By Wanda Lenoir
Nothing’s too good for Fido. Pet parents spare no expense when it comes to feeding and caring for their furry friends—after all, they’re family. In 2019, sales of pet food and treats reached an all-time high of $36.9 billion. Consumers have educated themselves to read labels because they care about the ingredients that go into their pet’s food. Shoppers are willing to pay a higher price for food made with natural ingredients that are minimally processed. The sale of pet food and treats is projected to grow by 4 percent in 2020.
Since entering the pet food category in 2018, The Wild Bone Company has grown by leaps and bounds. According to Robert Klein, sales manager, it’s due to outstanding products, Ted Cundiff’s leadership, and a team of great employees who listen and respond to their customers. Using his extensive sales, marketing, and packaging experience, Robert embraced the challenge of getting a start-up company up and running. Cutting Edge Products Magazine wanted to share its insights about the business with our readers.
Why did Ted Cundiff, owner of Pony Express Foods, decide to expand into the pet category?
Ted has strong feelings about the number of products imported from other countries that are not good for our pets—in some cases; those products are killing them. So, he started a pet division of 100 percent American-made treats that have been very successful with co-packing. A little over a year ago, he asked me to take our in-house brand and expand it into a national line. With Ted’s outstanding support and leadership, our products are now in 26 warehouses nationwide, and we’re just getting started.
What motivated you to join The Wild Bone Company?
I’m a pet owner, so having an opportunity to help get these new products into the markets was an exciting challenge. After reviewing the product line with Ted, I could see the outstanding potential for the products. I was excited about the line, and the fact that the products are 100 percent sourced and manufactured here in the USA. Plus, the management team and the atmosphere of the office creates an enjoyable family setting. That’s still true, and I’ve been here for more than a year. It’s just a great place to work and grow.
Why is there a growing demand for all-natural dog treats and pet products made in the USA?
The market is genuinely concerned about products from overseas where there is no quality control on food and treats going to our pets. There are a few companies still making products here in the United States. Some like The Wild Bone Company are making products with only high-quality ingredients. Others are using good ingredients. However, we still have too many treats coming from overseas.
How do your products differ from competitors?
We are 100 percent sourced and manufactured in the United States with extensive quality control to make sure all products are consistent from batch to batch. In addition to the products, the packaging and display materials are also manufactured in the U.S. Our products are made with muscle meat, not meat meal. Since all of our meats are FDA or USDA certified, we can offer consumers and their pets a higher-quality product.
What sales approach did you use to get Wild Bone products into retail stores and warehouses?
We know how important it is to make a good first impression. Our first step was to design an appealing package and display to promote to merchants at trade shows and sell to retail customers. The strategy was to work the tradeshow to the best of our ability. We were on the floor interacting with customers as they were coming down the aisle and told them the benefits of our product. We shared facts about the products with honesty and a sense of humor.
The average store is looking for profitable new items and incremental sales, especially from those manufactured in the United States. The Wild Bone Company handles every phase of manufacturing from conception to the final product.
How does the company maintain the quality of products and promote the brand?
We have strong quality control departments and in-house labs that are constantly testing to make sure only the best quality products go to market. We do product development in our labs to stay ahead of the market. The company continues to seek opportunities to move forward. When I started working here on November 1st, 2018, our product line had 4 SKUs. Today there are 17 SKUs. One of them is our Christmas Doggy gift box, a treat sampler for your Dog. But the Best is yet to come, so keep looking at the Web page at www.thewildbonecompany.com for new items coming soon. Also, check out our sister company www.walkaboutpet.net for some unique proteins for your dogs and cats.
What is your philosophy on the importance of customer service? What role does consumer feedback play?
Customer service is number one with The Wild Bone Company. We pride ourselves on responding to customer’s calls or e-mails within 24 to 48 hours, or sooner. Many times, customer inquiries are answered either by a regional sales manager or the national sales manager. We never pass the buck.
Has COVID-19 impacted the company’s growth strategy?
Employees undergo constant testing to ensure there is no illness in the plant due to Covid-19. We use GoToMeeting, and other forms of contactless communications to interact with our buyers and answer their questions. Despite all of the economic challenges facing our country, on March 1st, we expanded our distribution system and subsequently increased sales. As more areas re-open, our sales team and reps have jumped on opportunities to go out and meet with customers to expand distribution.
What is the most important thing you want our readers to know The Wild Bone Company?
Any new company with the right management and organizational resources can put together a robust program to succeed in the market. The biggest thing is to make your plan and work your plan the way you believe it should come together. However, at the same time, be flexible enough to change direction quickly when obstructions block your way. The only real failure is giving up and hoping that the customer will come to you.