Unleash the Happy

Dogswell is ready to “Unleash the Happy.” In a single catchphrase, the company’s new slogan summarizes the team’s driving motivation – helping dogs and cats live longer, happier, and healthier lives.
This commitment began in 2004 when Dogswell was founded. Many pet owners were struggling to get their dogs, that suffered from hip dysplasia, to take supplements that would improve mobility. Dogswell realized that the best solution was to create a great tasting food product that already contained the supplementation dogs needed.

The entrepreneurial-minded pet company created an innovative chicken jerky treat chocked full of glucosamine and chondroitin for hip and joint wellness. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” current Dogswell CEO Brad Casper points out. Soon, the Company began marketing the unique formula under the name Happy Hips. “We wanted other pet parents to be able to find something that would give their dog relief,” Mr. Casper explains.

A new company – and a new concept – had been born. “I think you could say that Dogswell could be credited with creating this whole movement toward functional treats,” Mr. Casper states. “This whole idea of ‘tastes great, does good’ was a very distinctive product platform.”

And the health benefits of Happy Hips – and all Dogswell products – go far beyond the added supplements. Simple ingredients, high protein content, and the absence of byproducts and fillers also make for healthy pet treats and pet foods. “It is this whole idea of providing treats and foods that are superior,” Mr. Casper summarizes. “We took that high road from the get go. We never had any of those things that people now consider harmful or unnecessary.”

This commitment meant that the company needed to focus on the high-end market from the beginning; superior, natural ingredients do not come cheap. “We prided ourselves in having high quality products that demanded the premium segment,” Mr. Casper explains. “The consumers we were trying to appeal to were the very discriminating set of consumers who really view their dog or cat as a true member of the family; not just a pet. We figured that they would be the ones who would be most willing to pay that premium.”

This instinct proved correct, and Dogswell took off. Soon, the company added a line of treats called Vitality. Made of cage-free chicken or duck, this product range is fortified with flaxseed and Vitamins A and E for healthy eyes, skin, and coat. Next, Dogswell rolled out a line of dog food called Nutrisca, “which is a grain free, potato free recipe that is protein balanced and packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients,” Mr. Casper reports. “It was low carbohydrate to align with a dog’s natural diet. This was a new concept for the pet industry, and we were pushing the edge of that for pet parents who were highly involved.”

Dogswell quickly received nationwide attention for its healthy, innovative products. In 2008, just four years after it was launched, the company had already earned a spot on Inc. Magazine’s 100 fastest growing companies list. “That helped get the company noticed,” Mr. Casper recalls. Private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners recognized the startup’s potential and acquired Dogswell that same year.

After the acquisition, the company continued to gain ground. “We went on to win innovation awards,” Mr. Casper shares. “There was plenty of recognition in the U.S., some of it regional, some of it national, for the quality of our products. We have been proud of that history over ten years.”

Now, as Dogswell celebrates its tenth anniversary, the team is preparing to take the company to the next level. Dubbed Dogswell 2.0, the new plan will help keep the business moving ahead to stay on top of the latest market trends. For starters, a new website has just been launched. “You can call it the new official face of our company.” Next, the team will be rolling out new packaging “that totally transforms the look and the feel and the iconography of the company.” There is also new talent on the management team and a brand new office in Los Angeles for the California-based company. “2.0 really does represent an inflection point in this company’s history. We know we are setting it up for success for the next ten [years].”

Dogswell is also rolling out several exciting new products as part of its 2.0 campaign. Super Boost Squares feature immunity boosting ingredients to help dogs live longer, happier, healthier lives. “We have taken clues from human nutrition – [using] antioxidants and super fruits – and then married them with high protein, premium meat products,” Mr. Casper explains. “All these fruit inclusions are baked into these wonderful bite-sized squares that pets love. Dogs just go crazy for them.” One recipe adds cranberry – a super fruit – to USA-sourced chicken or turkey to create a chewy, antioxidant-rich snack. Another variation mixes beef with blueberries.

A second new product is made of baked sweet potato and beef broth. “We are literally taking human grade sweet potatoes, shaving them, dipping them in beef broth and baking them,” says Mr. Casper. Rich in antioxidants, beta carotene, and Vitamins, A, C, and E, these sweet potato chews are an easy-to-digest alternative to rawhide. “Dogs think it is the greatest thing – and they don’t know it is making them better. We are proud of this new facet of our line of treats.”

Dogswell has recently expanded its footprint of a new premium food brand called LiveFree, “which we think really embraces the spirit this company represents. It provides a complete solution of natural dog food that delivers wellness through digestive health. Only LiveFree dry food has DigestiBits™ made with pumpkin and prebiotics, so that dogs can live free from digestive issues and dog owners can live free from worry. The products are free of grains, potatoes, and fillers. It is a very high [quality] premium protein product. What pet parent wouldn’t want their furry friends to Live Long, Live Happy and LiveFree?”

Dogswell is willing to keep evolving to maintain its edge, but some things will not change – the company is determined to hold on to its unique culture. “We are not your run of the mill corporation,” Mr. Casper explains. “We are a little bit quirky.” The team values fun, and throughout the office there is evidence of the company’s jovial nature. Inside the building, columns are painted vibrant, energizing colors and the walls feature pictures of dogs from floor to ceiling. “Right now, I am staring at a picture of a pug that is about 12 feet tall,” Mr. Casper laughs.

Plenty of dogs make an appearance in the office regularly, as well. “In the office today we have no fewer than 18 dogs running around, having a blast,” Mr. Casper reports. At a recent Board meeting, there were six dogs sitting at the table along with the executives. The company’s dog friendly environment reflects the fact “that we take pets and their care very seriously. We remember that it is all about that special bond that people have with their pets – that warmth and that loving atmosphere. So our culture infuses that in everyone that works here and is manifested in the products that we market and sell. [Our culture] is a strategic pillar that has contributed to our success and our distinctiveness.”

That success is very likely to continue, judging by the state of the industry. “It is safe to say that the pet industry in North America overall, and in the United States in particular, continues to be an area of tremendous growth and tremendous innovation,” Mr. Casper reports. In fact, it is virtually recession-proof. “People may cut back on vacations, they may cut back on dining out, but they don’t typically cut out their love, attention and affection towards pets,” Mr. Casper explains. “The total U.S. pet industry expenditures in 2000 were about $25 billion. This year it is expected to be $58 billion with the largest portion being food and treats, which are expected to be around $22 billion to $23 billion of that $58 billion.”

“And people are not spending on junk food,” Mr. Casper adds. “They are trading up to more premium products because that pet has earned a place in the household beyond just being a pet. They are family members.” With pets being a priority in so many households today, the industry is expected to continue growing. “You see very high growth, high single-digit to low double-digit growth, in premium treats and food. So it is a great industry to be a part of with very few barriers to entry. The challenge is just getting recognized and valued by consumers so that they will take you into their homes and make your brand a regular part of a pet’s wellbeing.” Fortunately, Dogswell, has overcome this challenge. Its distinctive, wholesome product has set the company apart, making it a favorite of dogs and cats everywhere – and the people who love them.

July 20, 2018, 2:53 AM EDT

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