Tyson and Freshpet Join in Pet Food Revolution

US – US Chicken beef and pork processing giant Tyson Foods and Freshpet have formed a strategic alliance focused on bringing new and innovative, refrigerated fresh pet food products to consumers, a move the companies say is expected to revolutionise the pet food category.
calendar icon 19 March 2009
clock icon 5 minute read

The $17-billion pet food market, which has become one of the top ten packaged-goods categories, has seen significant growth in recent years.

One of the key growth trends has been the humanisation of pets, as more consumers treat their pets as part of the family.

This trend, combined with increased consumer concern about pet food safety, has led to a tremendous opportunity to dramatically change the quality of pet products from 'feed-based' to 'food-based'.

Enter Tyson Foods, the second-largest US food company and the world's largest supplier of protein-based products for people, and Freshpet, a small start-up that began changing the pet food category with a group of veteran pet industry entrepreneurs.

"The alliance between Tyson and Freshpet will meet changing consumer needs by providing real food for pets – not pet food," said Scott Morris, Freshpet co-founder.

"We believe these products will redefine the category and change the way people think about feeding their pets. The Tyson-Freshpet alliance is founded on an alternative nutritional ideology that pet owners should have the option of feeding their pets a high-quality, less-processed, meat-based diet with vegetables and whole grains."

Tyson will have a minority investment in Freshpet.

The alliance will combine Tyson's fresh food knowledge, expansive refrigerated distribution network, product innovation skills, and supply of meat and poultry with Freshpet’s extensive pet food experience and market knowledge.

Their goal is to rapidly expand this new refrigerated segment of the pet food category.

New Jersey-based Freshpet developed a line of fresh refrigerated dog food and treats under the Freshpet® Select and Deli Fresh® brands in 2006. Both brands are meat based with vegetables and brown rice and are gently cooked. The foods and treats are all refrigerated, ready to eat, and sold in grocery and pet stores across the United States and Canada. The products are highly nutritious and based on veterinary nutritionists’ ideal diet for dogs.

"Freshpet foods are of such high quality - they are the next best thing to setting a place for your pet at the table," said Lon Schwake, pet food category manager for Schnucks, a St. Louis based retailer with grocery stores and pharmacies in seven states.

"We started with a pilot program in a handful of stores and now, thanks to a terrific customer response, we are carrying Freshpet in 63 stores (primarily across the St. Louis region). In a short period of time, three of the items are now among the most popular pet food items we carry."

Dr M. Joseph Bojrab, an internationally-known veterinarian, said: "I speak at veterinary conferences all over the country to thousands of veterinarians, and the response has been phenomenal to this new product. Veterinarians, and more importantly their clients, are looking for healthy alternatives to dry kibble and this product definitely fills that need."

The founders of Freshpet (Cathal Walsh, John Phelps and Scott Morris) researched pet foods across the globe and identified refrigerated, fresh pet food in Australia, where it currently represents more than 20 per cent of the market.

In the US, Freshpet currently supplies about 3,000 stores across the country and has secured commitments for over a thousand more. Store expansion is expected to accelerate with the support of Tyson’s national retail relationships.

"This is a natural extension of Tyson's experience in making innovative refrigerated protein products for families,' said Jeff Webster, group vice president of Tyson's Renewable Products Division.

"A growing number of people consider pets a part of the family and want to feed them high quality food that's closer to what they eat themselves,” he said. “Tyson is capitalizing on this trend. We believe Tyson's ability to leverage its food knowledge and assets to bring fresh, refrigerated products to this member of the family will bring innovation not previously seen in the pet food category. The initiative is also consistent with Tyson’s strategy of creating new businesses that leverage our existing assets."

Mr Morris added: "We're changing the pet food market in the US and the relationship with Tyson will accelerate this consumer-based, category-changing idea. Retailers are also recognizing the fresh pet food opportunity. It's new, innovative and meets a growing consumer need. More specifically, selling Freshpet has been shown to help grow retailers’ pet food category, grow pet category market share, deliver strong margins and drive more center of aisle traffic."

Freshpet food products have been developed with a collaboration of veterinary nutritionists, food scientists and ingredient specialists.

In addition to chicken, turkey and beef, eggs, vegetables and rice, the recipes are fortified with 18 essential vitamins and minerals. No fillers, by-products or preservatives are used. The food products are gently cooked and quickly cooled to lock in flavor and ensure freshness.

Freshpet products are currently produced at a federally-regulated plant in Quakertown, Pennsylvania with plans to expand production utilizing existing Tyson federally-regulated facilities.

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