Innovating for Quality of Life
The 75+ year company thrives on formulating diets for specialty animals that can go into zoos, retail markets or the aquatic segment.
By Michael Ventre
On the surface, there wouldn’t seem to be much of a connection between livestock (as in cattle, hogs, etc.) and fish. Generally speaking, livestock are large; fish are small. Livestock like terra firma; fish have to be under water, or else.
Livestock count on Zeigler Brothers for food. Fish rely on Zeigler Brothers for food.
Oh, wait a minute. There is a connection after all.
Celebrating more than 75 years in business, Zeigler Brothers began in 1935, in Gardners, Pa. Brothers Ty and Leroy Zeigler served as local producers of poultry and livestock feeds. As it turned out, Leroy produced something else that benefitted the company: A smart kid.
His son, Thomas, became Dr. Thomas after eventually earning his Ph.D in nutrition at Cornell. He also changed the focus of Zeigler Brothers from commodity feeds to research and development of specialty animal and aquatic diets.
Location: Gardners, Pa.
Number of Employees: 60
Years in Business: 75
Areas of Distribution/Business: Worldwide
Company Mission: “Building Value to Life through Innovative Nutrition”
Product/Business Categories: Specialty pet and aquatic foods
Product/Business Lines: Aquatic, reptile, small animal, zoo animal
Today Zeigler Brothers is run by Tom’s sons—Tim is vice president of sales and marketing, while Matt serves as VP of operations. They continue the company’s quest to pursue specialty markets in areas, such as aquaculture, pet and zoo and research diets, while mindful of nutritional content and keeping its manufacturing arm in motion.
Tim Zeigler, who along with his brother started out as youngsters doing the usual family business chores—sweeping up, loading trucks, cleaning offices—said the company has transformed considerably since he started out.
“Probably the biggest thing is that we changed from a local feed producer into an international supplier of pet food products,” he said. “It’s definitely a global market now in terms of opportunities and in terms of competitive challenges. You’re not just looking down the street or across town to your customers and competition. It’s really global.
“When I first started out, I could stay in my office,” he continued. “Now I have to travel to different countries around the world.”
One of the most thriving segments of Zeigler Brothers—which has two manufacturing facilities in south-central Pennsylvania and another facility in Mexico—is the company’s aquaculture category, which began in the 1950s in the local game and recreation fields, especially state-run fish hatcheries.
The company provides food for hatcheries, as well as finfish and shrimp for larger fish, and food for hobbyists and those who service them in the tropical fish universe, plus the equipment that goes along with all that.
Another avenue of revenue is omega 3 fish oils. The current craze isn’t new, however. The oils’ benefits were promoted first in 1980s, and it slowly became the rage, as more and more doctors began dispensing that advice to patients for overall health improvement.
Zeigler Brothers was paying attention, too.
“In the ‘70s, we saw the opportunities for growth as consumption of fish increased.” Tim said, “And then the omega 3 thing really exploded in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“We saw the protein demand increase worldwide,” he continued. “The fish component of that became more prevalent as people realized the health benefits of eating seafood. We recognized the market demand and the demands for a healthier food source.”
Tim Zeigler said while aquaculture is a large part of what they do, the company is still aggressive in the area of new products.
“Research and development is a big part of our company,” he said.
And a large part of who they are comes from many years of dealing with loyal customers and maintaining relationships.
Take Delores Schehr, for instance. She and her husband own Wet Thumb Aquatics in New Baltimore, Mich. They’ve been in business for more than 53 years, and roughly the last half of that time they’ve gotten their food for their koi and tropical fish varieties from Zeigler Brothers.
“A while back they had us over for a visit,” she said. “The whole town is one company. I and my daughter went, and they put us up in a house with a fully stocked refrigerator. They couldn’t have been nicer. They showed us their products and they were interested in watching us watching it all being made. They asked us if there was anything we wanted changed to our satisfaction, and we told them.
“Everything was so clean,” she added. “Everybody had white coats on. You feel like yes, this is fish food, but it feels like a place that serves people-quality food.”
Zeigler Brothers reports its strength is “formulating diets for specialty animals that can go into zoos, retail markets or the aquatic segment.”
Schehr said the Zeiglers make special foods just for them, according to their formula, and that her business just keeps coming back for more.
The private label arm of the business, noted Zeigler, is all a part of working to their strengths: “Focusing on what we’re good at: animal nutrition and manufacturing technology.”
The brothers are also keenly aware of the playing field.
“We’re definitely not the only game in town,” Tim said. “But we’re definitely at the forefront when it comes to new technology. The business is more competitive now, not in numbers so much, but there’s been a lot of consolidation as larger companies get into this market.”
Dr. Tom Zeigler likes to say that Zeigler Brothers is built on the concept of innovative nutrition, because “foods which provide for proper nutrition improve the quality of life for both humans and animals.”
To that end, Zeigler Brothers continues to turn out a wide variety of high-grade food stuffs—both for creatures on land and under water. <HOME>
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