By Devon McPhee
As Pet Product News celebrates 60 years in the industy, it joins the family of entrepreneurial spirits who saw the potential of the pet industry and jumped in with both feet.
The following manufacturers informed us that they, too, commemorate more than 60 years in the business.
F.M. Brown's original gristmill.
George Brown opens F.M. Brown's, a flour mill in eastern Pennsylvania. The company now produces wild- and caged-bird food, small animal food and equine treats.
"We must remain flexible and constantly learn to adapt to this ever-changing business environment," says Cecil Campbell, vice president of sales and marketing.
Nicholas Knauf starts a grain and feed business in Sheboygan, Wis., which moved to Chilton, Wis., in 1881. From a single grain elevator, shipping several hundred carloads of product per year, to today's nationwide manufacturing and distributing facility, shipping several hundred thousand tons of product per year, Kaytee Products Inc. has become one of the leaders in the bird and small-animal industries.
Polk Miller begins selling remedies and medications for dogs at his drugstore. He names the products "Sergeant's" after his favorite hunting dog, giving rise to Sergeant's Pet Care Products Inc.
"The changes in our products reflect the changes in the industry," says Joel Adamson, senior vice president. "In early years, we focused simply on health. Today, in addition to health, we offer products that provide enjoyment and fun for pets that have become family members."
Henry Webster rents a small gristmill in Lawrence, Mass., to produce horse feed, an operation that eventually grows into Blue Seal Feeds Inc. Today headquartered in Londonderry, N.H., the company manufactures food for all kinds of animals, including dogs and cats.
"A significant change has been the increase in the life expectancy of dogs and cats, brought about largely by innovations in pet nutrition," says Randy Schwalke, president of Blue Seal. "This has changed the nature of the relationship between owners and their pets."
| Better Homes and Gardens ad from 1921|
Andrew B. Hendryx Co., precursor to Prevue Pet Products Inc., starts manufacturing decorative bird cages. Today, the Chicago-based company produces cages and accessories for birds, dogs and small animals.
"The pet industry has, of course, changed greatly, but the most fundamental change has been the welcoming of our pets into the family," says Richard Savitt, chief executive officer.
Dr. Daniels Co. marketing piece, circa 1904.
Albert Daniels founds Dr. Daniels Co., which produces medicines for companion and feed animals. In 1907, the Webster, Mass.-based company began selling cat toys, and catnip toys are now its mainstay item.
"Over the years, family-owned distributors and stores have been replaced by super chains," says Regina Kontoes, president. "Consequently, customer service and knowledge of items sold in the store were lost with product loyalty."
Harold Feed Supply in Manhattan creates Eight in One Song Food in response to the city's canary craze, giving birth to Eight in One Pet Products. The Hauppauge, N.Y.-based company now produces more than 1,200 products for birds, dogs, cats and small mammals.
Oster Professional Products, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., enters the grooming industry with a sheep-shearing machine.
Tecla Co. ad from the late 1930s.
Thomas Clark founds Tecla Co. Inc. of Walled Lake, Mich., to make radio sets. In the late 1930s, the company creates its first nail trimmer for dogs.
"The most profound change I've seen is the consolidation of the retail and distribution channels," says Bob Tyson, vice president of sales and marketing. "This has placed decisions of which products will be offered in the hands of a few people."
The Fromm Family begins a tradition of innovation dedicated to the health and nutrition of animals. In the 1930s, the company introduces the first canine distemper vaccine. In 1949, they launch the concept of premium pet foods to the public.
"As pets become even more important members of today's families, owners look to feed their pets food that is of the same quality," says Tom Nieman, president.
Wahl Clipper Corp. enters business in the professional beauty and barber trade. It produces its first animal clipper in 1966.
"My family has built its reputation on quality, and we'll continue that tradition," says Greg Wahl, president and chief executive officer.
New Yorker Nathan Weinberg founds American Leather Specialties, which produces dog collars, leashes and harnesses. Today, it manufactures more than 2,000 dog and cat accessories.
"Although the pet business has changed dramatically since 1920, the following keys to growth and success have not: quality, innovation, reliability and integrity," says Alan Weinberg, vice president.
The Andis Co. begins in the professional barber industry before branching into the pet grooming industry.
"The Andis Co. has been very involved in developing and manufacturing state-of-the-art clippers and trimmers for animal grooming," says Fred Koeller, vice president of marketing. "By listening to our customers and partnering with them, Andis has become the No. 1 clipper of professional groomers."
Mid-West Metal Products begins making Switch Box Supports for the construction industry. Subsequently, the company produces wire trash burners from 1930 through 1965. The trash burners were used as wire dog crates to make house training easier and MidWest Homes for Pets, a division of Mid-West Metal Products Co., is still making them. Today, Midwest manufacturers wire crates of many different styles and finishes,other containment products and many accessories from facilities in China and Muncie, Ind.
Intermountain Farmers Assn. of Draper, Utah, begins as a poultry exchange. Today, it manufactures animal feed and private-label pet food.
"Pet food and supplies are some of our fastest growing departments in IFA," says Alan Johnson, feed products manager. "As our market becomes more urban and less rural, our direction has expanded to encompass small-animal owners and livestock operators."
Bentonite Mining and Manufacturing Co. opens in Deadwood, S.D. In 1927, it partners with industrialist Paul Bechtner to form American Colloid Co., which produces cat litter products and some dog products.
"The cat litter industry has experienced major growth in the past few years due to increased cat ownership," said John Renick, national sales manager for American Colloid Co.'s pet products specialty division. "There has also been increased interest by cat owners for new, high-quality products that will continue to improve the health, safety and enjoyment of their cats."
Numberall Stamp & Tool Co. Inc. of Sangerville, Maine, begins business. It has produced its model 40B, a machine used to stamp pet identification tags, since 1940.
Max Stern, founder of The Hartz Mountain Corp., arrives in New York touting canaries. Hartz produces bird food in 1932, and expands into fish, dog and cat products by the 1960s.
"The pet industry is in the midst of a very exciting time, with companies rushing to re-invent themselves to meet the needs of the consumer and retailer," says Bob Devine, president.
Nunn Milling Co., parent company of Midwestern Pet Foods Inc., opens in Evansville, Ind. It branches into pelleted dog and cat food in the 1940s.
"Dogs and cats have become family members that receive phenomenal attention and care," says Jeff Nunn, president of Midwestern Pet Foods. "The money spent on them is amazing."
Old Mother Hubbard of Lowell, Mass., bakes its first dog biscuit. Today, the company produces treats and a line of holistic dog and cat food.
"Retailers have realized that as individuals evaluate the impact of food on their health and their families, they apply this understanding to their pets as well," says Jim Scott Jr., chief executive officer.
In 1928, Sergeant's Pet Care Products helped sponsor Commodore Byrd's explorations of Antartica.
Chenango Valley Pet Foods opens as a dry pet food manufacturer in Allentown, Pa. Its current line includes dog, cat, ferret, koi, pond fish, small animal and bird products.
"For a manufacturer to survive against the larger corporations, it must always be at the cutting edge of what consumers want and the quality of products they pay for, and be responsive to their calls," says Victor Barsky, Chenango Valley vice president.
The Leathercraft Co. opens in Conshohoken, Pa., with dog collars among its first items. In the 1960s, it focuses solely on the pet industry, and now offers 3,850 pet product SKUs.
"In 1928, the largest retailers of pet products were local hardware stores," says Roy Mita, vice president of sales. "Seventy years later, you can purchase pet products from virtually every class of the retail trade."
Texas Farm Product Co. opens its doors as a fertilizer company in Nagogdoches. It begins manufacturing livestock feed in 1931, and pelleted dog food in the mid-1950s. The company today manufactures several dog food brands, including Precise Pet Foods and Lone Star.
"The current trend in pet food is to emulate what is happening in human food," says M.S. Wright III, president and chief executive officer. "Consumers are more aware and more interested in natural, even holistic pet food.'
PetAg begins producing companion animal nutritional supplements. Founded in the 1930s as a division of Borden, Inc., PetAg invented the category of neonatal or newborn nutrition.
"The pet industry has dramatically evolved over the years,' says Darlene Frudakis, president and chief operating officer of PetAg. "Consumers have become much more health conscious for both themselves and their pets.'
Andrew Bonn founds Bonaseptic Co. in response to Atlanta hunters' need for a skin-toughening product for their dogs. Tuf-foot remains the company's sole product, but today it is also used on horses and humans.
"Our company has needed to keep up with differing market trends," says Dr. Anne Hicks-Coolick, president. "In 1935 it was word of mouth. In 1975 print material. Now, the Internet has become the company's chief marketing tool.'
Out of a desire to produce food for his great Danes, Fred Evanger creates Evanger's Dog and Cat Food Co. Inc. in Wheeling, Ill., at the same site where the company presently manufactures dog and cat food.
"The biggest trend in the pet industry today is healthier food," says Holly Sher, Evanger's president. "Holistic is the word people are looking for, and we were holistic before holistic became popular."
A Norwalk, Conn., veterinarian founds Hilo Pet Products Inc., the forerunner of the RocCorp division of Boss Pet Products. After five changes in ownership and a renaming, the company now specializes in pet tethering devices.
"When I entered the industry 20 years ago, it seemed that everyone offered pet care products, but nobody actually marketed them,' says Bill Donze, vice president. "Now we have quality distribution channels dedicated to the needs of a pet-loving consumer. Product quality, packaging, innovation and availability have never been better."
Harry Gomberg founds 44/20' Shear Perfection, which manufactures handcrafted grooming tools. Today, the Whittier, Calif.-based company operates as a division of Economy Supply Co.
The Marshall family begins raising ferrets. In 1993, Marshall Farms forms Marshall Pet Products, based in Wolcott, N.Y., to create ferret products.
"The primary change that keeps our industry so vibrant and exciting is the growing intensity and passion for our pets, be they dogs, cats, ferrets or rabbits," says Peter Reid, president of Marshall. "Pets today have become our family members. We hear the term "pet parenting" more and more versus "pet ownership." If we said that back even 20 years ago, people would have thought you had two heads and were from Berkeley."
Henry Gulker founds Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner Co. Inc. In 1985, the Suffern, N.Y.-based company manufactures its first pet dryer.
"We have seen tremendous changes within the pet industry since we started," says David Stern, vice president of marketing. "There has been so much consolidation among distributors, manufacturers and retailers. We still make products here in the U.S. The growth of the pet market continues to astound me; I truly love this industry."
Barron's Educational Series Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y., publishes test preparation manuals and school directories. Currently, its publications include pet care manuals, handbooks and reference titles, and pop culture pet titles.
"The market for Barron's pet books is now universal," says Alex Holtz, vice president of sales and marketing. "Increasingly, books are sold at supermarkets and mass merchandisers, making great impulse buys."
Paul Van Ness opens Van Ness Plastic Molding Co. Inc. in Clifton, N.J. Today, the company produces about 1 million pet products per week, including litter pans, scoops and food dishes.
"It's a rewarding and exciting time to be in the pet business, which has the good fortune of favorable demographic trends, including rising per capita spending on pets and a growing dog and cat population," says Steve Glassman, director of marketing and sales.
Mort Duff launches Farnam Co. Inc, then a cattle equipment mail-order company. Farnam enters the pet healthcare market in 1957 with a fly repellent for horses. Dog and cat healthcare products follow in 1977.
"Today, we see a growing demand for vet-quality healthcare products in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers, particularly in the flea and tick category," says John Silvestri, president. "Currently, these products are mostly sold through veterinarians or pet specialty retailers at premium prices."
Pentair Aquatics of El Monte, Calif., enters business as a manufacturer of aquarium filtration systems under the name Rainbow Plastics. The company has changed hands twice since then and now operates as a division of Pentair Water Pool and Spa Inc.
"Over the years, there has been a tremendous consolidation of manufacturers through acquisitions and mergers, with similar trends exhibited in retail chains and distribution," says Neal Dulaney, Pentair vice president.
Devon McPhee, former associate news editor of Pet Product News, is a freelance writer in Hemlock, Mich.