As Forthglade celebrates its 50th birthday, Sales Director James Kennedy reflects on what’s been happening in their landmark year — and how they continue to stand alongside independent pet shops.
Forthglade Natural Pet Food have been busy marking their 50th birthday. As part of the celebrations, the natural dog food makers recently launched a limited-edition birthday meal — a sardine and haddock recipe — to join the award-winning range of grain-free complete meals.
Last month, the Devonian dog lovers also unveiled a new UK charity initiative ‘50 for 50’, providing 50,000 trays of their natural wet meals to fifty deserving charities that care for dogs.
Congratulations on 50 years of making a lot of hungry dogs very happy! How has news of Forthglade’s 50th been received?
We’ve been delighted by all the feedback. Independent retail is where the Forthglade journey began and is an incredibly important part of our business. We’ve been so pleased with how our trade partners have helped to support us celebrate reaching our 50th year. The new recipe is generating huge interest and we’ve seen some fantastic visibility for the Forthglade brand, especially with branded point of sale (POS) and window displays with a birthday theme.
The Forthglade brand continues to go from strength to strength with sales growing at 26% YOY and the independent pet trade — as ever — is contributing significantly to that growth. It’s been a busy time bringing our birthday plans to life, but it has all come together brilliantly and has provided a great opportunity to review all that’s been achieved since we first began and, of course, what’s next for the brand.
Any exciting plans for the summer months with new product development (NPD)?
Outside of launching our new grain free Beef with sweet potato and the birthday grain free sardine and haddock meal, we’ve also just refreshed all of our packaging, making it cleaner and sharper so it stands out better on shelf and this will start arriving in the trade over the coming weeks.
A part of this refresh was to ensure that the high 75% chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, duck or fish content really stood out on the pack, as we know this is one of Forthglade’s most important attributes and sets the brand apart from many of our competitors. We have exciting products in the pipeline across both our wet and natural dry ranges that we can share details on in the coming months.
When did the trade sales team get back on the road?
The Business Development Managers (BDMs) went back on the road mid-March and were very warmly received by the trade. They are of course following strict protocols, wearing the appropriate PPE, sanitising hands pre and post visits, and respecting individual store rules including stepping out of stores should they get too busy — but the team are thrilled to be out meeting customers again face to face.
What has been the feedback from the BDMs?
In the main, the independent trade has weathered the last 12 months well. They’ve shown a resilience and adaptability that has ensured their existing customers remain loyal and actually many stores have experienced new customers visiting them as people have tried to shop local. Store opening hours in some instances have reduced and many stores have upgraded their online offering along with click and collect and delivery services. Independent pet shops offer their customers a unique service, a personal touch, and a fantastic range of products that have helped support what has been a very difficult period of time for all concerned.
How did the BDMs find liaising with the pet shops during lockdown?
The team regularly contacted our retailers through telephone and video calls. They did their best to keep customers up to speed with NPD and promotions, and help wherever possible.
Retailers were given the opportunity to register on our database so we could ensure anyone visiting our website could find their nearest Forthglade stockists. In addition, all retailers on our database started to receive our monthly trade update via email to ensure they received our latest news. As a business, we have continued to develop new and interesting recipes and point of sale materials and we are looking forward to speaking with all our customers about these as normal times return. We’d like to thank all of our independent customers for their continued support in making sure our four-legged friends can get the benefit of a Forthglade diet.
How is the 50 for 50 charity activity going?
We’ve already had over 200 charities get in touch for support. It has been an incredibly tough year for charities, so we are pleased to be in a position to be able to help. Each month for five months Forthglade will be donating 10,000 trays to 10 deserving charities. Anyone wanting to learn more about the initiative can visit forthglade.com/50for50.
Forthglade’s birthday-themed POS materials arrived at the perfect time for Karen Ray, from Alfie & Bella, based in Clifton, Bristol. She said: “We were able to create a really eye-catching window display for a very popular brand and it coincided perfectly with welcoming customers back in store after restrictions for shoppers had eased a little.”
Karen continues: “Like so many, during lockdown we had to furlough staff for a short period and also reduce opening hours, but overall, we were just so very grateful to have been able to trade.
“Our small store is quite a sociable hub for our local pet owners. For everyone’s safety, we managed sales from behind a simple desk positioned at the front door during lockdowns, which maintained social distancing and worked very well, plus it kept us all fit as we collected products! Although we sorely missed the normal daily interaction with our regular customers in store and being able to make a fuss of their pets, we could still have a chat with everyone and it quickly became our new ‘normal’ routine.
“Forthglade’s window display created a great talking point and the POS materials that Forthglade provided fitted in beautifully with our store’s look and focus, as we really like to emphasise natural nutrition and products that have a great reputation for good quality. Strong window displays are a great way to showcase and promote brands we love and are particularly helpful at this time when customers may either still feel a bit nervous about entering the shop or be in a queue waiting to come in.
“Forthglade’s birthday theme also enabled us to showcase our own team’s artistic skills, the bright and cheerful window has certainly caught the eye of passers-by and demonstrates the benefit of great point of
The lockdown period has also been a time of learning for many independent pet shops including Karen’s.
“I’m sure all businesses have discovered some new processes that have helped streamline their business and for us, it was the development of our new Electronic Point of Sale system which has been totally revolutionary. Barcodes on all products delivered into store are scanned, and again when sold, speeding up transactions and creating an efficient and accurate inventory system. This also provides clear valuable reports to easily monitor trends in sales and stock requirements.
“We have also had the opportunity to develop our click and collect system on our website which we will launch soon — around 90% of our transactions are now totally paperless.”