The biggest opportunities will come from continued innovation in new product development.

Celebrity chef Rachael Ray digs dogs. She likes them so much that she has launched Nutrish, her own line of dry dog foods and treats. The products are produced by Dad's Pet Care in Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA, a company founded in 1933.

Doug Lang, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Dad's, notes that Rachael Ray Nutrish is the first mainstream dry dog food, distributed nationally, that is formulated with meat-first and no chicken by-product meals, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. It is available in 14-lb. and 6-lb. sizes and two flavors: Chicken & Veggies and Beef & Brown Rice.

Recipes from Ray

Nutrish treats are named after Ray's beloved dog Isaboo and were inspired by recipes from Ray. The soft & chewy treats are called Isaboo Burger Bites and are available in two flavors: Beef & Bacon. The crunchy treats are called Isaboo Booscotti and are available in two varieties: Peanut Butter & Bacon.

In addition to filling a unique consumer need in the world of superpremium dog food, all of Rachael Ray's proceeds are donated to help pets in need through a program called Rachael's Rescue. Dad's is just now filling the pipeline so does not yet have detailed information as to how the brand is doing, but early indications are very good.

Lang says Dad's efforts have been focused on creating new petfoods and snacks that fill specific consumer needs not met with products currently on the market. New product development has been aggressive not only for its branded portfolio but also for its corporate brand and co-pack businesses.

Innovative thinking

Dad's is not at liberty to speak about current co-pack partners, says Lang, but he maintains its new product development work provides clients with innovative strategic thinking, R&D and manufacturing capabilities. The company's unique proposition to retailers in the world of corporate brands is to treat their brands like its own, he says.

Dad's emphasis in new product development is to provide offerings for branded portfolios that attract new consumers to brands. For example, Dad's most recent offering is a high-quality, all-natural dry dog food.

Keys to growth

Lang says the company's keys to growth are "innovation, service and an independent perspective that serves the needs of all of our customers."

Innovation is an ongoing pursuit in all areas of our company, says Lang. Most important is finding opportunity gaps with consumers and bringing those products to life through innovative marketing, R&D and manufacturing solutions.

Lang says all Dad's employees pride themselves on service and recognize the importance of bringing efficiency to customers' supply chains. The company strives to be an advocate for petfood consumers and is not influenced by the short-term needs of Wall Street, since it is a privately held company. This enables Dad's to take a longer-term view of the business and provide entrepreneurial solutions to customers.

"Our people and our passion for pets set us apart from the competition," says Lang. "Our sole focus is petfood. Our attention is never diverted by other products or markets. Most of us have pets in our family and have a deep-rooted passion to best serve their needs." Dad's compound annual sales growth rate from 2001 through the estimated end of 2008 is +10%.

Focus on new segments

The company believes its business model will foster continued strong growth. Its biggest opportunities will come from continued innovation in new product development and a focus on emerging and existing consumer segments where it is not currently competing. A commitment to consumer research to identify market opportunities will continue to serve as the foundation for new product development, says Lang.

The petfood industry is very healthy, contends Lang. Even during tougher economic times, consumers are not readily cutting costs by compromising what they believe is important for their pets (just as they would approach the needs of their children).

Significant growth will continue at the high-end of the market; however, there may be some channel shifting with consumers looking for key product attributes at a better price. The value end of the market will also grow due to increased consumer confidence, private label growth and shifting to value formats like DG and Aldi.

Dad's recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and is the oldest, privately owned petfood company in the US.

Proud of accomplishments

In addition to its first branded launch into the superpremium world with Rachael Ray Nutrish, Dad's is on the verge of bringing a new pet treat to market that will deliver benefits not seen in market before, notes Lang.

Dad's is proud that it has leveraged both existing and new people to bring a fresh perspective to the market, says Lang. And he notes the need for greater speed to market has required Dad's to make efficiency, food safety and information technology core competencies.

Dad's biggest challenges include the impact of government policies on commodities and dealing with a post-recall world and its impact on food safety concerns. Although none of Dad's products were affected by the recall, the company saw it as opportunity to further upgrade its food-safety protocol.

Even prior to the recall, contends Lang, Dad's ingredients screening protocols were a top priority. The recall, though, further emphasized the importance of getting to know suppliers, requiring and routinely examining Certificates of Analysis and Letters of Guarantee, and upgrading supplier selection and monitoring procedures.

Dad's regularly reviews its food- safety protocols such as raw materials screening, inspection and documentation; supplier audits; internal audits; personnel training; and crisis management. Lang asserts that Dad's is in the petfood industry for the long haul and will be a key player for another 75 years.l

Business basics

Headquarters: Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA (where the company has three plants)
Officers: Sean Lang, president/CEO; Doug Lang, executive VP of sales and marketing; Jeff Lang, nutrition research director
Brands: Rachael Ray Nutrish, Isaboo soft & chewy treats, Isaboo booscotti, plus many Dad's corporate and co-pack brands
Annual sales: The company's compound annual sales growth from 2001 through 2008 has been +10%. Dad's has more than doubled its annual sales in the last five years
Distribution: Dad's brands are in 24 states; Rachael Ray Nutrish is distributed nationally
Employees: 200
Website :
www.dadspetcare.com; www.rachaelray.com/pets/nutrish.php