Q&A with Dr. Harvey's Pet Food family team

Read Petfood Industry magazine's entire interview with Dr. Harvey's Pet Food founder, Dr. Harvey Cohen; President and CEO Wendy Shankin-Cohen; and Director of Design and Technology Ty Cohen.

Petfood Industry:  What would you say sets your company apart from the competition? What do you strive to be known for?

Dr. Harvey’s Team: Dr. Harvey’s mission has always been to make the purest and healthiest products for pets. Dr. Harvey’s is committed to helping guardians give their companion animals fresh, whole, unadulterated foods, treats and supplements without the use of any preservatives or chemicals additives. All of Dr. Harvey’s products are sourced and made in our own facility in the US using 100% human-grade ingredients. We don’t use any shortcuts, cheap fillers or by-products and our customers know the difference.

PI: What new brands, products or packaging have you introduced in the past 12 months? Can you provide information on how they are doing in the market to date?

DHT: In 2013, Dr. Harvey’s launched Oracle, a line of freeze-dried raw foods for dogs and cats. As with all of Dr. Harvey’s products, Oracle contains no preservatives, dyes, coloring agents or synthetic ingredients. What Oracle does contain is USDA-inspected antibiotic free, freeze-dried meat and vegetables. The launch of the Oracle line marked an enormous leap forward for Dr. Harvey’s, as it was the first time in the company's 30 year history that it is offering a complete food that includes the protein in a “just add water” formula.

For over 30 years Dr. Harvey’s has offered premixes to which pet parents add their own meat and oil to make a complete meal. These original foods include Canine Health and VegtoBowl. These foods have always been very popular, but they require a bit of preparation as guardians add their own protein to make fresh homemade meals for their dogs. These foods are a great solution for people who want to make homemade food, supplement a raw diet or have a dog with health issues that require special amounts of protein, fats or other ingredients. Dr. Harvey’s Premixes are a great time-saver for the preparation of home-cooked meals.

We realize that in our fast-paced world, even this minimal preparation can be daunting for some people, so Oracle makes preparation even easier. The Oracle launch has been a very exciting and busy time for this growing company.

Wendy Shankin-Cohen, president & CEO: Our customers love the ease that Oracle offers and, of course, the meticulous attention that Dr. Harvey’s pays to using only the highest quality ingredients. Oracle pleases even the most finicky of dogs and cats so we have far exceeded our projections of being accepted into this fast-growing part of the petfood market.

Dr. Harvey’s also just relaunched its very popular Sweet Potate’r Chews and Fries. These treats are grown, dried and packaged in the US and are minimally processed without additives of any kind. This is a superior health treat for dogs. The new sweet potatoes are rich in color, taste and nutrients. They also have been rebranded and have new brighter labels. These treats are presented in clear bags so pet parents can actually see what is inside. Dogs love these treats and they are great for oral health while supplying all the vitamins and minerals that are contained in sweet potatoes, promoting good health.

PI: What are your company’s keys to growth?

DHT: The key to our rapid growth in the last 10 years has been the amount of information that is now available to guardians about the need to feed real foods to their pets. Pet owners no longer have to rely solely on advertising or veterinary recommendations when it comes to feeding their pets. Guardians have become more aware of the importance of nutrition in keeping their pets healthy. Pet parents today are much more educated about the necessity for pure healthy foods and treats for their companions. As a result of this awareness, the popularity of Dr. Harvey’s products has exploded.

We have seen people change their own diets and then realize they should be feeding healthy foods to their pets, too. Consumers are looking for simpler whole foods in their own diets and want to extend that to their companion animals. They read and understand labels and they are applying their knowledge to what they give their dogs, cats and birds. Dr. Harvey’s has been making natural and organic products for animals for over 30 years.

WSC: It has been incredibly rewarding to see the trends in the pet industry come around to embracing our philosophy about animal health and nutrition. We are growing because the trends caught up to Dr. Harvey’s.

DHT: When Dr. Harvey began talking about cooking for pets and using human-grade whole foods, the very idea of all natural foods for animals was laughable to some, incomprehensible to others. Again, this was in the early 1980s, but like all stories that are driven by the truth, news of Dr. Harvey’s ideas began to spread. Suddenly, the “eccentric doctor” who had the audacity to tell people that companion animals need natural food had everyone’s ear, because what he said made sense.

Today we see more and more consumers looking to ultrapremium foods like Dr. Harvey’s that use only very high quality ingredients as what they want for their companions. With 30 years of experience in the natural sector of the pet industry, we are in the rare position to have been able to develop a reputation as a company that can be trusted.

Dr. Harvey’s reputation for quality and integrity has led to enormous word-of-mouth recognition. The Internet, forums, blogs and social media have fueled this phenomenon allowing smaller manufacturers like Dr. Harvey’s to create an almost under-the-radar but viral community that extols the virtues of companies that support animals in the products they make as well as in giving back to the community. Dr. Harvey’s has long been a supporter of both local and national organizations that help shelter and rescue dogs, cats and birds. This effort is amplified by a large presence on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram.

PI: Comment on recent sales trends. What has 2013 been like for the company?

DHT: Our sales have doubled in 2013 and we are on target to see another enormous growth spurt in 2014. As our distribution expands into all 50 states we see no reason for our sales to level off in the next five years. Dr. Harvey’s products are distributed in the US, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.

PI: What is the outlook overall for the future of your company? Any projections or possible new directions?

DHT: Dr. Harvey’s will never lose sight of the company core values. This enables Dr. Harvey’s to remain relevant in today’s market. The company’s core values will always be relevant because more and more people are becoming aware of the value of feeding only quality products to their companions. Feeding high-quality foods and treats to pets has a major impact on the quality of their lives. Dr Harvey’s will continue to be a truly reliable company, offering the products that satisfy the demand for optimal wellness derived from optimal nutrition.

Dr. Harvey’s future will allow for continued growth as the company is able to introduce new, healthy and innovative foods, treats and supplements into the market for dogs, cats and birds. As a company, Dr. Harvey’s listens very closely to its customers.

Ty Cohen, director of design and technology: They tell us what they want and need for their pets. We try and respond to their needs and the needs of their companions by creating healthy solutions that will make their lives better.

DHT: Dr. Harvey’s recently moved to a new facility in central New Jersey. The new larger space has enabled the company to streamline its production and meet the rapidly growing demand for its products. The future looks very exciting for Dr. Harvey’s! As the need for all natural and organic products has grown both domestically and globally, Dr. Harvey’s has been able to expand its customer base worldwide.

Dr. Harvey’s is the “go to” company for the most demanding end users and innovative retailers. Dr. Harvey’s customers are looking for the very best for their pets coming from a company that they can trust and will not settle for anything less.

Dr. Harvey Cohen, founder: Our customers think of their pets not as pets, but as members of their family, and they want to treat the members of their family with the same respect as they treat themselves. I understand this, because I feel the same way.

We know our customers and appreciate what they want for their animals. We are demanding pet parents ourselves and understand what it means to want the best for your pets. This is what I have been teaching for over 30 years now.

DHT: Dr. Harvey started the company to help animals and the company has never waivered from that mission.

PI: What do you see as the key trends currently in the petfood and treat markets? How is Dr. Harvey’s responding to these trends? Tell us about the rapidly growing natural, holistic and organic pet food market—where is it headed and what is driving growth?

WSC: The growth in the natural, organic and holistic sector of the petfood market is very exciting for Dr. Harvey’s. Of course, this growth has helped us to grow our business, but it has also helped to improve the lives of animals, which has always been our primary goal.

Natural is the way of the future. Dr. Harvey’s has always wanted to educate pet parents about the health benefits of feeding all natural and fresh foods to pets. We see the future growth in truly natural products as filled with potential. The pet industry is still at the frontier of what the future will hold. We believe that this part of the market will continue to grow, as more and more people understand what they can do to help their pets. Dr. Harvey’s loves its grassroots fan base and the word of mouth, slightly “under the radar” way in which the company has grown.

PI: Where do you see your biggest opportunities?

WSC: The biggest opportunities for Dr. Harvey’s unique products are with the independent retailers who are guiding pet parents daily when they come into their stores. The more informed the staff is in any store, the more likely they will be to recommend our products. We like to have a close relationship with the stores and help to educate the staff about the uniqueness of Dr. Harvey’s. Education on every level is critical to the success of our products. Word of mouth is our greatest marketing tool and social media has amplified our ability to spread the word on nutrition. Users of our products are our greatest advocates. They see the difference in their animals and they want to tell their friends.

PI: How would you evaluate the current state of the petfood and treat industries?

DHT: It is clear that there has been unprecedented growth in the petfood and treat industries, particularly in the natural and organic portion of the industries.

Dr. Harvey’s has also seen tremendous growth in the herbal supplement and organic grooming aid portions of the industry. It is clear that demanding pet parents, who want the best foods and treats, also want topical products that are free of chemicals and made with organic ingredients. We have seen an enormous demand for our Healing Cream and Herbal Shampoos as well as our Herbal Ear Wash and Protection Spray.

PI: What predictions do you have for the petfood industry? What big changes do you foresee in the coming years?

DHT: It is clear that the petfood industry will continue to move towards more natural and organic foods and treats. Dr. Harvey’s has seen tremendous growth in what used to be a small niche in the pet market. For Dr. Harvey’s this is very good news.

PI: What are some of the recent noteworthy accomplishments of your petfood company?

DHT: Dr. Harvey’s is working at the intersection of health, technology and production. In 2008, Ty Cohen, second generation Dr. Harvey’s entrepreneur and son of Dr. Harvey and Wendy Shankin-Cohen, president of Dr. Harvey’s, joined the company after graduating Magna Cum Laude from Babson College. Since joining forces with his parents, he has introduced and implemented major technological innovations and advances.

Thanks to Ty’s innovations, Dr. Harvey’s now uses a custom designed and very sophisticated inventory, quality control and shipping program. The custom software that Ty developed has made inventory control, cost analysis and order processing operate seamlessly, giving Dr. Harvey’s an impressive capability to monitor daily operations as well as predict future growth. This customized software system also monitors outbound shipping, which has minimized mistakes and reduced costs. In addition, Ty has overseen the redesign, repackaging and rebranding of all of the many products that Dr. Harvey’s manufactures. Ty also designed and implemented Dr. Harvey’s comprehensive and educational website. Working closely with his team, Ty keeps Dr. Harvey’s customers informed with updates, photos, customer profile videos and instructional videos.

TC: We see the website as one of the best ways to connect with our customers. The website is a very important tool that helps pet parents make good choices for their companions.

DHT: In addition, Wendy Shankin-Cohen was recently honored when she was nominated as a finalist for Woman of the Year in the Pet Industry by WPIN, Woman in the Pet Industry.

Dr. Harvey’s was also awarded a Best In Show nod at the Global Pet Expo from ThePackMom.com for the Oracle Petfood Line.

PI: How has your company changed over the past several years?

DHT: In July of 2013, Dr. Harvey’s moved its headquarters to a new, larger and more modern production facility. The new location offers ample space for growth as well as additional office space, a photographic and video production studio and a much larger shipping a receiving area. We have grown from 10 employees to 20 full-time employees. We have developed strong relationships with major distributors in the US and Canada as well as in Japan, Hong Kong Taiwan and South Korea.

Dr. Harvey’s has expanded its offerings in the canine, feline and avian lines and continues to grow as demand for its products becomes greater. The growth of Dr. Harvey’s has allowed the company to participate in outreach programs that support rescue organizations nationwide. This outreach is a major part of the mission of Dr. Harvey’s and is aligned with the core values of the company to give back to animals in need.

PI: What are some of your most difficult challenges?

DHT: Our greatest challenge is keeping up with the growing demand for our products. We have had to increase our capacity for production and we have had to do this without compromising the quality or taking shortcuts in our process.

PI: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers about your company?

DHT: Dr. Harvey’s is a family affair. The company is a family-run business in the truest sense. It was started by Dr. Harvey and guided by his wife, Wendy Shankin-Cohen, who is president and CEO. All three of their sons are involved in the business. In addition to Ty, who works and directs the company on a full-time basis, Remy helps with marketing and sales and Lincoln, who is a senior at Cornell University, helps with R&D. Lincoln was instrumental in the development of the Oracle line.

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