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Industry Profile: Inspired Pet Nutrition
13th December 2016

By Sandra Pearce

Inspired Pet Nutrition has had a very busy 12 months. We find out a bit more about where the company is going and its plans for the future


It’s as if someone has hit the fast-forward button on Inspired Pet Nutrition as it powers its way through accelerated expansion, backed up with investment totaling millions. With a turnover of £70m, the family-run business which owns the Wagg and Harringtons brands says its medium-term aim is to hit £100m, and it intends to reach this by focusing on premium dog food and dry cat food, treats and developing its export market.

Inspired Pet Nutrition (IPN), formerly known as Wagg Foods, is the UK’s largest independent producer of dry pet food  – market share in dry dog now stands at 34.5%. According to Kantar data, Wagg is the UK’s number one dry dog food and Harringtons is the fastest-growing dry pet food brand.


Tom says the company has exciting plans for next year

In May, IPN officially opened its new 100,000sq ft distribution centre and offices at Dalton Airfield, North Yorkshire. The firm invested £7m in building and fitting out the automated site, which has the capacity for 11,500 pallets, with room to add 5,000 spaces if required. A new £2m automated conveying and packing system is able to achieve an output of 75 pallets an hour, an increase of 35 pallets per hour.

This £7m injection is in addition to the £20m already spent over the last five years automating production in its two mills, which are also at Dalton Airfield. IPN says it intends to spend a further £3m on these mills in the next two years. IPN is one of the largest extruder plants in Europe: three of its extruders can produce 8.2 tonnes per hour, and the fourth can go up to 11 tonnes per hour. The factory currently runs 24 hours a day, four days a week, with the rest of the time set aside for scheduled maintenance.

Sales and marketing director Tom Page said: “There are numerous investments being progressed, continued automation in the factory being one, but many other items that aid the infrastructure to prepare the business for future capacity and improved efficiency.”


Richard at the opening of the new distribution centre

A new central conveying system has been installed which will be eventually linked to all nine production lines. Instead of pallets having to be picked up manually at the end of each line and then moved by forklift truck to store, there will just be a single collection point with automated pallet handling. This removes the need for up to 80 (40 in and 40 out) forklift movements an hour around the factory and warehouse.

IPN’s focus on automation not only improvesefficiency, it also drives costs down in the long term. And while increasing automation might mean redundancies and a reduced staff pool, Tom says the opposite is true at IPN. The company currently employs 130 people at Dalton Airfield and 30 in Wales in its treats factory. He explained: “The plans are to continue expanding the business, which could create up to 50 new jobs at Dalton over the next five years.”


IPN says it will need to recruit more staff over the next few years

On the treats and snacks front, work is underway at a new £6million, 130,000sq ft production and distribution centre for sister company Real Petfood Company in  Wales. This part of the business aims to create a further 20 jobs within two years, with the workforce growing to 100 employees after five years. New equipment means the site will move to a continuous production process rather than the current batch system, boosting production capacity by a massive 600%.

IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES
The family business was set up in 1923 when the current directors’ grandfather set up an animal feed mill, Page Feeds, in North Yorkshire, supplying the farming community. The ’80s saw the launch of a dry dog food, and by 1990, his son Bill switched the business from animal feed to pet food, changing the business name to Wagg. Bill’s three sons – Tom, George and Richard – are now all directors.

Over the years the business has moved from Whitby to Northallerton before finally settling at Thirsk, where it opened its first dog food extrusion facility in 2002, producing over 40,000 tonnes. Five years later it brought in a second extruder, doubling its output. And now it has four.


Automation leads to increased efficiencies and reduced costs

Early last year, Catterton – a leading American consumer-focused private equity group – invested in the pet food manufacturer, supporting its ‘growth ambition’. The Page family remains a significant investor and has kept its management roles.

At the moment, IPN exports to 16 countries, mostly in Europe. Tom said: “We continue to make progress with a number of new territories, Russia being one, but also in Scandinavia where we have recently secured nationwide listings in Denmark and Norway. We continue to monitor opportunities for establishing an overseas manufacturing base if it is felt it would add value to the business.”


Harringtons entered the cat market in 2012

IPN takes its environmental responsibility seriously, and was proud when it received the Bronze Accreditation from Investors in the Environment (iiE), making it the only pet food manufacturer in the UK to have reached this nationwide environmental standard.

Its Combined Heat and Power Plant generates electricity from natural gas and produces heat and steam for use in production. This has helped the manufacturer reduce its carbon footprint. In 2014, for example, it cut 1,726 tonnes of CO2, which in layman’s terms is the equivalent of taking 575 cars off the road. Wet waste goes to an anaerobic digester in the North East, and it has installed electronic probes in chimneystacks to give an early alert of dust or any other particles being emitted.

Other green initiatives include sourcing ingredients such as meat and cereals locally to reduce transportation costs. It has also developed a compostable bag to hold product.


Harringtons launched its hypoallergenic range last month in conjunction with a heavyweight integrated marketing campaign, which included an initial four-week, £1m-plus TV advertising burst

New product development remains a high priority, and Tom says there are some ‘very exciting plans’ in line for next year. He said: “We are constantly evaluating what we do with our current brands and how these can deliver our goals, and part of this is through a strong NPD pipeline. In turn we need to determine the fit within our portfolio and whether this is a range extension, like the recently launched Harringtons Hypoallergenic, an entry into a new category like Harringtons wet dog food, or to create a new or sub-brand.”

Wagg has never hidden the fact that it is in supermarkets, but the directors also recognise the importance of the support of independent retailers. Tom added: “Independents remain an important part of the whole sector in providing great service to their local communities where major retailers simply cannot match that ability to know customers and their pets. They are very important routes to market for both Wagg and Harringtons.” 


According to Kantar, Wagg is the UK’s number one dry dog food