"You can’t sell raw until you really know raw, so education is a large part of what we do at Bravo!," says Bette Schubert, co-founder of the petfood company. "Knowing how important this component is, we’ve hosted a series of educational seminars for retailers at both trade shows and the store level geared toward teaching them about all of the benefits of feeding raw, so our retail partners can better educate their customers." This emphasis on retailer and consumer education shouldn't come as a surprise to most—the raw category of petfood is still considered a new and risky segment. Being new and different doesn't bother the company's other co-founder, David Bogner, however.
"With raw diets only representing 3% or less (ours and the industry’s best guesstimate) the upside is huge," explains Bogner. "We don’t see the shift to raw and all-natural reversing direction because when it comes down to it, a quality, healthful diet is better for overall well-being and longevity of the animal. Continuing to support and serve the enthusiasm and passion of our customers with the right products is our biggest opportunity."
"We have grown from a small, entrepreneurial company uncertain of whether raw would take off quickly or build slowly, to a fast-growing company certain of its future," continues Schubert. Only five years ago, the future of raw petfood and treats and Bravo! as a company was a shaky one, but now Bogner can say confidently, "We are a multimillion dollar business that is committed to grow by a minimum of 20% or more per year. Like any other business moving quickly up the growth curve, you are always challenged to find the best people and enough capital to fuel growth. So far, we are doing just fine on both fronts."
The keys to Bravo!'s rapid growth, according to Bogner, have been:
- Top quality, no compromises products—Currently there are more than 125 Bravo! SKUs on the market, which include Bravo!’s four basic product lines, in addition to its Bonus Bites Treats, Bravo! Training Treats, Bravo! Bag-O-Bones (fresh-frozen bones) and the Bravo! Chews line;
- Offering the industry’s broadest range of protein types—Bravo! currently has everything from chicken and turkey to more exotic meats such as ostrich, rabbit, buffalo, venison and elk in its products;
- A strict and comprehensive product quality and safety program—All Bravo! products are made from antibiotic-free poultry, fresh fish, hormone-free grass-fed red meats, according to the company;
- Consumer and retailer education—Besides retail education programs, Bravo! has also published consumer guides for feeding cats and dogs a raw diet and offers a short training video on its website that teaches pet owners how to prepare, store and feed a raw diet;
- Word-of-mouth from consumers—"The 'seeing is believing' factor of the results raw feeders see in their pets has been a pretty powerful thing, especially when they pass that information along to other pet owners," Bogner says; and
- Great distributor, manufacturer and retail partners—The company has manufacturing partners in New Zealand, where it gets lamb and beef. "We source these proteins from New Zealand because the lamb and beef is grass-fed, free range, lower in fat, higher in protein and we can use whole carcasses," explains Bogner. "Our products can be processed on-site with less freezing and shipping.
"In short, like any successful business, we have a singular focus on the needs of our customers and their companion animals," he says.
"Our core product line is the Bravo! Original Blends, which contain the four building-blocks of a sound raw diet: meat, bone, organ meat and vegetables," explains Schubert of the company's product line. For customers who want to customize their pets’ diet, Bravo Basics are either just meat and bone, or meat and bone with organ meat, no vegetables. Next, there is Bravo! Boneless products, which are just pure meat without any other ingredients, according to Schubert. Finally, there is Bravo! Balance Raw Diet blends that have added vitamins and minerals to the formulas for consumers looking for the convenience of an all-in-one formulation that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials standard for complete and balanced product for al lifestages. The Blends, Basics and Boneless together offer a total of 12 protein sources: chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, ostrich, duck, rabbit, elk, salmon, buffalo and venison.
"In terms of simplicity, while other raw diet brand foods can have as many as 30 or more ingredients, our formulas are kept super simple by design," says Schubert. "A turkey product is all turkey, beef is all beef. This simplicity is very helpful for dogs and cats with sensitive digestive systems or allergies. What you see on the label is what you find in the package!"
In the past year, Bravo! has released several new products like Bravo! Training Treats and two new flavors of Bravo! Bonus Bites treats. Training Treats were launched in July 2010, and in April 2011, the company began rolling out freeze-dried North Atlantic lobster meat and dry roasted duck feet as part of the Bonus Bites offerings. Earlier in 2011, the company also completed a major repackaging of its entire Bravo! Bonus Bites line.
As for the future of the raw petfood company, both founders plan on continuing to protect and grow their position in the fresh/frozen market by promoting their products to the next wave of consumers making the move to raw diets. They will also continue to serve their existing customers and new users, by offering a wide range of formulations and protein types while focusing on product quality and safety.