Plato Pet Treats is negotiating with a local farmer in California’s Central Valley to grow pumpkins specifically for the pet treat manufacturer. This relationship with a nearby ingredient grower may help Plato meet pet treat buyers' increasing demands for clean labels and ingredients' origin stories. At the same time, Plato could save on transportation costs and reduce the pollution footprint of their supply chain.

Plato co-founder Aaron Merrell explained the benefits of collaborating with a local farmer to grow ingredients with a known history.

Read more about Plato Pet Treats in Petfood Industry.

“Not only does it give us something with a great story that it [the farm] is literally down the highway and grown in the same soil that we’re founded on,” said. “But it’s also going to be something that’s more efficient for us from a cost standpoint. Quality and efficiency combined with a great story, that’s a win-win for everybody.”

Sometimes even if local ingredients aren’t the least expensive, getting better quality and control can be worth it, said Merrell.

Pet food market trend upheavals

Plato celebrated their tenth anniversary this year. Over that decade, Merrell has seen a dramatic increase in consumers' interest in the origin of that their pets consume. Unfortunately, much of this focus came about after scandals and tragedies resulting from contaminated pet foods and treats, such as the dog treat jerky that sickened 6,200 dogs and killed 1,140. Ultimately, people learned they can’t blinding trust a pet product manufacturer, and they now seek out more education, he said.

“This allows people who are doing the right thing to stand out, and the people aren’t can’t hide anymore,” said Merrell.

Since last year

Increased consumer interest in the types of products that Plato Pet Treats makes may be one reason for the company’s expansion. Over the past year, the company added three new sales representatives in the Pacific Northwest, southern California and the Northeast, along with an internal marketing department.

“I used to have to drag my wife along and go to these trade shows, set up the booth, man the booth, spend the whole time in the booth, and tear the booth down and drive it home.” Merrell said. “Now I have a whole team of people that are all part of it and it’s really fun.”

To have yet more fun and strengthen the growing team, Plato celebrated their second annual Plato Way Day on July 29, as opposed to celebrating their 10-year anniversary specifically. The day was designed to bring sales people and production teams together with contests and games related to what the company does, so that the expanding team understands the wider scope of their individual work.

Plato’s team may continue to grow and expand into new realms. In the future, the company may begin producing pet foods, as Petfood Industry reported last year. However, Merrell said they won’t do that until they identify something they can do better than others. He doesn’t want their product to be an also-ran, so for now pet food is still on the drawing board.