Many petfood companies have inspirational stories behind their beginnings, but in the case of Super Dog Treats, their story is particularly unique. Shirley Bamber, then only 10 years old, started the company after watching her father selling supplements for humans incorporating elk antler, intended to alleviate osteoarthritis, and thought, why can't it help dogs, too? Using US$100 as part of an entrepreneurship program for students funded by the Canadian government, she found recipes at school, added the elk antler, rolled treats and cooked them in her family's kitchen. With an additional US$100 each year from the government, she gradually started selling the treats, including in the US. Her parents bought her out when she turned 18 and have since taken the company international. (Shirley is now the plant manager.)
"When we started Super Dog Treats four years ago, we wanted one product to contain all the important ingredients that would be beneficial for a wide range of health problems," explains Super's CEO and president, Don Bamber. "Joint mobility, lack of energy and arthritis were our main targets." But as customers started to give the product to their canine companions and saw how it helped their dogs and how fast it worked, (usually five to seven days, says Bamber) they would do one of two surprising things: start eating it themselves or call Super to see if the company also produced a human product.
"With the reputation our treat is making (on consumers) it has boosted our sister company, Royal Elk Products, by double its production," continues Bamber. "This is proof that it’s easier to get through to humans by going through their dog first." Super Dog Treats exclusively produces its dog treat and has no plans of expanding the line. "With all the health claims people are reporting—improved hair/coat, increased milk production in nursing dogs, alleviation of joint problems from arthritis to hip dysphasia, energy, ear infections and the perfect size for training—we don’t need a variety of products when this little magic bone works."
And what makes these "magic bones" so appealing to canines and their companions alike? Elk Antler is the main ingredient, not meat, corn or wheat. And the treats are made naturally with no fillers or chemicals and are gluten-, grain- and dairy-free, according to the company. Super Dog Treats also prides itself on its hands-on approach to everything from how the product is processed and packaged to the way it's distributed. "One of our recent changes has been going away from distributors to direct selling from the factory to the store. This way we have an opportunity to educate and build a relationship with the store owners," says Bamber. "A distributor can get the product in the stores fine, but without the education and training on a product they have no way of getting it out of the store. Distributors are expensive and profit margins are small. Education is a key marketing tool for our product."
Bamber sees opportunities for his company to grow by expanding into the European, superpremium treat market. "We have done some introduction of our treat to potential markets overseas and there is a huge interest. Not only will the treats be a big seller but also the sale of elk antler for potential manufacturers of dog treats will increase for us." The Canadian Federal and Provincial governments have also lent their support to Super Dog Treats by recognizing the company as being one of the highest quality made pet treats in Canada. "In the last year and a half they have sent us to Germany to be one of the representatives for a pet product from Alberta, Canada," explains Bamber. "We’ve also had support to go to Russia, Italy, Chicago and across Canada. In April 2012, along with the Canadian Agriculture Minister, Super will be one of 12 Canadian companies to participate in the Canadian Pavilion organized by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada in Meknes, Morocco."
The future certainly seems bright for this unique treat company. "We have been in the elk antler industry for over 27 years; 18 years in elk antler processing and four years manufacturing our own pet treat. We have built our business and lives on honesty, quality and integrity and have no doubts, without these values we would not be where we are today," concludes Bamber.