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7:23 PM   April 21, 2015
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Behind the Scenes: ZuPreem 
For the Birds…and More

The Shawnee, Kan.-based pet food manufacturer started out almost 50 years ago to better the diet of zoo animals and now does the same for birds and small mammals.

Zupreem Headquarters
ZuPreem’s headquarters in Shawnee, Kan.
Bird families, exotic feline families, ferret families, primate families and small animal families would be wise to add the Morris family to their holiday card list. It would only be right.

After all, it was Mark L. Morris, DVM, who, in 1928, founded only the second small animal hospital in the United States and who started what would eventually become the Prescription Diet line of products. Then he handed the torch to his son, Mark Jr., DVM, Ph.D, who expanded Hill’s Prescription Diet into the Science Diet line, and he developed ZuPreem out of a need for better nutrition for zoo animals.

Today, Mark Jr.’s son, David, is the man in charge of ZuPreem, continuing that family’s tradition of creating tasty grub with superior nutritional value. Although the Prescription Diet and Science Diet brands were sold off in the 1980s, ZuPreem is still under the Morris stewardship, although it isn’t your father’s—er, his father’s—ZuPreem these days.

Zupreem Process
Part of the processing cycle for ZuPreem’s Fruit Blend
Currently, ZuPreem is mostly for the birds, and that is meant in the most complimentary way. Zoo animals around the world are still smacking their lips after ZuPreem meals, but most of the company’s business is geared toward bird owners.

“We still work with zoos. We have five or six zoo diets,” noted Gail Shepard, ZuPreem’s director of marketing. “But we’re predominately a pet specialty business now, and mostly birds.”

If customers have a ferret, chinchilla, guinea pig, rabbit, parrot or other pet that exists outside the dog-cat-fish paradigm, chances are ZuPreem has a cuisine for them. And in June, the company launched five new products: three different flavors of bird cookies; a grain-free ferret diet; and dental stick ferret treats.

ZuPreem likes to burrow deep into the retail community.

“We have promotions that we run every two months,” Shepard said. “We provide displays for ferret treats and bird cookies. We do a tremendous amount of training for retail stores and for retail events. We do giveaways. We’re probably in 30 to 40 stores a year for events, whether it’s a customer appreciation event or an anniversary or something else.”

Zupreem Process
Zupreem Process
Two of ZuPreem’s recent introductions
Shepard said the company eschews the Walmarts, Targets and other retail giants in favor of a more personal connection with mostly independent stores. Currently, ZuPreem products are in about 7,000 stores worldwide, Shepard said.

One of them is About Birds, just outside of Houston. Owner and manager Mary Hardcastle is a bird lover. She has hand-fed baby parrots for many years, but said a few years ago she switched from another food to ZuPreem.

“I now use the Embrace and Embrace Plus products for hand-feeding, and I really love them,” she said. “There’s more fat content, which is great for the macaws and the African greys and the type of parrots I hand-feed. I like the smell and the texture, and I like the products much more than the ones I was using before.”

Hardcastle raved about the quick response she gets from the ZuPreem sales team.

“They’re a great company to work with,” she said. “Usually once a year I have an anniversary sale and an open-house, barbecue-type party. They’re always kind enough to send me items like T-shirts and other things to give away as prizes.”

Richard Horvitz, who runs Golden Cockatoo in Deerfield Beach, Fla., said customer service is the main reason he has worked with ZuPreem for the last seven to eight years, and why he switched from a prior vendor who did not provide nearly the same level of service as ZuPreem does now.

“I love those guys,” he said. “We sell just about everything they offer involving birds. They’re always having promotions, $5 coupons so customers can try out the products. Also, we feed ZuPreem Natural Diet to all our birds in our store. They love the products. We get a lot of comments about how big and healthy our birds look, and ZuPreem is a big part of that.”

Amid the joyful chirping of satisfied ZuPreem-fed domestic birds, the clamor for products from the zoo community can still be heard. ZuPreem offers such zoo-centric products as its Primate Diet Canned and Dry foods and its Primate O’s treats; the Omnivore Diet Dry, for bears, non-domestic canines, raccoons and other omnivores; and Exotic Feline Diet Canned, for out-of-the-ordinary cats, such as lynx, cougars, bobcats and caracals.

“Zoos are a small part of our business, but a very important part, and very close to David’s heart,” Shepard said.

The Morris family didn’t just create higher quality food for animals. It also set out to make sure animals had a higher quality of life overall. In 1948, Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr. established the Morris Animal Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to animal health and welfare.

After all, one of the reasons Morris was inspired to produce better dog food in the first place was after meeting a man named Morris Frank who had Buddy, one of the first guide dogs in the U.S. Dr. Morris created food to help address Buddy’s ailing kidneys—in those days, most dogs got table scraps, not fancy pet formulas—and the rest is history.

And ZuPreem is still at it. The company recently made a donation to the Betty White Wildlife Rapid Response Fund to help dolphins affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ZuPreem made donations of food and money to help out bird owners and breeders affected by the catastrophe.

“We’re doing whatever we can,” Shepard said.



Location: Shawnee, Kansas

Owner: David R. Morris

Years in Business: 42

Areas of Distribution/Business: Worldwide to pet specialty distributors, retailers, breeders, veterinary clinics and zoos/institutions

Company Mission: ZuPreem manufactures and distributes food and treats for companion birds, small animal pets and animals in zoos. For more than 40 years, ZuPreem has been committed to on-going research to improve the lives of animals through nutrition.

Product/Business Lines: FruitBlend Flavor Bird Food, Natural Bird Food, AvianEntrees Bird Food, ZuPreem Bird Cookies, Lory Nuggets & Nectar, Low Iron Softbill Diet, Nature’s Promise Small Animal Pellets & Hay for Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Chinchillas, Premium Ferret Diet, Grain-Free Ferret Diet, Dental Stick Ferret Treats, AvianBreeder Diets, Embrace Hand Feeding Formulas, AvianWeaning Diet, Primate Diet Dry, Primate Diet Canned, Exotic Feline Diet Canned, Marmoset Diet Canned, Omnivore Diet.

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