Health Extension Pet Care: Retail partnerships key to growth

With an eye toward constant expansion in the pet space, Health Extension Pet Care has seen significant success in three generations of family ownership.

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Brad Gruber, president and COO of Health Extension Pet Care, here with his Mini Goldendoodle Blaze, says that partnerships with their retailers and constant improvement have been vital to Health Extension’s success. | Photo courtesy Health Extension Pet Care
Brad Gruber, president and COO of Health Extension Pet Care, here with his Mini Goldendoodle Blaze, says that partnerships with their retailers and constant improvement have been vital to Health Extension’s success. | Photo courtesy Health Extension Pet Care

Health Extension Pet Care is a family-owned company with a mission focused on industry partnerships and pet nutrition.

“We strive to be the best business partner anywhere for independent pet store owners, helping them break the cycle of lost sales to online and big box competition,” says Brad Gruber, company president and chief operations officer. The company’s mission statement reflects that, pledging to provide independent pet store owners “with foods they can be proud to sell as their own.” From small batch formulas for food, treats and supplements to the commitment Health Extension has to both retailers selling their products and pets consuming them, the company seems to have hit on a recipe for success.

Company growth since 2015

Petfood Industry magazine last covered Health Extension in 2015, and since then a lot — from packaging to product lines — has changed, according to Gruber.

“We completely redesigned all of our packaging to depict a warm country scene with a beautiful graphic of a dog or cat,” says Gruber. “This gives the whole product line a more contemporary and exciting look on the shelf, which reflects the quality of the brand.” 

The company’s dog and cat food lines have been revamped, with new products and expansions that have been very well received, according to Gruber.

“[In 2017] we introduced our large breed recipe, loaded with highly nutritious ingredients such as deboned chicken and New Zealand green-lipped mussels, plus glucosamine, probiotics and prebiotics to maintain a healthy digestive tract,” says Gruber. “We also expanded our grain-free line to include six dry recipes and three canned stews. Our grain-free sales have more than tripled since [2015] and now represent over 20 percent of our business.”  

The grain-free business is big, and has led to Health Extension adding even more products to its catalog.

health extension beef cat

Health Extension has expanded its grain-free offerings, like this grain-free real beef formula for cats, in response to consumer trends and in an effort to provide top nutrition for pets. | Photo courtesy Health Extension Pet Care

“We recently launched a novel collection of eight grain-free canned dog entrees, all of which are inspired by geographical regions around the world, with the labels reflecting scenes from those regions,” says Gruber. Formulas such as Montana Grill Buffalo, Carolina Skillet Pork Recipe and French Bistro Rabbit Recipe exemplify the new line.

As for its treats line, Health Extension did an update and relaunch to stay on top of current pet treat trends.

“Staying true to our commitment to care for a pet’s overall health, we relaunched our treat line, including 12 types of dental bones to promote greater oral hygiene, clean teeth and fresher breath,” says Gruber. “We updated our natural crunchy heart-shaped treat line, not only to streamline its classic look but also to expand the offering with a new Grain Free Buffalo & Whitefish recipe.”

Health Extension Pet Care’s keys to expansion

In the last three years, Health Extension has won more than a dozen awards, including Industry All-Star recognitions from Pet Business magazine, Editors’ Choice awards from Pet Product News and a Graphic Design USA American Package Design Award. The accolades seem well-deserved: the company continues to meet its volume expectations of double-digit growth and is outpacing the overall growth of the pet food category, according to Gruber, and there are no plans to slow down.

health extension buffalo dog

Dry dog foods also come grain free, like this buffalo and whitefish recipe that includes turmeric, apple cider vinegar, natural probiotics and coconut oil for various health and nutrition boosts. | Photo courtesy Health Extension Pet Care

“In distribution, we have remodeled our relationships and moved to dual distribution in several parts of the country,” says Gruber. “In addition, we are excited to be making a US$8 million investment in a dynamic new distribution center, three times the size of our current operation. This move will enable us to solidify our ability to continue our growth trajectory.”

A shifting of responsibilities and new talent are also important to Health Extension’s growth.

“We like to think that the more things change, the more they stay the same,” says Gruber. “Our ability to react quickly and change is part of our culture and values, and we continue to shift the responsibilities of our talented team members, allowing for better deployment of resources and greater focus and accomplishment in key areas of the company. We also continue to create new positions. We hired a chief technology officer, recognizing that technology will help tremendously with our continued growth. We also hired a warehouse operations manager whose role is vital to ensuring we have the logistics infrastructure, people and processes in place to support our growth. Internally, we are creating more streamlined processes and automating tasks, which will improve our accuracy and efficiency.”

Looking to the future by connecting with the past

As Health Extension continues to grow, Gruber says he sees nothing but opportunity on the horizon, both domestically and internationally.

“While we currently have distribution across the entire United States as well as in five other countries, we never stop working on filling distribution gaps,” says Gruber. “Our sales teams are currently working on adding new rooftops, expanding shelf space and increasing points of distribution. We see opportunity everywhere.”

Mostly, the company aims to continue succeeding by remembering what got them started in the first place.

“Three generations ago we started our company with the thought of making products from healthy ingredients and not cutting any corners in making them,” says Gruber. “Our long-range goal is not to have an investment company finance or acquire us, not to be just another brand on the shelf, but to be seen as a business partner providing our retailers with outstanding healthy products they can trust and be proud to sell as their own. When they do, their customers’ pets have the best chance of leading long, healthy lives, which speaks to our ultimate priority: the well-being of our pets.”

 

 

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