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How Jones Naturals Stays Rooted and Branches Out

Rockford, Ill.-based Jones Naturals plans to grow its brands while continuing to partner with independent pet retailers that can benefit from the equity the company has already built, reports president Joe Wallington.


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Joe Wallington, president of Jones Naturals

What is Jones Naturals up to right now? What tops your list of priorities?

Joe Wallington: I have lots of priorities always, but I would say the top four are:
• Continued distribution expansion with the Jones Natural Chews brand in pet specialty, farm and hardware channels exclusively, as well as expansion in all channels with a multi-brand approach. We now have three brands to minimize channel and pricing conflict. With two other brands, we can meet other channel needs while protecting the exclusivity of the Jones Natural Chews brand in the channels that are building their natural chews set around the brand. 
• Increased investment and focus on the innovation pipeline. We are focused on the fastest-growth segments within the treat category and will leverage our points of difference and brand equity to gain quick distribution with our customers and attention at the shelf level from consumers. 
• We have the best service levels in the business, and we plan to keep that reputation as we grow. So another key focus is efficiencies and capacity improvements with new proprietary manufacturing equipment and oven expansion. 
• Investment in our greatest resource, our people, by building the capability of the team through both training and attracting new talent into the organization.

More specifically, what goals do you have related to the independent pet specialty channel?

Wallington: The independent pet channel has been the key to our success thus far and will continue to be. In essence, they brought us to the dance. We fully intend to concentrate the Jones Natural Chews brand to indie pet so they continue to enjoy solid margins and not feel as though they are competing with every possible channel, including e-commerce. Our website sends shoppers to our independent pet retail outlets that stock the Jones Natural Chews line. We expect a lot of traffic on our site based on our high SEO ranking for keyword searches related to our type of products. 

In order for independent pet retailers to take advantage of our strategy to help them, it is really important that our strong partners carry the key items and a representative number of SKUs to ensure we have a Jones branding effect at the shelf. Because our segment is only purchased by about half of all dog-owning households, we also look for retail partners that will properly promote and display our brands to ensure we continue to close the remaining 50 percent of potential end users by getting consumers to try our products for their dogs. 

Jones Naturals has roots in meat cutting and meat butchery. How did this family business evolve into Jones Naturals? How has this expertise, passed down through generations, helped the company become what it is today?

Wallington: The Jones family meat-cutting heritage began in 1850, with each generation passing the training down to the next. Robert L. Jones, the founder of Jones Naturals, was trained by his father and worked with him for 18 years. He then opened his own meat-cutting plant in 1970. The company had smokehouses to process hams and bacons, in which the Jones’ began to process the natural dog chews. As the family was fully trained in handling meat for human consumption, this was invaluable experience for manufacturing natural dog chews. The meat company was also operating under the HACCP inspection plan, and this naturally transferred to the dog chew processing as well. These experiences laid the foundation for manufacturing a quality dog chew in a food-safe environment. 

Tell us about a few people at your company who your pet specialty retail partners should know. What role do they play in making your team great, and what makes them great at it? 

Wallington: We have a great team of around 140 employees. A few standouts include:

Melissa Williamson, office manager. Melissa recently celebrated her 14th year with Jones. Melissa is a huge asset and plays many key roles that help our order-to-delivery process go smoothly for our customers. Melissa really takes a “can do” attitude and takes every element of her job seriously. 

 

Jose Belen, production team lead. Jose is very dedicated at ensuring the manufacturing team is properly trained and understands all processing objectives with emphasis on safety. He is extremely dedicated to ensuring all manufacturing targets are met safely and makes sure that every one on the team knows that what they do contributes to our overall success as a company.

 

Shanna Taylor, logistics manager. Shanna is responsible for packaging priorities and coordination. Her job is critical, as her department makes sure the right labels go on the correct products and orders are filled at 100 percent order accuracy. Her job entails a lot of problem solving and communication to the team. Shanna goes above and beyond to meet our aggressive numbers and make sure that customers are 100 percent satisfied with their delivery.

Tell us about your food processing and the ways in which the company ensures top quality and safety for its customers.

Wallington: As I mentioned, Jones has the highest quality and safety standards in the industry, including SQF certification. Along with our 100 percent USA-sourced and -made products, and highest quality and safety standards, we supply our customers with 99 percent fill rates and flexible packaging capabilities; pet specialty protection strategy for the JNC brand; recognized brand equity with retailers and consumers alike, and 30 years of pet treat manufacturing leadership.

What does the future hold for Jones Naturals Chews?

Wallington: We will continue to drive our business through being a leader in the area of innovation and rapidly expand our distribution footprint. Other big news includes the launch of Jones Select: a new line of limited-ingredient natural treats including nutritional blends (Salmon, Duck, Chicken and Beef) with cranberry and blueberry inclusions; USDA certified organic Turkey and sweet potato; Chicken with brown rice; Alligator, Pheasant and Wild Boar exotic proteins; and a chicken and beef training treat. The premium segment is hot, and with the Jones branding, we will have some strong credibility with our customers and consumers. 

We launched new Jones Select at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., last month, with shipments beginning in early April. 

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