"Increasing consumer product awareness is a main driver in the growth strategy of Aller Petfood," says Henriette Bylling, managing director and co-owner. The Danish petfood company has been in existence since 1979, when it was established on the foundation of a longtime family business in feed production serving the local agriculture and global aquaculture markets.
Today, Aller Petfood consists of the initial Danish dry food factory and both wet and dry food factories in Russia, where Aller is currently a leader in the private label market-in fact, the only private label producer of wet petfood pouches.
Bylling owns the company with her father, Povl Bylling, and brother, Frederik Bylling, who participate in the daily running of the Danish division while she manages the overall Aller Petfood organization. In the last few years, the family's vision has significantly impacted the company's direction.
"Through the years, the strategic key word at Aller has always been modernization, and we believe that today this matches with the ability to meet the consumer's increased product awareness," Bylling says. "For this reason, we believe the future lies in being quality focused."
Cornerstone of quality
Aller's goal is to combine a more intense focus on quality for its existing and new premium and superpremium private label products, plus its own brands. The company is pursuing the goal via the help of ISO 22000 certification , which the Danish factory in Fredericia achieved in 2007. It was one of the first petfood facilities in Europe and globally to earn the certification, according to Bylling.
ISO 22000 is an international standard that defines the requirements of a food safety management system, originally developed to cover all components of the human food chain from "farm to fork." Over the past few years, recalls and safety related issues have affected a variety of products including petfood, so consumers are now more concerned and attentive to what they eat and what they feed their pets. In addition, major food buyers, such as supermarket chains, are demanding safety assurances from their suppliers.
The increased demand for safe, high-quality food applies to the petfood industry as well, Bylling says. "By making a wholehearted effort to relentlessly improve the quality of our production, we will not only save resources, improve hygiene and have clearer workflows, but we will also be able to live up to customers' escalating quality demands," she adds.
ISO 22000 is the cornerstone of Aller's quality policy. "Basically, you have to prove that your products are really premium or superpremium," Bylling says. "We are very proud of being able to offer not only a high-value standard line, but also real healthy premium and superpremium quality products. We do not want the consumer to pay for our marketing-we want them to be paying for our investment in our petfood products."
At the beginning of 2009, Aller took another important step. Since 2005, its Danish facility has used a quality management system based on the principles of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) and the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard. Now that system is being implemented in Aller's Russian facilities to increase operating efficiency by distinctly identifying the company's processes and interrelations among them.
Looking east-and farther
Aller's private label business has wide global potential. Because the company's domestic market of Denmark and Scandinavia is very mature in terms of petfood development, as is most of Western Europe, it isn't realistic for the company to continue to grow only in that area with its own brands.
So Aller decided to explore business opportunities in the attractive Eastern and Central European markets using Poland as a test, initially with a sales office and later through an agreement with Poland's largest distributor. These tests were successful, opening the doors to replicate the scheme in other markets such as Romania, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
"Also, we are looking at offering our high-quality private label products," Bylling says. "We have appointed Janusz Drygalski, our export manager, who is specifically dedicated to establishing cooperation with distributors and private label customers in Central and Eastern Europe. We have experienced exciting results so far, and we still see great opportunities in these relatively new markets.
"We will keep looking east in the future," Bylling continues. "But we also see great opportunities in other markets, such as South America and the Caribbean, where we have recently become represented by an agent. As in the previous 88 year of the company's existence, we continue having an open mind to the numerous opportunities in the market."