Natural Balance didn’t quite match J.M. Smucker’s other pet food brands, such as Rachel Ray's Nutrish, Meow Mix and Milk-Bone, Brian Connolly, Natural Balance chief executive officer, said. The brand originated in pet specialty retail, whereas much of Smucker’s expertise lies in food, drug and mass market retail outlets.
“We're realigning the business to the pet specialty channel,” he said. “That kind of lost its way a little bit being owned by a big consumer packaged goods company that was used to having widely distributed brands. Natural Balance in the Smucker portfolio was a bit of an orphan in that sense. Now, we're privately held. We have absolutely no intention of going mass with this brand. This is a pet specialty brand and that's where we're going to continue to put our investment and energies.”
Natural Balance experienced sales spikes in March and April last year, he said. This taxed their supply chain and manufacturers. A year later, sales have returned to a more consistent growth trajectory. For 2021, Connolly and his team will focus on getting the business up and running, focusing on a rebranding project and an innovation project that they've got underway.
New leadership at Natural Balance
Like many pet food brands, Natural Balance saw success in e-commerce, especially during the pandemic, however, Connolly sees strength in the brick and mortar business. Many of Natural Balances new management team came from those retail worlds.
“Previously a natural balance was managed kind of within the overall smarter as portfolio. For example, there was no CEO for the Natural Balance brand. Now that we're a standalone brand, we've put together a management team in place with executives that have decades of experience with Petco, PetSmart, Chewy and organic and natural brands manufacturing. We've got six key management team members. I'm really proud we've been able to assemble these folks, all of whom started February 1st or shortly thereafter.”
That management team and others at Natural Balance will be working to implement several new products in the coming year, while maintaining the company’s limited ingredient diet roots.
“We've got a lot of interesting plans that will appeal across the board to our customers, whether it be the independent channel or the Petco, PetSmart to the world.
Natural Balance experienced sales spikes in March and April last years, he said. This taxed their supply chain and manufacturers. A year later, sales have returned to a more consistent growth trajectory. For 2021, Connolly and his team will focus on getting the business up and running, focusing on a rebranding project and an innovation project that they've got underway.
In December 2020, J. M. Smucker announced the sale of Natural Balance to Nexus Capital for US$50 million. The deal was the most recent in a series of transitions. In May 2013, Natural Balance joined Del Monte via a merger, eventually falling under the Big Heart Pet Products brand in 2014. J.M. Smucker bought Big Heart in 2015.