Tell us about the formation of Whitebridge Pet Brands and how it has evolved into the company it is today.
Olivier Amice: Whitebridge Pet Brands was founded in January 2015 with the merger of Cloud Star, a leading pet treat manufacturer, and Petropics, maker of Tiki Cat and Tiki Dog pet foods. In April 2017, Whitebridge Pet Brands acquired Dogswell, a leading brand of functional jerkies for dogs. In January 2020, the company acquired Cardinal Pet Care, maker of Pet Botanics and Crazy Dog training treats. And in March 2021, Whitebridge Pet Brands completed the acquisition of Grizzly Pet Products, a leader in pet supplements.
Whitebridge recently completed its merger with Agras Pet Foods, a European-based pet nutrition company. What does this mean for Whitebridge and its customers and retailer partners?
Amice: Our goal has always been to build a global natural pet health nutrition company. Merging with Agras allows us to make a major leap toward that goal with combined sales in more than 50 countries and four plants to service a much larger geographic footprint. Even more importantly, Agras and Whitebridge are very compatible, with a shared product philosophy of natural and minimally processed pet food and a portfolio of strong, purposeful brands delivering on the promise of health and happiness for dogs and cats.
This merger is in the spirit of our “Better Together” philosophy. It will allow us to accelerate our development with more innovation made available to more markets. We will continue to bring to our retailers relevant and differentiated solutions to help them maximize the potential of their stores.
How do the brands that Whitebridge currently has under its umbrella complement each other and satisfy the wide-ranging needs of retailers and pet owners?
Amice: Our brands fall into one of three distinct categories, based on the way pet owners shop. When pet owners shop for products, they usually go to the store with one of three things in mind: I have a healthy pet and I want a good food; I have a sick pet and need a solution; I love my pet and treats are my way of showing that love.
In alignment with how pet owners shop, Whitebridge Pet Brands’ portfolio follows those same three categories.
1. Pet natural health nutrition brands deliver the best complete and balanced foods and complements, nutritionally appropriate for dogs and cats, pleasing in all aspects to both pets and pet owners, with a wide variety of tastes, aromas, shapes and textures.
2. Pet solutions brands provide a roadmap for whole body health through products that support good health, prevent common poor health conditions and support the healing process. A comprehensive and intuitive line of self-service products that help pet owners become part of the healing process.
3. Pet lifestyle brands embody the concept of living life with your pet by your side, enhancing the relationships between pets and people and helping them to “live their best lives” together. From training sessions to shared indulgences, we offer a broad range of flavors, shapes and tastes in healthy treats for dogs big and small.
Give us an overview of the brands and types of products Whitebridge offers.
Amice: We are innovative and forward-thinking and are constantly seeking new formats, flavors, and nutritional solutions, even reaching into the human food space to find the most differentiated products for our retailers and the best products for pets. From ice cream to oils, crunchy biscuits to flaked fish, and all-meat jerkies to mousse-textured meals, Whitebridge brands offer a broader portfolio than any other global pet food company.
While shoppers in all channels have similar needs, we pay close attention to the strategy of our retail channel partners and maintain pet specialty channel exclusivity for key brands: Tiki Pets, Dogswell, Grizzly Pet Products, Cloud Star and Pet Botanics.
Tiki Pets dog and cat foods are nutritionally correct, with an appeal that is hard to find in any other product on the shelf. Baby for kittens and Silver for older cats brings science into the natural space and offers perfect nutrition for every stage of life. International recipes like Italian Carbonara, Asian Stir Fry and Spanish Paella round out the Taste of the World range for dogs, providing a palatable and enjoyable meal for small dogs.
Dogswell Remedy & Recovery health aids stop bleeding, soothe hot spots and increase mobility in older or overweight pets. No other brand provides a holistic solution for pets with problems, including food, supplements, treats and recovery products.
Grizzly Pet Products are made with 100 percent wild-caught fish in our own National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) certified factory. Upcycled raw materials from the human food industry are efficiently turned into supplements for pets containing higher levels of omega 3 than the competition.
Cloud Star treats are made just as you would at home, with wholesome ingredients and simple recipes. Crunchy biscuits contain bits of jerky hand-cut in our own plant; human-grade ice cream is made in small batches; and BBQ jerky from the Carolinas smells just like the real thing.
Pet Botanics training treats start with pork liver, the most appealing flavor and aroma for dogs. Supplemented with Botanifits herbal ingredients, each treat is a low-calorie, high-reward and purposeful tool to train dogs.
As Whitebridge has expanded to incorporate more brands, has the company’s overall mission changed or evolved? If so, in what ways?
Amice: Whitebridge Pet Brand’s goal is to build a global natural pet health nutrition company that brings health and happiness to pets and owners with a range of minimally processed, natural, and wholesome dog and cat foods, treats, complements and supplements.
Each acquisition or merger we undertake only serves to further that goal with brands and products that deliver on the promises that we make to both people and pets.
We know from personal experience and published research that pet ownership brings physical and mental health benefits to people. In simple words, pets make people happier and healthier, and therefore people feel a responsibility to care for their pets so that they, too, can live happy and healthy lives.
Our mission is to help people bring health and happiness to pets through better nutrition, which we believe is natural and minimally processed foods, complements, treats, and supplements formulated to the specific needs of dogs and cats.
The notion of Better Together is at the heart of how we think and operate as a company. We believe that pets and people are better together because they both will be happier and healthier.
In business we believe that:
- Our brands are better together. Whitebridge brings more resources to our brands with innovation and sales and marketing support. Whitebridge is accelerating these brands’ development to reach more pets and pet parents.
- Our customers and Whitebridge are better together. We bring efficiency to our customers with one basket of winning brands, and Whitebridge benefits from close collaboration with customers on innovation and marketing.
- Our vendors and Whitebridge are better together. Whitebridge and our vendors share mutually beneficial relationships based on innovation, collaboration and knowledge sharing.
- Our people are better together. Like our brands, our people are compatible and complementary. They learn from each other. They grow together.
What is your company’s nutritional philosophy, and how does this inform the creation of its products?
Amice: At Whitebridge, we always start with the cat and dog. In combination with the appropriate vitamins and minerals, we’ve identified four factors that deliver the best nutrition.
Protein: In terms of nutrition, cats are obligate carnivores and dogs are scavenging carnivores. Both species are reliant on high levels of superior-quality “meat” proteins. So many foods derive protein from grains or legumes, which cannot be adequately or efficiently digested to support optimal health. Taurine, an amino acid, derived from meat is obligatory for both species, and deficiencies result in serious health consequences.
Hydration: Most dogs and many cats are exclusively fed dry diets. Water makes up approximately 60 percent of the body and must continually be replenished. Cats have an exceptionally low thirst drive and must consume moisture as part of their meal, meaning that wet food is best for cats. A lack of proper hydration leads to urinary health issues and, further, to renal problems.
The combination of an almost exclusively dry diet and limited amounts of healthy animal proteins can result in nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, diabetes and more.
While wet is always best, for both dogs and cats, mixed meal feeding can be the answer. It offers pet owners the convenience they want and provides pets with the nutrition they need. We recommend always feeding wet food or using a wet food topper in combination with dry, for a complete and healthy nutritional solution. A Tiki Cat Born Carnivore baked food should always be fed with a Born Carnivore wet complement.
Palatability: While cats are invariably labeled as “picky,” and rightly so, studies prove that dogs can also be quite fussy. High-protein wet food and wet food toppers are the ultimate palatability enhancers. Pet owners should consider a baked kibble instead of an extruded kibble for improved palatability. Baked formulas use more fresh meat, and the process of baking kibble creates a Maillard effect. All the flavor of the natural meat ingredients is contained in the kibble, much like searing the outside of a steak.
Variety: Variety in texture, taste, aroma, shape, and size is appreciated by both pets and people. There is an excitability factor in pet food, less tangible than nutrition, but just as important. Eating (for pets), and feeding (for pet owners), should be a positive and satisfying experience.
What consumer trends are driving both sales and product innovation?
Amice: Treats are the fastest-growing category, and within the treats category, training treats represent the fastest-growing segment.
The acquisition of so many new dogs over the past three years has led to an increased need for proper training. Much of that population growth came because of being stuck indoors, and there is a fear that our newfound freedom may cause a return of dogs to shelters. Poor behavior is the No. 1 cited reason for relinquishment of pets, but that can be easily resolved with time, patience and a quality training treat.
A high-reward treat, one with superior taste and aroma, is more easily accepted by dogs and can turn a tense training session into an enjoyable experience for both the owner and the dog. The smellier and meatier the treat, the more the dog likes it. All our training treats are made from meat and include natural smoke flavors and ingredients like pork liver for superior acceptance.
The growth of self-prescription in the human space is paralleled in the pet space.
Many pet owners will still go online to self-diagnose their pets and subsequently choose supplements and foods to treat common health conditions. Omega supplements are one of the fastest-growing categories because omegas are a purported cure-all, with anti-inflammatory properties that address skin and coat, cognitive function and mobility.
What most pet owners don’t realize is the right balance of omega 3s and 6s brings the most benefit. Most dry dog foods are high in omega 6 because they contain high levels of grains, and likewise farmed fish are high in omega 6 because they are fed grains. Grizzly supplements contain only 100 percent wild-caught fish oil, which has significantly higher levels of omega 3 to offset those otherwise inflated levels of omega 6 found in the dog’s daily diet.
As more people acquire pets in favor of children, humanization continues to be the trend of the decade.
Treats can be indulgent and healthy. A low-calorie treat that tastes good is not impossible to make but can be hard to find. Cloud Star ice cream and sandwich cookies contain no added sugar and no artificial flavors or colors, and are human grade. We carefully exclude ingredients that are not safe for pets; for example, we use peanut butter free of xylitol. These shareables taste great for both owners and pets and offer a no-guilt way to indulge.