The passionate Associates of Red Collar bring vast expertise and more than a dash of love to their mission of serving their private label and branded clients with the world’s best pet food and treats
“Pet care is one of those fantastic categories. It’s growing, it’s big, and there are a lot of pet parents—even more so now because of COVID. Pet adoptions and fostering are driving tremendous growth. Some estimate 2020 saw 11 million new pets find homes in the US. Pets are part of our families and our society, and pet parents need to trust that what they’re feeding their family members is well made, nutritionally accurate, and good for them.” As CEO of Red Collar Pet Foods, Chris Hamilton leads one of the only pet food manufacturers in the nation to have FSSC 22000 food safety certification—a designation keenly sought by the makers of people food.
That’s how important our animal companions are to Red Collar. As the premier developer of wholesome, balanced pet food and nutrition as well as treats, the Franklin, Tenn., company partners with some of the world's most iconic retailers and some of America’s biggest and best brands. The largest private and white label treat manufacturer in North America, and one of the foremost makers of main meal pet food, Red Collar has roots that reach back to 1954. “We were one of the first prepacked pet food manufacturers in America,” Hamilton recalled.
In December 2018, Arbor Investments acquired the private label and contract manufacturing business from Mars Petcare’s private label business to become Red Collar, which in addition to their HQ, operates six state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities that reach from coast to coast.
“With a new owner, name, and branding, we envisioned a values-driven workplace that was open, encouraged collaboration, and celebrated the company’s customers, many talented associates, and strong culture,” Hamilton said.
“Everything we do is rooted in a deep understanding of consumer and shopper behavior: pet parent insight, optimal pet nutrition, category knowledge, and operational excellence. If a partner is looking to build their business, be it a retailer, national brand, or up-and-coming regional player, they look to us to help them scale their idea, develop it, and bring it to market.
“Whether their sweet spot is in a main meal value proposition all the way up to super premium or hyper premium, or if they want to play in the treat space, they look to us to help them build, grow, and develop from the ground up.”
Customers visiting Red Collar’s visually stunning HQ can see how the products are made in their fully equipped test kitchen. “Here’s where we can show them how we can help build their business, do a boardroom session, and retail simulation session—it really is a great facility,” he enthused.
Red Collar’s evocative design presence is also evident in their manufacturing facilities. “We have a Treats Center of Excellence with two facilities in the center of the country, and we can make anything from main meal dry food, and any treat a customer might want. They might even have an idea of what might work, and we can help them build that.”
He added, “Most of us have come from the best pet food manufacturers in the world. We bring all that expertise to Red Collar, and one of those things we brought with us was our full-service R&D capability. We’re staffed with who I believe are the best nutritionists and product developers in the business, each bringing extensive knowledge and years of pet food industry experience.
“Our in-house developers have the capability to test and learn as we move to full scale with a national footprint and an unprecedented value equation of quality, service, safety, and price.” The industry veterans on board move at startup speeds, leveraging an ideal combination of expertise, innovation, and deep caring about quality and safety that has kept Red Collar in a leadership position since their inception.
During the product development process, Red Collar works diligently to ensure customers’ needs are met and exceeded, and that their food and treats are made at the highest quality and food safety standards. “We won’t compromise on three things: food safety, quality, and associate safety. If that’s the value equation our customers are looking for, we’re the ones they come to for that help and expertise,” he declared. The company’s strong foundation and trusted relationships with government, regulatory bodies, and suppliers is another key asset.
As more and more households add companion animals to their families, customer concerns about ingredients abound. “One of the things we’re seeing more recently, especially with the anxiety and uncertainty driven by COVID, is a swing back to health through science,” Hamilton observed. “Health through nature has been a big trend for the past 10 years. What's on my plate is good for me, is good for my pet, and what we’re seeing now is almost a swing back to, ‘I just need a trusted partner to tell me everything’s OK with my pet.’ We’re seeing a lot more requests and time spent in development on health through science, and we have a great portfolio that can fulfill both needs.”
Red Collar’s dedication to the highest standards has enabled them to manage effectively through the pandemic, inspiring customer confidence and affirming their mission to be a trusted partner in guarding and building their customers’ business and brands. “As I have said—but it deserves saying again—food safety, quality, and our associates’ safety are three of our non-negotiables. During the pandemic we have seen how living our company values in our associates has been critical in continuing to provide a workplace our associates are proud of and to provide exceptional service to our customers.
“With our fantastic associates and their safety centered as a non-negotiable in our business model, we continue to take steps to ensure our facilities go above and beyond to keep our workplace safe and provide a healthy workplace. We’re adjusting to modified work from home for our office associates and continue to adjust on the fly to ensure our customers continue to receive our great pet food and treats they have come to trust and rely on to drive their businesses.”
Hamilton noted that while the company is in the catbird seat of a very healthy, vibrant category with no end of growth in sight, action on the M&A front is part of their continuing plans.” Of course, we are always on the lookout for great additions to our business, like our 2019 acquisition of Hampshire Pet Products in Joplin, Mo., now part of the Red Collar family.”
As with any leader who deeply loves their mission, Hamilton couldn’t resist a final pitch. “Red Collar is open for business,” he said. “If you are looking for a trusted partner that values your business, your brands, your shoppers and pet parents, we offer full-service capabilities to our customers with proven quality and food safety gold standards in manufacturing. We are growing at an unprecedented rate and would love to talk to you about how we can help you fulfill your vision to build your pet care business.” Well said, and for the animals we love and depend on, well fed.
We are pet people. And to us, pets are family. That's why we believe they all deserve great food. Wholesome, balanced nutrition grounded in the best food science in every bag and bowl. Why is our food so good? It's made right here in the U.S. from quality ingredients in factories that meet the highest pet food safety standards. We think you'll be proud to put your brand on the food and treats we make. Our enduring commitment to pets and their people means Red Collar is a partner you can trust. We nourish some of the best four-legged friends around. We hope some of them are yours. Visit RedCollarPet.com to find out more.