["We have introduced nine new varieties for cats and four for dogs in different European countries in the last 12 months.", "We would like to be known as the company that better understands the relationship between pets and pet owners."]

Founded in Spain in 1963, Affinity Petcare - part of the Agrolimen Group of companies, leading manufacturers of consumer goods in Europe - has been striving to produce novel, healthy products for pets for more than 40 years. Ranked number six in our annual list of the top 10 petfood companies for 2008, the company offers a wide range of products, from special veterinary diets to superpremium foods to value-priced products for cats and dogs. Affinity says it is committed to the following values: imagination, innovation, flexibility and a scientific, systematic approach.

Staking claims

Affinity products are distributed mainly in the European Union, but the company is building a distributor network within the fast-growing Eastern European petfood market, too. Russia, Turkey and Ukraine now carry Affinity products, and petfoods are even available in specialty stores in countries such as Israel and Kenya.

The company has many growth opportunities in terms of geographic expansion and hopes to extend its presence in other markets having high pet ownership concentrations.

Besides expanding distribution, Affinity's growth strategy is based on new product development and strong promotion efforts, according to markets managing director, Mario Franques. "We have introduced nine new varieties for cats and four for dogs in different European countries in the last 12 months," he says. "Our keys to growth are that we have new and innovative products, and that we are focusing our efforts in geographical areas in Europe where dry products are growing the most." The company is already the leader in Spain in total market and dry petfood with shares above 40% and is making considerable gains in countries like France, Germany and Italy.

"Despite our relative size - we operate in a limited area, the European Union - and that we are focused on dry products," continues Franques, "we still have big opportunities to grow through increased distribution in this area." In countries where it is not yet ahead of the rest of the petfood pack, Affinity relies on the appeal of its packaging, the sound nutrition of its diets and its products' palatability to entice pet owners and their pets.

Viva variety

"We would like to be known as the company that better understands the relationship between pets and pet owners," explains Joan Sanahujes, VP of marketing. "This understanding and knowledge is a key to producing the highest quality products that better fit each target owner, with superior nutrition, superior palatability and ground-breaking products." This past year, the company has introduced a plethora of products for both dogs and cats focusing on these fundamentals, including:

  • Brekkies Excel Tender & Delicious. The dry premium line for dogs, which includes tender, easily chewable particles, has been enlarged with chicken and lite turkey flavors for overweight dogs;
  • Ultima Cat Sterilized & Ultima Dog Sterilized. A specially formulated superpremium dry food for spayed and neutered cats and dogs;
  • Ultima Cat Shine & Beauty. Superpremium cat food developed to improve overall skin and hair health;
  • Ultima Cat Senior. Superpremium dry diet for cats more than 7 years old; and
  • Ultima les Repas Equilibre. Dry superpremium line for dogs sold in the French market, has launched the variety Bucco-Dentaire, which helps prevent tartar and gingivitis.

Not to mention Affinity's dry premium Brekkies Excel line for cats, that has recently been enlarged with a new line: Brekkies Excel Cat Original. The line has been developed following the natural concept, according to Sanahujes: The product has no artifcial colorings or preservatives. Two different flavors - fish and meat - have been launched.

"Ultima dry products are performing very well in all markets," says Sanahujes. "Brekkies Excel Original is also growing in distribution. Brekkies Excel Dog Tender & Delicious line is seeing a lot of success in Spain, France and Italy, and has just been launched in Germany."

The great beyond

Despite the current situation with rising ingredient costs - Affinity has been forced to increase its own prices to keep up - the company expects to close with US$600 million retail dollars this year. That implies a growth of 15% over last year's profits, according to Franques. He estimates Affinity will close 2008 with retail sales of US$595 million.

"Our main challenge is to keep the double digit growth we have achieved in the last few years," he says. "This growth has contributed value to all chains: from suppliers, to retailers, to pet owners."

Affinity attests that it is the next real challenger in the petfood category. With plenty of years of experience in the industry and the kind of success to make even larger manufacturers take notice, Affinity Petcare seems poised to keep running with the big dogs in the future.

Business basics

World headquarters: Sant Cugat del Vallés, Spain
Main plants/facilities: El Monjos, Spain; La Chapelle Vendomôise and Moulins, France
Officers: Mario Franques, markets managing director; Joan Sanahujes, VP marketing; Franc Andreu, operations managing director; Frances Blanch, VP R&D
Brands: Affinity, Ultima, Brekkies, Brekkies Excel, Advance, Advance Veterinary Diets, Premium Dog, Rubadub (treats)
Total turnover (2007): EU299 million (US$466 million)
Website: www.affinity-petcare.com
Employees: 750