Since its beginning in 1935, Evanger's Dog & Cat Food
Co. Inc. (www.evangersdogfood.com) has grown from a primarily
private label manufacturer to one now producing some of the
most innovative products on the market.
Founder Fred Evanger raised Great Danes and decided to build
a canning factory in close proximity to his kennels in
Wheeling, Illinois, USA. Over the past 70 years, the company
has turned over twice and is now owned and operated by
husband-and-wife team Holly (president) and Joel Sher (vice
president). The Shers purchased the company in 2002.
Joel was previously an independent supplier of meat and
vegetable products to Evanger's, and when the chance to
purchase the plant came about, he and his wife took on the
challenge. Joel, having supplied Evanger's with raw meat for
over 15 years, knew the company produced a quality product.
Since Holly and Joel took over, Evanger's has experienced 300%
growth and now produces about 50 products.
Evanger's started supplying the private label market in the
early 1960s, and that had become the bulk of the company's
business over the years. The Shers have been determined to grow
the Evanger's company brand into a significant player in the
petfood market. Thus, they have developed many new and
innovative products for the Evanger's line. Today, the
Evanger's brand accounts for approximately 50% of the company's
overall business, but not due to a decline in private label
According to Joel, "Consistent, top-quality products and
excellent customer service are just two of our strong points.
Being a small manufacturing company enables us to work closely
with our accounts to ensure their satisfaction." Most
ingredients are sourced locally by Sher and are procured and
processed in a very short time.
With the help of consultant/formulator Joe McGrath, Joel has
been the creative force behind the evolution of the Evanger's
line. The innovative wet dog food products they've launched
include Super Premium Gold Dinners, Hand-Packed Specialties,
Organic, 100% Meat and Game Meats. According to Sher, they are
made from high-quality, human-grade ingredients, with no
additives, preservatives or by-products.
Evanger's superpremium Hand-Packed foods are indeed packed
by hand in order to "maintain the shape and nutrients of each
recipe's contents," according to the company website. The
recipes include bones and solid chunks of meat, including whole
fish. All recipes with bones undergo retorting, which softens
the bones, rendering them edible, soft and digestible. The
company's hand-packed line has a unique look, resembling a
home-cooked stew. The products include Chunky Chicken
Casserole, Whole Chicken Thighs, Whole Mackerel with Gravy,
Roasted Chicken Drumette Dinner, Braised Beef Chunks with Gravy
and Hunk of Beef.
The dog and cat foods from Evanger's offer Jewish pet owners
an option at Passover. Evanger's food is suitable for kosher
events or homes, according to Holly. The Chicago Rabbinical
Council has even approved the food Evanger's has created
suitable for all Jewish holidays, including Passover.
Evanger's also offers organic meals, such as the 100%
Chicken and Turkey with Potatoes & Carrots Dinner and the
Organic Turkey & Butternut Squash Dinner for cats.
Evanger's production facility has been certified by the Organic
Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) to produce 100% organic
products. OCIA International is one of the world's oldest,
largest leaders in the organic certification industry. A
nonprofit, member-owned, agricultural organization, OCIA
provides organic certification services and access to global
organic markets, according to the organization's website
Evanger's 100% natural Game Meat and poultry line (marketed
as hormone and antibiotic free) supplements its dry dog foods:
Dog Food with Chicken, as well as Pheasant and Brown Rice.
With a 7,000-square-foot expansion of the original Evanger's
manufacturing and warehouse facility, on the site where the
founder's Great Danes once swam in their own private pool, the
company has seen its sales triple (compared with 2002). The
plant currently produces 60,000 pounds of product each day,
manufacturing over 15 different product recipes in small
batches. With a short turnaround time, the plant usually cans
and labels the product for shipping the same day.
By the end of 2003, production was at full capacity for a
single shift of 10 hours. This year, the company plans to staff
another full line, nearly doubling its workforce of 45
employees. With future relocation and a new plant under
discussion, the Shers have big plans ahead.
Talking to their customers helps Holly and Joel keep abreast
of the trends that will do well in the marketplace. "We see the
first glimpses of the industry and try to adapt to them
quickly," said Joel.