Blackburn-based Pets Choice, supplier of the successful Webbox pet food range, has posted an impressive set of financial figures since a management buyout of the company in 2013, and has now revealed ambitious plans for growing the business.
CEO Tony Raeburn spoke to Pet Trade Xtra about his vision for the company…
How have you achieved success so quickly
Webbox is one of the fastest growing brands in the UK and the increase in sales, combined with an investment programme and efficiency drive in operations has enabled the company to forge ahead. We have ambitious plans for growing the business and this involves substantial investment with the need to be a profitable manufacturer so that we can continue to reinvest.
Are you happy with the progress made since you led a management buyout of the company?
Following the buyout we have made fundamental changes to the business. In the year since the buyout we have built a new head office and distribution centre, have invested substantially in operations and new equipment and we have strengthened all areas in terms of personnel including marketing, sales, technical and operations.
How much of the increase in pre-tax profits was down to rising sales or greater efficiencies?
The increase in profitability has been a combination of many factors, including rising sales, new product launches, greater efficiencies and investment in equipment. Mostly, however, it has been the result of the sheer hard work that the dedicated team at Pets Choice have put in!
How many people does the company now employ?
We employ around 160 people across three sites. Two of these sites are manufacturing; one for extruded products and the other for moist food and treats. The third site is our new 140,000ft2 warehouse and head office (Brentwood House). We moved into this building in December 2014 and it has allowed us to expand our team. Departments that are based here include buying, marketing, technical, finance and sales. Our quality assurance team is based within the manufacturing plants to ensure they are present for all stages of the production process.
Why do you think Webbox pet food has become so popular?
It’s quite simple really; our Webbox products offer good quality at great value. We offer a complete range of pet food incorporating dry and wet dog and cat food and treats and we try to listen to what the customer buying habits are telling us. We like to think that we are proactive in the market seeking opportunities for new products.
How are the other brands in your portfolio faring?
With the variety of brands in Pets Choice’s portfolio: Webbox, Goodwyns, Davies and Oceanic, there really is something for everyone. Goodwyns is premium range that looks at the dog’s health holistically and contains natural anti-oxidants. Davies has been around for 134 years and is a trusted brand that now includes ‘grain free’ varieties. Oceanic is a super-premium brand of fish-rich foods for adult dogs and puppies; all of which are manufactured in the UK with only the very best ingredients The addition of Vitakraft to our portfolio has enabled us to expand our range of products both within the dog and cat sector and into small animal now too.
We are supporting and marketing the Goodwyns brand very heavily this year so now is a good time for retailers to be stocking. A big marketing push (involving social media and advertising campaigns and exhibiting at consumer dog shows) has been instigated and people are starting to become really receptive towards the brand so demand is sure to follow. For retailers, we have new stockist deals that are not to be missed.
What exciting plans have you got for the future?
Pets Choice have a strategy to invest heavily in the current portfolio and we have made the decision to attend both trade and consumer shows to increase brand awareness. In addition, spend on advertising has been substantially increased and NPD launches will be taking place regularly to keep on top of market trends. With the new head office this has enabled us to expand the team, bringing social media and PR in-house. Further investments are taking place in manufacturing to increase capacities and there are exciting plans ahead!
Will you be unveiling new products at PATS Telford?
Watch this space!