Merrick Pet Care Inc. has its eye on the grain-free petfood market in 2014, and is planning to launch more than 60 innovations at the upcoming Global Pet Expo in order to expand its hold on the growing industry segment.
The company has seen an 83% uptick in growth since launching its Real Whole Food Revolution initiative. The plan focuses on high-quality petfood formulas that produce the best possible product, according to the company. "That's what the Revolution was about: How do we reinvent all of our formulas, reinvent all our products, to make the very best product we can make, put it in the marketplace and win with superiority," said Greg Shearson, who took over as Merrick's CEO in 2011. "And that has had a tremendous first two-year impact on our company."
More specifically, Merrick has seen 212% growth in the company's grain-free category. "We've always had a very strong grain-free business, but now 40% of the category is being bought in grain-free," said Shearson. "Our brand is growing at seven times the rest of the category in the grain-free segment, so we've got a lot of momentum to drive in this area." It follows, then, that the company wants to further grow its presence in the segment. At the expo, Merrick plans to release new products in both the wet and dry petfood categories under the Merrick and Castor & Pollux brands, and will also release three new lines in the treats category.
Merrick's wet food category will gain grain-free chunky formulas and grain-free seasonal formulas under the Merrick brand, and Organix and Natural Ultramix formulas under the Castor & Pollux brand's natural dog and cat food line. The dry food category will be expanded with new Merrick-brand grain-free dry dog food recipes focusing on salmon and lamb, as well as puppy and healthy weight formulas. New treats will include all-natural, grain-free and gluten-free biscuit, chewy training treats and dental chews formulas under the Merrick brand, as well as new treats under Castor & Pollux's Organix and Good Buddy lines.
"The mission here is to become the leader in this natural/organic premium petfood space," said Shearson. "We as a company believe that we're very well positioned to make that stated objective possible, and we're committed to going after it every day, in all that we do."
Whole Earth Farms
Merrick re-launched its value brand Whole Earth Farms in January 2014 to take further advantage of that premium space. The brand aims to serve as a gateway to help convert more pet parent households from mass petfood brands to the natural category. "We've created an entry-point brand that we think will really help retailers with offering a trade-up option to mainstream users," said Shearson.
According to Merrick, Whole Earth Farms is a line of naturally nutritious dog food that offers an affordable choice for pet parents interested in exploring natural petfood. The brand features high-quality proteins in nutritionally complete, grain-free diets.
"One of the fundamental truths that drives us as a company is that pet parents really take the responsibility of the relationship and the nutritional decision-making [for their pets] to heart," said Shearson. "We all care passionately about our pets. The people who are in this premium petfood specialty space don't enter into these choices lightly. They really feel passionate about doing the absolute best. And it's helping them make better decisions, and helping them to better provide for the pets they love so much, that really drives the choices we're making in how we're running the company."
Global Pet Expo 2014 will take place March 12-14, 2014, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
Lindsay Beaton is the editor of Petfood Industry magazine and the author of "Trending: Pet Food," a weekly pet food industry blog. You may contact her at www.wattglobalmedia.com/contact-us by selecting "Editorial Team - Petfood Industry" from the drop-down menu.
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