When will dogs and cats get the right to vote? At the rate
the humanization of pets is going, it will be in the 2008
elections. Yes, I'm exaggerating to make a point: The status of
dogs and cats has risen dramatically in the past few decades.
One shining example is a captivating company called Three Dog
The company produces food and treats made from all-natural,
100% human-quality ingredients for dogs in AIB (American
Institute of Baking) or USDA environments that are specifically
formulated for companion animals (dogs or cats). Recently, Mr.
Robert Islinger, Three Dog Bakery President and CEO, shared the
Three Dog Bakery story with me. We started with their Mission
We are purveyors of high-quality, human-like products for
companion animals. We execute our business with a passion for
the animal, and respect for the relationship that exists
between the pet and the human to benefit our stakeholders.
Twenty-four months ago the company's ultrapremium brand was
in less than 200 stores in the world. Today the brand is
present in over 9,500 stores in the United States alone. What
have they been doing right? For starters, they've done a
brilliant job of making and marketing ultrapremium
Just what are ultrapremium pet-foods? Ed Mareth of 3D
Corporate Solutions shared his views at a recent Petfood Forum.
Mareth believes that ultrapremium pet-foods are those made with
100% ultrapremium ingredients:
Ingredients produced with the intent of being consumed by
Ingredients handled after leaving the human food chain that
meet the same "safety and quality" standards found in
Ingredients that can be traced through a chain of custody
that validates handling procedures through the entire supply
chain. Mareth noted that, "This is a tough one, because most
ingredients go through 14 steps before they reach a finished
petfood. That's a lot of HACCP plans."
Islinger believes the essence of the Three Dog Bakery
process involves taking the "e" out of humane. When one treats
another "humanely," there is a degree of condescension.
However, when one treats another as a "human," there is a
degree of parity. "At Three Dog Bakery," Islinger affirms that,
"we understand the growing trend of companion animals becoming
family." We are advocates of this movement to anthropomorphize
the care of pets, we believe that ingredients declared as unfit
for human consumption, were done so for good reason, and that
people have the right to know that fact and choose
alternatives. The Three Dog Bakery motto is "It's not Pet Food.
It's Food for Pets."
Islinger asserts, "Our strategies and our associates
demonstrate a genuine concern for companion animals. We
manufacture and/or select our products with the needs and
health of the animal as our first priority. To support this
creed we passionately embrace the concept of "Food for Pets"
vs. petfood. Ed Mareth cited several criteria for ultra premuim
foods and treats, but Three Dog Bakery cites:
We strive to use all-natural ingredients;
We will use the "right" ingredient, cost is our last
We pursue human-quality manufacturing conditions;
We view the AAFCO standards as minimum requirements and we
endeavor to meet higher ones; and
We will follow AAFCO policies and other industry and
government regulations. However, since we are unique in the
industry, we will exercise our constitutional right to utilize
"Freedom of Speech" in packaging, if it is truthful, not
misleading and defendable.
Three Dog Bakery was founded by Dye, Beckloff, three dogs
and a 59 cent biscuit cutter. It all started with a mission of
mercy. The founders started cooking to save Gracie, a deaf
albino Great Dane puppy who was diagnosed with an eating
disorder and refused all commercial and veterinary foods. With
the help of some local institutions, the two started
researching, experimenting and cooking for Gracie. Gracie not
only survived, but she thrived, and the founders opened the
first "bakery for dogs" in Missouri. Additional bakeries were
added to the chain and eventually the product was purchased by
retailers on a wholesale basis. A book "Amazing Gracie"
documents this story, and several cookbooks detail the products
of the brand.
Three Dog Bakery is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri,
USA, Tel: +1.816.474.3647, E-mail:
CustomerService@threedog.com, Website: threedog.com. It is
owned by a private equity group.
The company's headquarters, distribution center and its
artisan baking facility are in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. The
artisan baking facility manufactures the products that are
elaborate or highly customized. It develops new products and
produces the initial runs, and houses the quality control
Three Dog Bakery employees 75 people, including Patrick
Ramsey who was once best known to diners as the executive chef
and managing owner of a restaurant in Charleston, South
Carolina, USA, called Circa 1886. As the executive chef of TDB,
Mr. Ramsey deals with a clientele with much more perceptive
palettes than those he has served in the past.
The brand's assortment includes Baked Food for Dogs, Entrees
for Dogs; a variety of holiday assortments, and treats for
everyday use (Lick n Crunch, Woofers, Bark n Fetch Biscuits,
Itty Bitty Bones, We Pity the Kitties Cat Treats, and dozens of
50 for the mass channels and over 150 in the TML Bakery
Less than 5% of the company sales are private label.
There are 34 retail Three Dog Bakeries, set up through a
trademarked licensing arrangement throughout the United States,
Canada, Japan and Korea. Also, the brand can be found in over
9,500 stores in the US such as Kroger, Publix, Target, Wegmans,
Wal-Mart, HEB, Food Emporium, Lowe's Foods and many others.
Grocery 40%; Mass/Club/Drug 32%; and
Specialty/Internet/Shopping Channels/Bakeries 28%.
Presenting a high-quality product, defined as all-natural,
made from 100% human-quality ingredients, designed in an
anthropomorphic manner, uniquely packaged and supported by the
theater of retail bakeries that are identical to their human
Veterinary Mealsa food line made of all-natural, 100%
human-quality ingredients. The Three Dog Bakery "food for pets"
concept for pets with special needs.
Here were some of my questions, along with Mr. Islinger's
Breaking the paradigm that food for companion animals must
be feed. The American consumer is changing the way they embrace
their pets. While our pets are becoming members of family, the
majority of regulators view their food as feed, petfood
manufacturers stretch definitions with statements such as "real
chicken", and some brands position their organic ingredients as
being of the highest quality, even though they may have been
Consumers' awareness of what is going into petfoods will
improve over time, and given the choice, many pet parents will
chose "food for pets" over petfood.
Our Board of Directors is quite diverse and experienced in
evaluating both the strategic and ROCE metrics required to
pioneer a new category of consumer goods.
In the mass, grocery and retail bakeries channels, some
10-20 skus per year.
The company's standard product-development process focuses
on formulation development, packaging and ingredients. Over the
past several years, TDB has successfully developed innovative
dog treats and dog food in an effort to meet retailer and
consumer needs and to expand its product lines. In developing
these new products, the company focuses on the reception such
products will receive from pets and their owners as well as
their overall profitability for TDB and the retailer.
The company develops ideas for new products from a number of
sources, including its product development team (which consists
of five focused team members); its sales force, which is
constantly in touch with the other potential competitive
products; its owned and licensed local retail bakery shops; and
Why should our industry embrace ultrapremium standards?
Because, Mareth contends, there are monumental changes coming
to the way the food chain is regulated. In particular, the
animal food industry. Look at the scale of change in Europe. In
addition, there are, for all practical purposes, no "quality
standards" for today's ingredients in the US. Product
definitions yes, quality standards no. He also predicts that it
is only a matter of time before the world and the media take an
interest in what is entering the grocery store, home and
cupboard as a result of loose interpretation of product
standards in the petfood industry.
Ultrapremium ingredients today are "human-quality." You may
not like it, but the only way to guarantee safe, consistent and
quality ingredients is to buy "human-quality" raw
Mr. Mareth is probably correct. Many omens, signs,
premonitions and forecasts point in that direction.
Ultrapremium petfood may take a substantial slice of the pet
Who knows, it may become common for food companies to make
meals intended for dogs and people. It's about time we get some
of their food.