A Pet Food Company Carves Out an All-Meat Niche

Divorced and with no family, Will Post makes his pets’ longevity a priority. That commitment also informs the pet food business Post launched six years ago.

Turned off by the spelled-out and hidden additives in many canine and feline victuals, the former Marine jumped into the pet food market with what he described as a “100 percent meat” product line. Its only added ingredient is agar, which serves as a binding agent and is sold in health food stores, said Post.

Dubbed the Hound & Gatos Pet Foods Corp., Post’s company has effectively leveraged the growing interest in pure, unadulterated foods by bringing those preferences to a new market – canine and feline nourishment. The tagline, “The Original Paleolithic Pet Food Company,” appears on its packaging and marketing materials, including its website.

“I have a niche product,” said Post, who retired from the Marines 10 years ago after 30 years of duty. “Other brands have wheat, soy and grains as fillers, but I’ve never seen a cat or dog grazing in wheat fields or plucking off blueberries from bushes.”

The New York-headquartered business contracts with a private label manufacturer in South Dakota to produce its assorted varieties of wet cat and dog food. Its offerings include beef, chicken, New Zealand lamb, lamb-chicken, salmon, pork, rabbit and trout.

Retail prices start at $1.29 for 5.5 oz. can of chicken for cats and can go as high as $4.50 for a 13-oz. can of rabbit for dogs, depending on the store and its location. In March, the profitable, seven-employee firm, which includes two nutritionists, is slated to introduce a line of dry kibble pet food.

With a network of distributors to sell the line to retailers, Hound & Gatos has scored shelf space in more than 5,000 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Pet Central, The Barking Zoo, Global Pet Foods, Choice Pet, Pet Foods Express and Pet’s Barn, said Post.

Although a small-fry company in an industry slated to register $62.75 million in sales this year and led by such powerhouses as Mars Petcare Inc., Nestlé Purina PetCare, Big Heart Pet Brands and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Hound & Gatos has achieved a 300 percent increase in year-to-date revenues over 2015’s results, according to Post.

Since its inception, the firm has also been recognized by the pet food industry. It is a three-time winner of the “Most Trusted Pet Foods” award by TruthAboutPetFood.com, and a three-time winner of “Top Approved Pet Foods” by Whole Dog Journal. Plus, DogFoodAdvisor.com, which bills itself as “saving good dogs from bad food,” has given Hound & Gatos a top rating of five.

Like many entrepreneurs whose venture is fueled by a personal passion, Post didn’t start out to create a pet-food company. Instead, he wanted to extend the lifespan of his dogs and cats. That conviction led him to make frequent trips to Cosco to buy pounds of raw meat that he would then cook in his kitchen and serve to his pets. Within a short time, his neighbors and Marine buddies asked him do the same for their furry friends, thus providing him with the seeds of a business.

Plowing “every cent” he had into his start-up company, Post said he invested $500,000 from his personal resources to develop the product line, buy packaging materials and pay a bevy of professionals, including attorneys, food formulators and web and graphic designers.

Along with promoting his canine and feline foods on social media, Post crisscrosses the country to drum up sales. Accompanied by his German shorthaired pointer, Isa, Post attends industry trade shows and distributor open houses aimed at retailers.

“I put food out in a cocktail bowl and Isa will eat it up,” said Post.

In addition, his five-person sales team makes monthly visits not only to veterinarians but chiropractic offices because, as Post noted, chiropractic patients are not only interested in their own health but the well-being of their pets.

Cara S. Trager

Cara S. Trager is a freelance writer. Her byline has appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Crain's New York Business and Money Magazine. She also creates marketing materials, white papers and web content for a wide range of corporations and non-profits.