t want to say that I can cure cancer," she says. "But somewhere between saying almost nothing and making wild crazy claims, there should be better options out there. I think this is really important."
As for predictions regarding the future of her company and the industry as a whole, Weiss declares Americans are the most amazing pet guardians and will continue to support the natural pet industry. "I just hope that we don’t sell our souls to get the most shelf space."
Headquarters: Naples, Florida, USA
Officers: Susan D. Weiss, president and founder; Jay Weiss, COO
Sales: Up by 10% in 2009, Ark Naturals likely doubled its profits by the end of 2010
Products: A complete, all-natural product line for dogs and cats that includes 'wellness' and 'remedy' food and treat products, dental fresheners and topical sprays
Florida honors Ark
In December 2010, 50 companies from 18 Florida counties earned a place in Florida’s inaugural class of “Companies to Watch,” including Ark Naturals. The accolade, to be presented by GrowFL, recognizes the state’s privately held businesses that employ up to 99 employees and have between US$750,000 to US$50 million in annual revenue or capital.
“Firms like these named ‘Companies to Watch’ continue to be the catalyst that is fueling Florida’s emergence from a turbulent national economy,” said Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. “Congratulations to this exemplary group of Florida businesses that continue to invest in their communities and create new jobs in all corners of our state.”
Ark Naturals was named on the list after GrowFL evaluated more than 310 nominations for the awards. The 50 “Florida Companies to Watch” will be honored at an awards celebration on February 17, 2011, in Orlando. In addition to the recognition of being named a winner of this award, Ark Naturals has the opportunity to participate in a leaders retreat attended by former Companies to Watch award recipients from other states at the Edward Lowe Foundation’s Big Rock Valley retreat facility in southwestern Michigan.
Learn more online!
Get advice from Ark Naturals' resident veterinary consultant, Nancy Scanlan, DVM, or helpful tips from company president, Susan D. Weiss.
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