March 22, 2016

Pet Insight’s Q&A with Tuffy’s Pet Foods

Pet Insight spoke with Tuffy’s Pet Foods to discuss how premium foods offer solutions to address pets’ skin and coat, allergies and digestion. Tuffy’s noted knowledgeable retailers are key when it comes to educating pet owners on the value of feeding their pets premium foods, and retailers have the ability to encourage consumers to explore the premium foods category.

It seems many health issues are treated once pets are put on a quality diet. How does Tuffy’s Pet Foods work with retailers to educate pet owners that a premium diet is the foundation for pets’ overall health and wellness?

Nutritional training about our “Good 4 Life System” is a key part of our dealer support package. Our rations are loaded with responsibly sourced whole ingredients to achieve carefully balanced nutritional profiles with the best micro-nutritional supplements available in the industry. Store owners and employees must be educated on what those ingredients are, and more importantly, the critical importance micro-nutrition plays in delivering superior nutrition to our pets.

How does Tuffy’s Pet Foods’ offering address dogs with skin issues, allergies and stomach problems?

Tuffy’s “Good 4 Life System” reflects our belief that the way to achieve better health is thru better nutrition. Very often, the symptoms you mentioned reflect basic nutritional deficiencies that, when addressed, often resolve themselves. Science has long known that inorganic mineral compounds are poorly digestible and are not good remedies to metabolism and immunity up to par. Accordingly, the first component of “Good 4 Life” is the BioPlex 100 percent proteinated mineral package, which ensures optimum metabolic function and immunity. The importance of organic minerals in building proper metabolism and optimum immunity is not well understood in the market, yet it is arguably they are the most importing “first things” to address when dealing with the problem dog. Our trademarked probiotic and prebiotic packages build upon that to ensure proper function and health of the digestive tract.

How can retailers help to encourage pet owners who are reticent to switch their dog’s food to another brand?

Three things:

Promotions: the industry for many years relied on sales promotions to do move product…..dollars-off coupons, stacker promotions, end-cap displays….to get the product visible in the marketplace. The problem with that approach is that it often needs advertising aimed at brand recognition to get a good response. Industry history is pretty clear that the older, larger petfood brands were quite late to the party with respect to natural and holistic product offerings, so these promotions were often not central to the growth of the natural & holistic sector.

Education and training: This is where the rubber meets the road in the natural and holistic sector. It starts with marketing materials oriented around key nutritional features and benefits, and carries thru training of store owners and employees on features and benefits.  We must ensure the retailer knows the features and benefits of our products so that they can correctly employ them to solve problems.

Service: This is the most important part of all. The independent pet specialty retailer’s role in the market is to become an asset to the pet owner, who needs a place to get knowledgeable advice about their pet other than by scheduling an expensive visit to the vet. The pet speciality store that recognizes its role in the market is as a “first responder” role to help the owner diagnose and resolve nutritional problems has a secure place in the market.

How does Tuffy’s Pet Foods address retail partners that decline to be educated on Tuffy’s Pet Foods’ offering? It seems as though retailers who are seemingly uninterested in becoming well-versed on products are doing a disservice to themselves and to consumers.

That is, thankfully, a rare problem. For sure, some classes of trade within pet specialty sector are better motivated than others to acquire and share nutritional knowledge to customers, but as a general rule, all pet related businesses understand the importance of pet nutrition, if for no other reason than their customers are increasingly demanding it.

How is Tuffy’s Pet Foods helping its brick and mortar retail partners to compete against online retailers?

We believe ensuring that our brands are profitable for our dealers is important. Tuffy’s was one of the first manufacturers to employ a range pricing structure in the market place, which establishes a floor price below which a retailer may not price, but also gives the flexibility for retailers to have upward pricing discretion within the range. We just recently adjusted upwards the range pricing schedule for our brands, and will continue to do so when industry conditions permit.

What are pet specialty retailers doing to outpace big box and online retailers?

Competition makes a good business model stronger! The box stores have been around for a good while and in addition to obvious things like smart decisions on keeping overhead trim, we have seen dealers understand that a more service oriented approach to dealing with customers is a core function. “Stack it high and let it fly” is something box stores can usually do that at better margins for more hours in a week. Joining the relationship between owner and pet customers, however, is something big box stores rarely can match, and that creates opportunity for pet specialty to provide a unique service to their owner.   Pet specialty continues to also make wise choices to offer brands like our NutriSource, Pure Vita, and Natural Planet, which are not available in the box stores. On-line retailing is a newer phenomenon that is only recently beginning to put pressure on the pet specialty sector. On-line merchants offer a convenience function that few pet specialty retailers can match, and that some customers value more than the service function. That convenience function is a new factor that will reshape the market somewhat over time, but we also believe the need for service will endure and continue to provide a role for the brick & mortar retailers who are willing to be part of the customer and pet relationship.  

How does Tuffy’s Pet Foods work with retailers to offer competitive prices?

Our Range Pricing policy is an important tool in protecting gross margin for retailers. It ensures not just a level playing field, but a financially healthy one as well. We also are aggressive with in-store promotions that help make our products more affordable while protecting margin for dealers who purchase wisely. But it’s also important to recognize that margin alone cannot guarantee growth in profitability. We have to help our dealers grow sales. Growth in sales volume makes it easier for dealers to choose, structurally or promotionally, to give a little margin back to the customer. Our emphasis on training allows retailers to understand how the features and benefits of our products can capture, and most importantly hold, the new business needed to do that.  

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