Zuke’s: Healthy pet treats, constant innovation

Zuke's Performance Pet Nutrition has been thriving on authenticity and innovation since the very beginning, when the company's founder, Patrick Meiering, became inspired to focus on energy nutrition for pets after feeding his tired Chocolate Lab Zuke a bit of energy bar during a hike. Seeing his dog perk right back up led to the idea of encouraging active lifestyles and outdoor adventures with pets, and Zuke's products have always been developed for a specific function-to help keep pets healthy and active.

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Zuke's Performance Pet Nutrition has been thriving on authenticity and innovation since the very beginning, when the company's founder, Patrick Meiering, became inspired to focus on energy nutrition for pets after feeding his tired Chocolate Lab Zuke a bit of energy bar during a hike. Seeing his dog perk right back up led to the idea of encouraging active lifestyles and outdoor adventures with pets, and Zuke's products have always been developed for a specific function-to help keep pets healthy and active.

That sort of commitment  has led to solid growth for the Durango, Colo., USA-based company. "Sales trends have been very strong for the last quarter and continue to surge as the shift toward more natural and healthy ingredients continues," says the company. Continuous innovation is a key component to the company's growth. "We are continually developing new products, as well as improving our existing products, to address specific health needs of dog and cats," says Zuke's.

Over the last twelve months, Zuke's has completely redesigned the look of its packaging to convey the authenticity of the brand and help inspire pet parents to get outside and enjoy nature with their pets. The company also launched multiple treat lines, including Lil' Links grain-free, healthy sausages; Supers, a meat-free treat inspired by human Superfoods; and G-Zee's grain-free cat treats with glucosamine. Most recently, Zuke's introduced 10-calorie Skinny Bakes biscuits and two new formulas of Mini Naturals, Roasted Pork and Delicious Duck; both of which will be available in October.

"Staying authentic and true to our beliefs is one key to maintaining and growing the Zuke's brand," says the company. "People who know Zuke's understand that we are a company built on the founder, Patrick Meiering's, love for the outdoors and for his dog Zuke. We know that strengthening the bond between pet and pet parent is important, so we get outside every day and enjoy the outdoors with our pets and inspire our customers to do the same."

That kind of growth has led  to accolades for Zuke's, which was recently named in Forbes Magazine as one of CircleUp's 25 most innovative companies. It's also led to some necessary internal changes. "We've had to invest in our infrastructure to support the growth of our products," says Zuke's. "We have added people and processes to make sure we could meet the needs of our customers at every level, today and in the foreseeable future. We continue to listen closely to our customers and are now much more reactive to opportunities to address their needs and wants."

Some of the challenges in meeting those needs include simply getting the word out to a larger audience. "Our biggest challenge is how to convey our story faster to those who would love to hear it," says the company. "On a small company's marketing budget, mainstream media is often not available and a grassroots approach may not be fast enough to reach those pet owners looking for a brand story and products like Zuke's in which to believe."

One of Zuke's primary goals is to educate pet owners about its brand, the benefits of whole food, natural ingredients and the need to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle with their pet. To accomplish this, the company puts a large emphasis on social media, grassroots marketing and strategic partnerships. Through these channels, Zuke's aims to reach its consumers where they live: at home, online, in their communities and in their everyday lives.

Zuke's says it intends   to stay on top of industry trends, addressing whatever will most likely keep pets healthy and happy. "The pet treat and food industry is very robust, particularly in the natural, super premium category," says the company. "We see this trend continuing as people continue to be more conscious of their health and the health of their pets."

Other key trends in the market, according to Zuke's, include "Made in the USA," functional ingredients, grain free, low calorie, low gluten and super foods. "We either already had or have developed products to address each of these trends, and they are all doing very well," says Zuke's. "Future trends in pet will likely continue to mirror human trends, and we will develop products around those advances if they can help benefit pets' health."

The future of Zuke's  lies in further growth and innovation. "We feel there is potential for tremendous growth as more and more people learn the Zuke's story and aspire to emulate it," says the company. "We listen to the needs of our customers at every level and develop products around those needs. Even a petfood line may be in our future if we can determine a specific nutritional need is not being addressed."

The future of the company relies on staying true to its brand and the pillars on which it was built, says Zuke's: Be Healthy, Be Active, Be Devoted. "These will guide our direction and strategy as we continue to develop products that inspire people to get outside and enjoy life's adventures with their pets."

Business Basics

Headquarters: Durango, Colo.

Facilities: Sales, marketing and operations teams are located in Durango, with two distribution sites located on the East and West Coasts. All products are sourced and manufactured in the USA.

Officers: Patrick Meiering, founder and board member; John Hart, president; Chris Meiering, director of marketing

Sales: Over 25% growth each of the past two years and more than 35% growth in 2013.

Brands: Zuke's brands include Mini Naturals, Hip Action, Lil' Links, Jerky Naturals, Supers, Power Bones, Z-Filets, Z-Bones and Skinny Bakes for dogs; and G-Zee's and Natural Purrz for cats.

Distribution: US and Canada nationwide, as well as several international markets

Employees: 27

Website: www.zukes.com

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