"I believe our biggest advantage is the passion we have for what we do. Annamaet is a company that is truly concerned about the environment," says Robert Downey, CEO and founder of Annamaet Petfoods. Trained as an animal nutritionist and raised by a mother who loved animals, Downey built on his passion for sled dog racing by starting his own line of petfoods in 1986 with his wife, Mary Jo. Annamaet Petfoods, named after Downey’s mother, Anna Mae, are holistic and naturally preserved, the company says, and have cultivated a following among veterinarians and dog breeders. Studies in nutrition by the company have been published in peer-reviewed journals for over 30 years—including being cited in the 2006 NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. "I spent seven years doing graduate work in canine nutrition and exercise physiology. Our strong background in nutrition as well as a lifetime involvement with dogs is a definite advantage," explains Downey. "I feed my 14 dogs every day before I go to the office, so I am not only feeding our customers' dogs and cats, I am feeding my own."
Downey grew up with a kennel of bird dogs and then got involved in the sport of sled dog racing which has been an important part of his adult life and helped inspire his line of dog and cat foods. "I have been lucky enough to participate in races from the interior of Alaska to the Patagonia region of Argentina to the Pyrenees Mountains of France. The highlight was winning the 2008 Limited North American Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska," he says of his dog sled experience. But it was not his first-place finish that would go on to be synonymous with his petfood, but rather, a very harrowing experience with his dog sled team and a very protective mother moose! (See sidebar: "The myth of the moose")
The company's two newest products include a grain-free feline formula for all life stages and a grain-free lean formula for dogs. "Obesity is the No. 1 health problem in dogs today and mimics the trends in humans. After consultation with a veterinary nutritionist, we made a product with superior ingredients and all of the attributes of a weight control diet (high protein, low fat, additional carnitine and omega-3 fatty acids) without all of the fiber," Downey says of why Annamaet chose to produce a lean diet. "Our newest project we are working on is a line of grain-free treats that will be companion treats for our grain-free products." More recently, Annamaet has formulated their own canine vitamin and mineral package to provide completely chelated minerals, avoid any ingredients from China and provide L-Carnitine to help increase fat metabolism.
"We are a family-owned and -operated company and now have the second generation coming into the business, so we don’t anticipate any major changes in the near future," says Downey of his company's evolution. "One change we have made is to our packaging. We have redone our graphics, added zippers and carry handles to some of the bags, and they have been described by some as the best bags in the industry." Downey remains optimistic for the prospect of continued growth for Annamaet Petfoods, as the consumer becomes better educated and makes better decisions for their pet’s nutritional needs. "They are realizing that investing in quality can save them money in the long run with a healthier and a longer-lived pet," he says. "While there are certainly areas of the US that we need to increase our presence, there is a growing demand worldwide for quality US-made products. The worldwide web has brought Annamaet to parts of the world that would have been impossible a few short years ago."