Pet DelÃcia, a family-owned Brazilian specialty petfood company, has always had an eye for quality. “We are a pioneering company making natural petfood for dogs and cats in Brazil,” says JÃ¶rgen Dehlbom, co-founder and CEO of Pet DelÃcia. “We use only human-grade ingredients with no preservatives, artificial colors or by-products.” The Rio de Janeiro-based company was founded in December 2010, initially producing frozen petfood for dogs. At the beginning of 2011, Pet DelÃcia began selling its food to pet shops using customized freezers, and by June 2011 the company had 15 freezers in Rio de Janeiro.
“We got the idea [for specialty dog food] from our own dogs,” says Dehlbom. “We wanted to create a trademark with our first dog, Chico, a French Jack Russell, as the mascot. Our products were made for him and the dogs of our friends. As we came from other areas (Jorgen came from Telecom, and his wife and Pet DelÃcia co-founder Roberta came from Museology), we needed to learn everything from scratch. That also meant questioning everything already being offered to dogs and cats in Brazil, and we did not like what we saw in terms of quality of products and marketing. We tried to create a trademark that was very different and more personal, with a ‘family’ feeling.”
With expansion as its focus, the company began selling its food to other main cities in Brazil and looked to growing its product line. “In March , with our goal to increase production and reach more clients, we started our production of the first natural canned petfood in Brazil using no preservatives, artificial colors or by-products,” says Dehlbom. “All our recipes are produced using human-grade ingredients and we only add necessary vitamins and minerals. We make the highest-quality products possible so we can support our long-term vision improving the health of dogs and cats.”
2013 saw the introduction of five canned recipes: CaÃ§arolinha de Carne (meat and vegetables recipe with no grains), Jardineira de Frango (chicken and vegetables recipe with no grains), Risotinho de Frango (chicken, rice and vegetables recipe), Maravilha de Frango (chicken and vegetables recipe with no grains) and Pet DelÃcia Special Care (meat and vegetables recipe with no grains for dogs in rehabilitation or breastfeeding). In 2014, Pet DelÃcia introduced Pet DelÃcia Christmas Dinner (chicken, vegetables, blueberry and plum seasonal recipe with no grains).
Pet DelÃcia’s strategy to expand its product line has been a profitable one, according to Dehlbom. “Our canned product line is doing very well,” he says. “Since their introduction in 2013, sales of our canned products have grown rapidly and are now surpassing our frozen line. As our distribution for canned products is less costly and simpler, we can scale more efficiently.
“Our products have always been the priority,” says Dehlbom. “We wanted to create world-class products using the best human-grade ingredients possible, and we believe we have succeeded. Our focus is the dogs and the cats, and we are here to serve them and their owners. By producing the best possible food, we also know that we can market ourselves in a truthful way. That has been very important for us as we strongly believe that the customer needs to know what he/she is buying. Honesty and quality are very important for us.”
Also important to the company’s growth plans is market presence. Pet DelÃcia doubled the number of points of sale where its products are sold over the last six months of 2014, and is currently selling at more than 300 points of sale. The company’s sales run-rate has grown at an annual rate of more than 50%. “Brazil has more than 50,000 individually owned pet shops,” says Dehlbom. “That presents an enormous opportunity for us. Brazil is second to only the US in terms of size regarding petfood, and at the same time represents a segmented market with few new products. We therefore believe the next five to 10 years are going to be very interesting for Pet DelÃcia, with a pipeline of innovative and high-quality products. Pet DelÃcia will focus on scaling up its distribution reach and enhance its brand by making high-quality product offerings in the coming years.”
The company’s current goals are aggressive, aiming to have more than 5,000 pet shops in its network by 2018. But Pet DelÃcia believes the opportunities for success are there. “I believe we will see the market evolve rapidly and present many new companies and products in the next five years,” says Dehlbom. “We strongly believe this is very good for the dogs and cats, who will benefit greatly in terms of quality of life. We believe it is also necessary to maintain the cutting edge in the business. If you look at the product offerings in the US, Brazil is way behind. Of course the markets are different, but there are similarities, and we are modeling ourselves off of the superpremium brands in the US.
“Also, with a strong growing middle class in Brazil in recent years, Brazil has yet to see the full economic benefits of that development,” he says. “The dogs and cats more and more are considered family members, which is one very important change that will bring lots of opportunities in Brazil and for us.”
The company is well-prepared to deal with most of the issues it will face, according to Dehlbom, including challenges like funding and cash flow—something all growing companies have to deal with. “Another important issue is to maintain product quality when scaling-up production,” he says. “It sounds easy, but I believe it is a challenge in many ways; to keep the quality, to keep the company’s values and to grow in a controlled way.
“We have grown from a small family-owned business to a medium-sized company being a player in the petfood market in Brazil,” says Dehlbom. “We have a loyal customer base, world-class frozen and canned products and a well-prepared production facility. That evolution has been important in terms of production, logistics and administration. In terms of sales, we serve more than 300 pet shops with all the work in terms of marketing, after-sales, etc. We are now prepared to scale production and sales, to be able to continue leading the real, all-natural petfood segment.”