Year of the manufacturer
For Inspired Pet Nutrition and its market-leading pet food brands such as Wagg and Harringtons, 2019 is set to be a ground-breaking year for the business as it diversifies its product range and reaffirms its investment in its people
When you consider that the general pet food market has remained somewhat flat in recent times, the fact that we achieved growth in sales of between ten and 15 per cent in 2018 is a fantastic outcome!” These are the words of Richard Page, Managing Director of Inspired Pet Nutrition (IPN), the multi-award winning FMCG pet food manufacturer behind some of the industry’s best-known brands, such as Wagg and Harringtons.
Speaking to Richard roughly a year on from when the company last featured within the pages of FoodChain, he was all too happy to discuss some of the highlights of 2018, such as the major re-launch of the Wagg brand that occurred last summer, as well as the company’s exciting new foray into the lucrative wet dog food market.
In the case of the former, IPN invested approximately £500,000 in relaunching the Wagg brand’s packaging in order to better convey the quality of its dry dog food and dog treats, and give customers quicker, simpler access to nutritional information. This was accompanied by the launch of a new website. “We typically undertake an evolutionary refresh of our brands every two-to-three years, however this was very much more of a revolutionary step change for the Wagg brand, one that will go a long way to sustaining the success of the product and one that has been received extremely well by our customers,” Richard explains.
The past 12 months has also played host to a potentially game-changing undertaking by the business, with the commissioning of wet food and treat plant in North Wales, into which IPN has invested almost £20 million. This marks IPN’s first venture into the wet food sector, where growth is currently being driven by the plastic-tray format, with overall branded sales estimated to have more than doubled to over £24 million in the last two years alone. “The commissioning process of the new plant is around 90 per cent complete at present,” Richard says. “Needless to say, we have learnt an awful lot from this experience, particularly as it relates to our constant drive to improve efficiency and achieve greater output, and it means that we are now producing some truly exceptional products.”
Said products include a range of Wagg wet dog foods and Harringtons Wet Dog Food, which in January 2019 was the proud winner of the ‘Dog Food’ category at the Product of the Year awards – the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation. Speaking at the time, Harringtons Marketing Manager, Dan Reeves commented: “We’ve created an exciting range of natural wet food products, packed full of premium ingredients free from artificial flavours or colours, as well as being palm oil free. We’re very proud and humbled to see the popularity of our Harringtons Wet Dog Food recognised by the consumers who voted for this year’s Product of the Year awards.”
The aforementioned Wagg range is available in four flavours – salmon, chicken, beef and turkey – in 390g trays, and can already be found on the shelves of Morrisons, with an RSP of 90p. “The addition of our Wagg collection of wet foods is very exciting because it now gives us products at both ends of the market in terms of pricing,” Richard adds, before moving on to the vast potential that IPN’s wet food capabilities gives the business. “The wet dog food market is at least the same size, in terms of value, as the dry food market so by making the move into this field we have effectively doubled our growth possibilities.
“We also see this new plant as being a fantastic platform upon which we can look to launch IPN into the cat food market in the next couple of years, which is the biggest category of all pet foods. This is something we are clearly very excited about and it will open up a wealth of new avenues for growth. We have strategically dubbed 2020 as being the ‘year of the cat’ for IPN, and in the build-up to that we will be focusing our efforts on creating a quality range of dry and wet cat food products.”
Back at the company’s site at Topcliffe, near Thirsk, IPN has also been putting its efforts into building up its stock levels – in part with an eye cast towards the UK leaving the European Union at the end of March 2019 – and investing in ways to create greater flexibility in its production processes. This included optimising its various means of packing its dry food products and adding more lines. “We continue to have big, bold ambitions for our dry food products,” Richard enthuses. “These include plans for an innovative new form of our best loved products, one that utilises a narrow range of ingredients including only truly fresh meat, and that should launch in the near future.”
Internally, IPN is also working very hard with its various teams to make further improvements to the culture of the business. “We now have four dedicated trainers in place across IPN, whose responsibility is to drive engagement among our staff and to bring the issue of culture to the top of the agenda wherever possible,” Richard details. “This, among other efforts, has shown to have real demonstrable benefits when it comes to staff retention, and it is incredibly pleasing from a personal point of view that IPN’s investment in people is continuing to pay dividends for both our staff and the business as a whole.”
While at the time of our discussion, in late February, there remained an uncomfortable degree of uncertainty about the short-to-medium term’s economic climate due to the UK’s protracted Brexit negotiations, Richard was in no way any less optimistic about IPN’s own future! “We feel good about 2019. We have a lot of innovation taking place within our facilities, we have many great new people within our ranks, and I really do believe that, whatever happens as it relates to Brexit, 2019 will be a great year to be a manufacturer in the UK, and that well-invested businesses like IPN will continue to succeed,” he concludes.