Targeted Pet Treats
Customized pet products
Business View Magazine interviews Gregory Austin, President of Targeted Pet Treats as part of our focus on best practices in American business.
Targeted Pet Treats (TPT) of Warren, Pennsylvania, is an industry leader in the innovation and manufacturing of injection molded pet dental treats, and long-lasting chews. “Targeted was founded in 2000,” says company President, Gregory Austin, who, after a ten-year career in the pet food sector, took over the reins of TPT in January 2017. Austin states that, “Prior to pet treats, the co-founders were in the plastic injection molding business, with a company called Moldsmiths. They had the idea of using those same plastic molding presses, but processing food ingredients instead of plastics and molding them into any shape desired.”
“The Co-founders knew the technology – they knew how the injection molding process and presses worked, but they did not have any pet contacts for distribution,” Austin continues. “So, they contacted a local pet food company called Dad’s Pet Care at the time, since renamed Ainsworth Pet Nutrition. Ainsworth thought their idea was great and purchased 55 percent of the company, putting Moldsmiths in the pet food business. From 2000 to 2005, the pet plant operated within the plastics company. They had a couple of presses designated to pet treats, but in 2005, they ventured out into their own facility and incorporated as Targeted Pet Treats, LLC. The first few products were made for Dad’s, or Ainsworth, but since then, we have been making products for other branded pet food companies around the country.”
The principal advantage of injection molding of products is the ability to scale production up with consistent quality and shape. The molding and design process is what really distinguishes one product from the next. “When it comes to the shape of the chew, we will ask the customer, ‘What are you looking for? What do the other products in your brand portfolio look like? Do you want this product to look like those?’ We will design the mold for the treat separate from the formula to meet the customer’s expectations,” says Austin. The injection molding process also allows Targeted Pet Treats’s customers to add functionality to their products and target the areas of most concern to pet parents. The options are plentiful and include oral care, joint, skin, and coat health. TPT can also add visible inclusions, such as carrots, parsley, flax seed, and just about anything one can imagine that would enhance the appearance of the treats. Targeted Pet Treats purchases all the ingredients and packaging materials from approved vendors that demonstrate high regard for food safety and quality.
Today, products made by Targeted Pet Treats, and sold to their clients’ brands, generate over $100 million in total, annual retail sales. “We are strictly a contract manufacturer and do not have brands of our own,” Austin explains. “Unlike our competitors, we are focused 100 percent on building our customers brands and not competing with them for shelf space. This seems to resonate with brand owners. We build long- lasting relationships and our customers count on us to execute and deliver. Each of our customers’ products have their own unique formula blend, shape, size, and look. During the onboarding and innovation process for a new customer, they either know what they want when they come to us, or they may just have an idea of what they want and ask us to help them develop it. A brand owner might say, ‘I’m looking for a dental chew that has a mint flavor, a mint smell, or I want it apple-flavored.’ We will customize a formula to develop a product that meets their specific needs.”
Targeted Pet Treats has several companies under contract and partners with them to make the best products that dogs and dog owners will enjoy, often making suggestions to improve the function of the treat to make it last longer, taste better, or add texture to increase the dental care efficacy. Their proprietary, single-step manufacturing process enhances dissolvability and offers a lower cost solution for long-lasting pet treats. The result is safe and nutritious products first time, every time, at minimal cost. TPT has been SQF (Sage Quality Food) Certified for nine successive years, and conforms to the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that has come into effect for animal food producers. This assures that its quality systems are robust enough to manage risks, meet any new regulations, and allow for continuous improvement of its food safety programs
Going forward Austin says that Targeted Pet Treats intends to be the manufacturer of choice for the canine dental care market. “Dental care for dogs has been an issue for years, and we are seeing a lot of interest from many brands in producing a dog dental treat,” Austin reports. In fact, some 76 percent of dogs suffer from some level of dental disease, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware that poor oral health in their dogs can be a sign of other, more significant, health issues. The dental products category is growing at double-digit rates yearly, and is expected to reach $1 billion by 2020. “It’s an issue for pet owners and a lot of brands out there are looking to solve it with a treat – either for their dog’s teeth or their breath,” Austin notes. “We’re making products to eliminate plaque and tartar as well as freshen breath.”
“And we’re still pursuing cat treats,” he adds. “We have a customer that’s trying something a little bit different. Cat dental is still an issue and an untapped market that is sure to have the potential to help a lot of cat owners with their pets. Cat’s typically like to lick more than they chew, so it may be that the chemical that we put in the product is what will effectively reduce the amount of plaque and tartar. We haven’t nailed it yet; it’s in development and we’re still working on that project.”
Over the last two years, Targeted Pet Treats has invested $7 million in capital equipment and facility upgrades to expand its capacity and capabilities. “As we continue to grow, we’re kind of locked on size in our facility, so we’ve converted a lot of our packaging to automation.” Austin says. “Previously, we would use manual labor to open up a pouch and physically take dog treats and place them in the bags, but now we’ve got some automation on the packaging side, so that has been a lifesaver. We can package more product with less people, and now I’m able to move those people to some other lines. I’m not cutting anybody; I’m redistributing my labor force. Right now, we have about 210 permanent employees and about 60 temporary employees, and we hope to hire about 30 more folks. The hurdles are trying to find employees to fill positions. We’re in a small town and there are several manufacturers in the area, so we’re trying to be creative in competing with them.
Meanwhile, Targeted Pet Treats has made the Inc. 5000 list for another year and has shown about a 120 percent growth from three years ago. “We have more customers starting in 2019, so we’re in the process of producing for them and building up inventory,” Austin says, in conclusion. “We’re looking at 2019 to be a pretty favorable year for us.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Targeted Pet Treats
WHAT: A manufacturer of pet treats and chews
WHERE: Warren, Pennsylvania
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