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Petersens charge out of gate with natural pet foods [Greeley Tribune, Colo. :: ]
[August 24, 2014]

Petersens charge out of gate with natural pet foods [Greeley Tribune, Colo. :: ]

(Greeley Tribune (CO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 24--In five years? The Petersen brothers exchange knowing looks in the posh boardroom of the world headquarters building of Wild Calling! in the High Pointe Business Park in west Greeley.

Trevar takes this one: Yeah. Easy. In five years, they plan to make Wild Calling! a $100 million gourmet pet food company.

He's not kidding, and likely not delusional.

"Based off of what we've done, that's a very achievable goal," his older brother says, noting the 3,100 independent pet stores their food already is in across the country.

Wild Calling! is the cash cow at the moment for Western Plains Feed Provisions, which serves as an umbrella for the Petersen's growing list of Natural Pet Marketplace retail stores and Wild Calling! their father built with a three-pronged plan to manufacture, sell and distribute natural pet foods, as well as wild birdseed.

The company, not quite two years old, recently was named the Editor's Choice in the national publication Pet Product News, for its grain-free dog and pet food which come in varies such as buffalo, elk, rabbit, turkey, trout and duck.

"Together you can rotate through those and create a concept of land, air and sea," Jeremy Petersen said of the different varieties they sell in dry and canned foods.

While much of the time, these brothers, not quite two years apart, look as if they're ready to break out into a game of cops and robbers at the mere hint of brotherly competition, their smarts in their products and industry show.

That's why Jeremy, 25, is on the road a lot helping grow the brand and get the word out, and Trevar, 24, is taking over a buying role at the company.

They spare no chance at talking shop, specifically about their line of gourmet pet food that is comprised of 80 to 96 percent meat, depending on canned or bagged foods. They are among a host of other natural pet food companies selling to a growing niche of consumers who want better for their pets.

Here's how they differentiate themselves: "No other pet food company talks about building an optimal amino acid profile," Jeremy said. "Red meats are deficient in arginine and histamine, which are two of 10 essential amino acids a pet requires." The Petersens, with their father's considerable background in the pet food distribution industry, work with a veterinarian at Kansas State University to develop their foods. Their first idea would have cost consumers $100 per 25-pound bag; they got the price down to $65-$75 among their varieties.

"Because the attention to care that we're taking, we've got the highest meat diet in the industry," Jeremy said.

In the pet food world, there are labeling switcheroos that happen, just as with the organic food labeling.

In the pet food world, if a product says "with beef," it only has to contain 3 percent beef, Jeremy said. The remaining protein is usually beans or peas.

"To make the claims we're making, you have to have primarily meat in the diet," he said. "Ours is 55 percent -- that's the most meat you can get in dog food with modern technology they have." They've taken the foods a little further with Wild Calling! by going grain free, as well. The carbohydrates in their dry food are derived from sweet potatoes, tapioca and lentils.

"That gives you a time-release concept, that's slow medium and fast release, so pets energy is consistent. It controls insulin and blood glucose levels, which is becoming important," Jeremy explained of the call to go grain free, which tends to raise blood sugars fast for a long crash.

Arguably, they are shooting big in volumes, revenues and pricing. They want the hyper-conscious pet owner who cares about what their pets eat. And they're finding markets throughout the country and Canada. Asia may soon come on board, when permitting and certifications go through.

And, Trevar laughs, "The police dogs in Grand Cayman are the best fed dogs on the island." That's a nod to meeting a distributor at a trade show who hooked them up with the police department down south.

They say they're on pace to sell 3.5 million to 4 million pounds of dry food and 5 million single cans this year alone, which is admittedly incredible because they hadn't launched their dry products until last November.

"Typical dog food companies that have come like we're doing it, take about 12-16 years to get to point where they're really noticed," Jeremy said. "We've been noticed right out of the gate, and we're one of the fasts growing pet food companies out there." What helps is they have their own stores through which they can sell their food. Most pet food producers go through independent distributors and retailers, and doing so helps get their recommendations to the public. They're not too worried about getting into the big boxes just yet.

The Petersens enjoy a bit of trial and error with their bricks and mortar. That's where they find out what the consumer wants, and where they can try out new marketing promotions and varieties.

The growth has helped the Petersens expand as well. They recently built a $2-million, 40,000-square-foot warehouse and Wild Calling! headquarters at the High Pointe Business Park through which they store and distribute their dog foods. The food is packaged in other states and brought to the different warehouses. The Greeley warehouse supplies all of the West Coast.

While they'd never begrudge other industries their due, they do have a tiny beef with the oil and gas industry: Truckers are in high demand and prices of guar gum -- a natural thickening agent in their canned foods -- have shot through the roof. Oil and gas companies use guar as a thickening agent for fracking fluids.

But there's an elephant in the room still. There's a lot going on behind the Wild Calling! walls they're not ready to fully discuss and the Petersens stop each other at different junctures.

"We're still in our infancy," Jeremy said. "We've got cans and dry food because of demand. And we still haven't added on treats, and we've got trademarks for supplements if we decide to do that. We're constantly coming up with names, working with trademarks attorneys." Said Trevar: "In the pet industry, the big guy will always try to take out the little guy. If you don't do it their way, they'll sue you until your out of business." The brothers have been out of college a short time but already are using their degrees in big business as they navigate the complexities of the industry, trucking, supply and demand, issues involved with losing a co-packer to warehouse downtime and maintenance, getting the word out with out a national marketing budget, and international trade.

The plan has always been to stay local.

"We're trying to build a family owned company," Jeremy said. "We're committed to northern Colorado, our employees here and (being a part of) the economy." "We're trying to build a family owned company. We're committed to northern Colorado, our employees here and (being a part of) the economy." -- Jeremy Petersen , co-owner of Wild Calling! ___ (c)2014 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) Visit the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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