San Diego, USA-headquartered Petco, a specialty retailer of pet products and services, tapped Los Alamitos, California, USA-based JustFoodForDogs to open hundreds of "stores within stores” with many of them featuring exhibition pet food kitchens so customers can see how the dog food is made. JustFoodForDogs’ own nutrition consultants will staff the Petco stores.
Petco has more than 1,500 Petco and Unleashed by Petco locations in North America.
JustFoodForDogs’ products are marketed as containing only USDA grade meats and produce. The dog food is formulated by a team of veterinarians, many of whom hold subspecialty degrees (e.g., nutrition, toxicology, dermatology, etc.), according to the company. The dog food is made fresh daily before its customers at JustFoodForDogs exhibition kitchens throughout Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
While some Petco stores will feature these exhibition kitchens, others will house smaller pantries and runs that will be supplied with fresh product daily beginning in New York City and Southern California.
JustFoodForDogs was established in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Shawn Buckley with the idea of developing an alternative to commercial brand dog food commonly found at retail stores. He enlisted a team of veterinarians who created the product then opened locations throughout Southern California. Some of the original team work full-time at JustFoodForDogs and are actively involved in the formulation of the food as well as studying its effects on dogs. They are also involved with conducting scientific research to support those studies.
“As the inventor of the most radical change in pet food in decades, JustFoodForDogs is on the vanguard of a new trend that is rapidly changing the industry,” said Petco executive vice president and chief merchandising officer Rebecca Frechette in a press release. “We researched other potential partners in the genre and decided to go with JustFoodForDogs as the company’s unwavering commitment to quality and love of pets mirror Petco’s core beliefs. Also, they have invested considerable resources in research and maintain a staff of vets who work tirelessly to improve the product.”
Last year, the $14 billion equity group LCatterton LLC made a considerable investment in JustFoodForDogs to expand its footprint. This lays the groundwork for the company teaming up with Oakland, California based Pet Food Express (PFE) to build pantries and runs at several of its stores. PFE has green-lighted additional pantries and runs in its Northern California stores.
The pet food industry continues to evolve and the deal between Petco and JustFoodForDogs comes on the heels of some major acquisitions. General Mills purchased Blue Buffalo for US$8 billion and J.M. Smucker Co. agreed to buy Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, a company backed by Rachael Ray, in a deal valued at US$1.9 billion.
"As more and more pet parents are steering away from kibble and embracing real food (made from USDA-grade meats and produce), such strategic moves like those made by General Mills and Smuckers may prove obsolete," said Buckley in a press release. "Just as the once-powerful Blockbuster Video gave way to Netflix, I believe we'll soon see a paradigm shift in how we feed our beloved pets."
While cat trends continue, the pandemic has added to overall slow-growth treatment of the cat food market.
Premiumization and humanization, as well as automation, fueled continued operation growth in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.