BEHIND THE SCENES
Pet Product News spoke with Jim Heim, president of new business
development for Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet Co., who
shared how the company’s formula for success lies in its consistent striving
for strength and growth that also benefits customers and end users.
Kaytee’s line of urban poultry products
includes a Starter Kit for Chickens and Hens.
Dallas Manufacturing Co.’s bed with cotton
duck material and camouflage piping appeals
to dog owners who enjoy the outdoors.
Dallas Manufacturing Co.’s “Good Dog”
fashion pillow features vintage print graphics.
LED lighting makes nighttime viewing of
small animals possible in the Critter Trail
Pet Product News: Central Garden & Pet
Co. is one of the largest companies in the
pet space, offering both products and
distribution. Please share a snapshot of
the number of facilities, brands, employees, product offerings and distribution
channels you have to provide a picture
of the company’s scope.
Jim Heim: Central’s key strengths
are its broad product portfolio,
extensive distribution footprint
and a long history of providing
quality, innovative products to a
myriad of channels in the pet and
garden industries. With products
across so many market categories,
including aquatics, animal health,
dog and cat toys, food and treats,
avian, reptiles, small animals,
equine and the recent acquisitions
of rawhide chews with IMS and
pet bedding with Dallas Manufacturing, retailers can take advantage of single sourcing, which
enables them to streamline their
Central’s extensive distribution network, which includes
goods from other pet product
manufacturers, allows pet stores
to keep inventories at lower levels knowing that Central resources are a quick call away. Our fill
rates are some of the highest in
By the numbers, Central produces or distributes over 45,000
SKUs and has 60+ physical locations throughout the country,
with nearly 3,700 employees.
PPN: How does a company the size of
Central Garden & Pet remain true to its
JH: To succeed in the swiftly mov-
ing and rapidly changing con-
sumer products market, we must
continue to strengthen and build
our branded products portfolio
by supplying innovative new
products that bring quality and
value to our consumers. We also
focus on acquiring businesses
in the pet and garden segments
in selective areas that we be-
lieve have potential for signif-
icant growth. We continually
challenge our brand managers
to make current products bet-
ter, lower manufacturing lead
times, improve quality and work
with our consumer insights and
development groups to bring
innovation to the market. New
products and new segments are
critical to keep consumers look-
ing for your brands.
Secondly, we remain committed to being effective and
efficient for our retail partners.
While immensely rewarding,
we understand our customer’s
business is challenging—we
constantly strive to make working with Central easier for those
in the pet business.
PPN: How do you approach business with
a one-off, mom-and-pop pet store versus
a larger, multistore independent chain?
JH: Central’s extensive market
data and understanding
of the pet retail industry
allows us to bring independent pet store owners
significant insight and
analysis into the sales trends
in all pet categories. Central provides this information so that
independent pet store owners
can make accurate decisions on
setting up their planograms and
maximizing sales per square foot.
We operate with all customer sizes similarly. For large-for-mat stores, our dedicated sales
groups regularly meet with buyers on category management and
inventory control. That’s pretty
much what our field sales representatives and our distributor
network do on a smaller scale
with a single-store owner. Every
store has nuances for its particular size and market, and we strive
to meet their individual needs.
PPN: What would you say to independent
pet store owners who might say that
Central Garden & Pet is too large to truly
JH: Customers, whether large or
small or chain or independent,
are important to our business.
And having a large, diverse customer base helps us to collect
insights, market data and trends
that we can pass along to independent pet store owners. We
can offer guidance and alternatives when a market segment declines, or we can help optimize a
shelf set or endcap display when
an area shows growth.
Central can improve the quality of products on the store’s
shelves and better manage the
amount of stockroom inventory
knowing that a Central distribution center is nearby. Pet stores
can take advantage of ordering
from a single source rather than
the complications associated
with ordering from several manufacturers or distributors. With
a broad array of products that
we manufacture, plus the other
pet lines we move through distribution, we can supply a large
percentage of a retail pet store’s
PPN: What new product releases from
Central Garden & Pet are you most excited about?
JH: The pet store owners who
attended Global Pet Expo in Orlando saw some new offerings
in several areas of our business.
In the small animal category,
we developed LED bubble plug
lighting to complement the
Critter Trail line of small animal
habitats. Small pet aficionados
can now get a nighttime peek at
what their hamsters and mice are
doing when the sun sets.
Urban poultry is a hot trend
in many nonrural homes. We
introduced pens, roosts, feed-
ing accessories and starter kits
for consumers who want a little
“farm life” in their backyards.
In aquatics we introduced an
improved Biocube aquarium
with LED lighting, an upgraded
cooling system and a 30 percent
improvement in flow rate for
improved water circulation and
better filter performance.
Nylabone showed Nubz
Budz, a pack of edible chews in
four shapes/flavors and made
in the USA. The New Products
Showcase at Global Pet Expo
featured 17 innovative products
across six of Central’s brands.
PPN: What current challenges is Central
Garden & Pet facing or preparing for in
light of the changing demographics of
JH: Central has the benefit of
participating in many different
categories in the pet industry,
and this allows us to adjust our
investment in new products and
acquisitions to best capitalize on
any demographics changes. Our
recent acquisitions of a rawhide
and chew business and a bedding manufacturer are in two of
the fastest-growing pet categories. In businesses where
are slowing sales, we have
successfully reduced costs,
allowing us to continue to
give our customers and their
pet-owning shoppers quality
products at an attractive price.
PPN: What are the ways in which Central
Garden & Pet gives back? How does the
company choose among so many organizations seeking support?
JH: We are involved in many pro-
grams and charities related to
the pet and garden markets. We
have been long-time supporters
of the Animal Rescue Founda-
tion, including their Bark in the
Park events, which raise aware-
ness and funds for animal adop-
tion. Part of the Bark in the Park
program ties in with Code 3 As-
sociates, which provides profes-
sional training to individuals and
agencies as well as site response
to rescue animals in disasters
such as fires, floods, hurricanes
and other circumstances where
animals become separated from
their owners. We also are a long-
time sponsor of Dogs 4 Diabetics.
On the garden side of the
business we are working with
Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth K- 12
program, which provides inqui-ry-based curricula that supports
engaging kids in scientific study.
Grants to elementary schools
across the country this year have
been used to create community
gardens and bird-friendly environments in areas called “food
deserts,” where fresh vegetables
and fruits might not be readily
available. After we built a customer service center in Boise,
our Idaho employees participate yearly in the See Spot Walk,
which raises funds for the Idaho
Humane Society. Our dog watering station at the end of the walk
gives us a chance to talk with
pet owners about the efforts of
the animal shelter, and we pass
out treats and food samples as
a thank you for participating.
These are just a few of the many
organizations and events we
support throughout the year.
PPN: What’s in store for the future of Central Garden & Pet?
JH: We added IMS and Dallas
Manufacturing Corp. to the Central portfolio this year and, by
doing so, entered into segments
of pet products where we didn’t
have an offering—rawhide chews
and pet bedding, respectively.
Our acquisition teams continue
to look for opportunities to strategically broaden the Central line.
Our CEO over the past three
years, John Ranelli, announced
his retirement from Central and
leaves the company with great
momentum, having significantly increased the company’s revenues and earnings and, most
important, setting up Central for
continued success in the future.
George C. Roeth was named
president and CEO starting June
1. Mr. Roeth is a director of the
company and a former COO of
The Clorox Co. We anticipate
that Mr. Roeth will take his 27
years of experience with a national consumer products company and apply it to Central’s
operations to drive growth. ■