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Behind the Scenes: Bravo!


Family values, wallet-friendly prices and high-quality meats make Bravo! a leader in the raw-pet-food market.
By Katie Ingmire

Fourteen years ago, Bette Schubert got kicked out of a canine obedience class because she was feeding her dog raw food.

Bette Schubert (left) and David Bogner co-founded Bravo! in 2002. According to Schubert, the company’s had double-digit growth every year. Courtesy of Bravo!/Mara Lavitt, Sideways Studios.
“They thought my dog was going to eat their dogs,” she said. “We’ve come a long way since 1995.”

Indeed so. Just as all-natural foods for humans have gained in popularity in recent years, so have the equivalent for pets. Bravo!, an all-natural pet food company that Schubert co-founded with meat-industry expert David Bogner in 2002 and specializes in raw diets, is one of the leaders in the “raw-diet revolution.” The Vernon, Conn.-based manufacturer offers seven product lines, 128 different SKU’s and 13 different protein sources—the highest source number in the raw pet-food industry, according to Schubert. It has also experienced double-digit growth every year, she added.

Like many success stories, though, the origins of Bravo! stemmed from tragedy. In 1995, a dog kibble manufacturer recalled its food. The company sent Schubert a bag of kibble, and the aflatoxin mold in the food killed one of her dogs.

“They gave me $69.83 for her and asked me if I wanted another bag of food,” she said. “And it was in that moment that I realized that just because it came out of a can or bag didn’t mean that it was safe.”

AT A GLANCE


Bravo!

Location: Vernon, Conn. (Home Office); Manchester, Conn. (Manufacturing Plant)

Co-Founders: David Bogner and Bette Schubert

Employees: 36

Years in Business: 7

Areas of distribution: All 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Annual revenues: Undisclosed

Company mission: To create all-natural pet foods offering superior nutritional benefits for the pet, as well as simplicity, top quality, more choice, and better value to the pet owner

Product categories: Fresh frozen raw-diet products for dogs and cats, freeze-dried and dry-roasted treats, dry-roasted chews, wild Alaskan salmon oil and fresh-frozen bones

Inspired from reading “The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable,” by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, a pioneer in holistic veterinary medicine, Schubert began feeding a raw diet to her other dog. She saw the benefits her dog reaped from this new way of eating and started helping others move their canine pets onto raw diets. Then, in January 2002, tired from grinding meat to feed to her dogs, she walked into David Bogner’s family meat business—Manchester Packing/Bogner’s—and asked if he could grind some food for her.

“It was almost kind of like that magical moment where David’s expertise and Bette’s passion for healthful foods just kind of collided,” said Priscilla Fraiegari, who handles public relations for Bravo! “You know the chocolate and the peanut butter? That was kind of it.”

Bogner and Schubert made up a batch of food, and by the following month, Bravo!, whose name comes from the acronym Bones, Raw meats, All-natural, Vegetables and Organ meats, was in business.

The reasons for Bravo!’s success expand beyond this speedy entrance into raw-food production. Among them are the company’s family values, trust from its customers and Bravo!’s continuous search for the best-quality ingredients at the best prices so customers can receive pound-for-pound the best value, Schubert said.

Retailers who sell Bravo! products at their stores are also quick to note the advantages of the company’s price point.

Sarah Adams, owner of The Raw Connection in Carmel, Calif., said one of the reasons she started carrying Bravo! products is because she was looking for food that was more economical for her customers. She noted that Bravo!’s popularity stems from its 5- and 10-pound blends, which cost half the price of most other food she carries and can be useful for customers who have several dogs and must feed a lot per day.

Bravo!’s facilities include a distribution center (shown) and a manufacturing plant, which total about 30,000 feet in size. Courtesy of Bravo!/Don Couture.
Adams added the company’s products can be less expensive because many of its meats are frozen into ‘chubs.’ Customers might have to do more work to prepare the food, she said, but it costs them less money and the food is high quality.

“We’ve got two giant and two large dogs, so the 5- and 10-pound chubs come in really handy in terms of feeding economically,” said Pennye Jones-Napier, co-owner of The Big Bad Woof in Washington, D.C.

Jones-Napier and Adams praised Bravo!’s customer service, too.

“They’ve been just absolutely great to work with. Period. From the top down,” Jones-Napier said, while Adams noted that “If there’s ever an issue if the truck [with a Bravo! shipment] is not coming in on time, they jump on the phone and find where the truck is. They’re just fantastic to work with.”

Bravo! employees prepare their products for shipment across the country at the company’s USDA-inspected manufacturing plant and distribution plant, which total about 30,000 square feet in size, Bogner said. The company takes several precautions to ensure the quality of its products.

“We have constant USDA inspectors on site, [and] we have day-to-day control over the product quality,” Bogner said. “All the products are made with pure, premium meats, and plus, there are never any grains contained, or preservatives or additives.”

The meat must meet the same regulations as for human-food consumption, Bogner added. Every batch is tested for Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli before it goes to market, he reported, and all the company’s trucks are refrigerated and kept under negative-20-degree [Fahrenheit] storage until they’re ready for ship.

Bravo! products are manufactured in the company’s USDA-inspected facility and must meet the same regulations as for human-food consumption. Courtesy of Bravo!/Mara Lavitt, Sideways Studios.
As the company has grown, so has its production needs. Not only has Bravo! had to purchase bigger machines, it’s had to expand to its freezer capacity as well.

Product offerings are growing as the company does. This year, Bravo! debuted its Bag-O-Bones line, which includes individually wrapped, fresh-frozen raw bones made of beef and buffalo marrows and knuckles. Bravo! has also recently expanded its Bravo! Balance line of fresh-frozen raw diets by offering new packaging in 2- and 5-pound chub shapes.

Expanding beyond its fresh-frozen raw products, Bravo! produces a line of dry-roasted and raw, freeze-dried treats called Bravo! Bonus Bites. Also, their Bravo! Bully Sticks are one of the company’s best-sellers, according to Schubert.

Bravo! is contributing to the pet community in ways aside from providing food. It sponsors the Connecticut Police K-9 Olympics (CTK9 Olympics), and according to Schubert, the company has also teamed up with Nature’s Variety—a pet-food manufacturer in Lincoln, Neb.—to put on a series of bottom-line raw seminars for retailers.

“One of the newest things we’ve started is something called Team Bravo!,” Schubert added. “We have [sponsored] quite a few dogs that are winning at their sport[s], and they include the No. 1 and the No. 2 dock-diving dog in the country.”

At the heart of Bravo! is commitment to providing pets with the best food available.

“Raw is really how nature intended dogs and cats to eat,” Schubert said. <HOME>


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