News Industry Profile Pero



Industry Profile: Pero
25th March 2015

By Sandra Pearce

Little did Dewi Parry realise that mixing his own dog food would lead to him setting up a pet food company in Wales. Over the years, Pero Foods has grown its range of blended products, and now also offers an own-label range for retailers

Think dry dog food and your mind immediately pictures the extruded product, whether in nugget, kibble or pellet format. However, at Pero Foods, things are done differently and the team is proud to offer a variety of blended dog food products.

What Pero does is take an extruded product, then at its blending plant, coats the outside of that kibble, similar to how you might baste a roast chicken for the Sunday dinner. Pero can, in fact, blend up to 10 ingredients and two liquids in extremely accurate measures. The process, says general manager Jonathan Rees, makes the kibble highly palatable as all the flavour is on the surface of the kibble.

It then mixes different kibbles according to specific recipes, resulting in a large range of muesli-type blends. He adds that Pero is the only company in the UK to blend food in this way, creating its own mixes.

“Blending has been our bread-and-butter product from day one,” he said. “But we have since taken it a step further and have a brand new facility, which allows us to blend to a much higher degree of
accuracy. This means all our blended mixes are consistent throughout, and one mix is exactly the same as another.”

In addition to this blending technology, Pero was one of the first companies in the UK to offer an organic product, which it still does today. Its non-organic ranges use only natural ingredients, and even the coloured kibbles are natural. “There is nothing artificial in our products at all,” said Jonathan.
Fitting really, when you consider that Pero calls the picture-postcard-perfect village of Betws-y-Coed home, nestled in a valley in North Wales’s Snowdonia Forest Park, an area distinguished by its dense woodland, cascading waterfalls, hill-top lakes, river pools and ancient bridges.

“When we look out of the window and all we see are hills and trees, we realise how lucky we are,” he adds.

Always a reason
Pero owner Dewi Parry originally ran a large pig farm and mixed all the pig feed himself. Not satisfied with the dog food on offer back then in the ’80s, he started mixing his own food for his dogs. It was not long before other farmers were commenting on how good his dogs looked, and once they discovered that Dewi was making the food himself, asked if he’d be willing to supply them as well.

The snowball had started, and Dewi realised there was a gap in the market for a quality product at a reasonable price. In 1985, he bit the bullet and set up Pero.

“It’s a very simple story,” said Jonathan. “Pero has taken off and pigs have all gone.”
The name Pero, by the way, is a common dog’s name in Wales, and years ago there was even a cartoon dog character named Pero. It was ‘almost tongue-in-cheek’ to call the brand Pero, says Jonathan. “It more or less equates to dog in Welsh, but is not Welsh.” It was a natural fit.

Pero today offers a range of dog food and treats for different lifestages, working dog, hypoallergenic, breed specific and grain free – as he says, there really is a product to suit every need.

The company sources ingredients as much as possible from within the UK, with provenance being key, says Jonathan, reflecting that this is increasingly important with consumers. “People know what they want, and they want to know where their food comes from, and what’s in it.”

While its working dog range – which comprises Pero Beef Rings, Pero Premium, Pero Working Dog Active and Pero Working Dog Maintenance – is a big seller, the breed-specific range was a surprise hit. Labrador Life launched about 10 years ago and Staffordshire Bull Terrier four to five years ago. The Staffie product has quickly caught up with Labrador sales, and both are now pretty much selling in similar numbers.

“We are fairly careful about recipes,” he said. “We do not just cherry pick a breed and produce a food. We look at breeds to see if there are any traits or issues. For example, with German Shepherds, top nutritionists identified dietary issues associated with stomach issues, so we designed a food using tapioca which is very digestible, much better than potato or rice.”

The grain-free German Shepherd product joined the breed-specific category about two years ago, and has since also found a following among owners of other dogs with dietary issues.

“Whenever we look into a food, we do the research, look at the market, and see what is beneficial for owners and their dogs. We always do it for a reason, not to launch just another product.”

Specially for retailers
Pero also offers the dedicated own-label Signature range to retailers with 20-25 products including grain free, gluten free, working dog, puppy, super premium blends and treats. There is no clash with core Pero products, so while Pero’s grain-free offering is turkey and duck, retailers can choose from chicken, duck, lamb and salmon in the Signature range.

Launched in 2013, Signature is an economical solution for retailers looking to stock their own-brand pet food, he said. With a five-day lead time from order to delivery, retailers can order anything from a single bag to 15 pallets if they want!

Pero has always responded to market trends, says Jonathan. “As a company, we are constantly looking for innovation in recipes and at new ideas, at what we can do. We are always trying new ideas.”
For instance, in response to customer demand, it introduced a single kibble as seen in its gluten-free Welsh lamb & rice and Chicken with rice offerings. It is now also exploring cat food. “There is always something new keeping us on our toes.”

It’s about keeping an eye on trends, such as the current interest in grain free and high-meat content foods. Is this a fad or will the products be with us for many years to come, he asks? “Cold-pressed food is fairly big on the Continent now. Will that be the next big thing here? We’re keeping a close eye on that one.”

Quality product, competitive price
Pero has never had a massive sales or marketing team – it has just over 10 employees in total. A customer could call the company and discover that they are talking to Jonathan or Dewi. “We all chip in,” says Jonathan. “We are a family business, and everybody treats us in a family way. We offer the personal touch.”

Being such a small team means that more of the profits are re-invested into the company rather than on meeting higher overheads. Which, ironically, has led to an unusual situation.

Jonathan explains: “As a blended product, we are unique in the marketplace, and theoretically, we should hit the higher premium price bracket. We do not have a huge sales or marketing team, so our overheads are lower. We therefore offer a competitive price for a good, quality product. But this has caused some issues, as some people think our product cannot be as good as some larger brands because it is cheaper.”

Pero’s quality, he says, is right up there with the top brands. But it can be difficult to counter consumers’ misconceptions, he said. The company is now upping its marketing game and has recently taken on two recruits, who have been tasked with driving the company’s message and values on social media, engaging with pet owners on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

These social media platforms had been ‘less than actively used’ by Pero, admits Jonathan. “We need to increase our presence. Social media is a good way of making things exciting. It seems to be a good means of communicating a product’s quality, in a sometimes light-hearted way. Yes, we have now joined the social media revolution.”

Growing its exposure, Pero sponsors breed-specific shows relevant to its products, and has been at Crufts for 20 years now.

Pero has also started targeting the export market, and now ships to countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and Cyprus, thanks to its recent presence at Germany’s Interzoo.

Jonathan added: “We’ve been 30 years in the business, we go to Crufts every year and are one of the longest-established pet food manufacturers in the UK, but not many people know that.

“This is something we want to look at and correct. This year, as we celebrate our 30th, is going to be an exciting year, and we have lots of ideas, so watch this space.”