Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Innovation Awards: Clear Conscience Pet®

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The Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 Innovation Awards is a year-long program designed to celebrate companies demonstrating innovative, disruptive thinking across the pet nutrition market. The winners will be honoured at Petfood & Animal Nutrition 2.0 2019.

Based in Wilton, Connecticut, and Cape Coral, Florida, Clear Conscience Pet® (CCP) is a winner for its groundbreaking CleanLabel™ family of products, including soft-moist and crunchy treats, chews, and meal toppers.

Sharing a love for animal health, husband-and-wife team Anthony and Amanda Malone Bennie founded CCP in 2010, after two decades of helping other companies make the “natural pet food revolution” a reality. Before taking her position as chief operations officer, Amanda co-managed Earth Animal in Westport, Connecticut, which “was and still is one of the most respected and highest-grossing stores in natural pet retail,” she said. And Anthony owned PetReps Inc., “a company that represented several natural pet brands, most notably Natura Pet Products, which became the industry leader in natural pet foods in the late 90s and changed the industry by bringing holistic pet food to the mainstream from its ‘cult’ status.”

CCP’s first products were Scrappy Chewz™ cartilage chews and Bison and Beef Liver Bark. Currently, there are ten distinct treat, chew and SuperGravy® options, with 13 SKUs counting all size packages.

In Anthony’s role as CCP’s chief nutrition officer, he’s always thinking about the “next” thing, whether that’s a future product, ingredient or improvement. From these efforts, in June 2014, the CleanLabel family of products was born; a repositioning to highlight the company’s commitment to using only pure, pronounceable and purposeful ingredients.

“Terms like ‘natural’ and ‘holistic’ have become so commonly used without consistent criteria or regulation that they have begun to lose meaning at retail,” Anthony explained. “When the natural niche in pet food and treats evolved from its early days as a fringe movement to being the fastest-growing and most-profitable segment in pet nutrition, big money ‘discovered’ our business. The result is a trend toward more marketing than meat, more sizzle than steak, and more confused consumers. After all, when almost everything is called ‘all-natural,’ how can consumers or even retailers differentiate between nutritionally superior products and those that talk the talk?”

The CleanLabel transition wasn’t a big leap for the company, as the commitment to clarity of purpose and integrity of formulation was part of the vision from day one. As such, the real effort came in repositioning branding, redesigning packaging and fine-tuning offerings.

The positioning has allowed products such as CCP’s best-selling SuperGravy to stand out in the marketplace. “It’s the only holistic dry gravy mix for pets,” Anthony said. “Other products in this category are premade liquids loaded with glycerin and synthetic supplements—which means customers are paying a premium for a product that is over 80 per cent water with supplements that their pet may not need.”

Other unique CCP products include Lamb Airy Bites™ and Lamb Airy Bark™ crunchy high-protein snacks, and rugged dental Beef Tracey Chewz™ and Lamb Tracey Chewz, all featuring a SuperFood Dry Rub™ proprietary recipe and process. It “enrobes these treats with a superfood blend of organic flaxseed, kelp, spinach, carrot and tomato, therefore reinventing the ‘body part treat’ category by infusing it with a dynamic multi-nutrient enhancement,” Amanda stated. She explained the coating makes the products smell and taste much more interesting than plain versions of the treats and chews.

Superfoods are also in SLIDERS® tender treats and SLIDERS STIKZ® individually wrapped meaty snacks, which feature more than 85 per cent fresh beef or chicken muscle meat with a dynamic, holistic balance of immune-boosting omegas and phytonutrients. Before launch, five well-known pet industry manufacturers reviewed Anthony’s recipe and told him it couldn’t be done. “That’s the last thing you ever want to say to me,” he joked. “The manufacturer I eventually hired had never made a product for animals before; thankfully, he followed my instructions to the letter. He was very excited after making the first batch and called me to say how excited his own dog was acting around these new treats. He also said, ‘Tony, you are way pickier about ingredients, recipes and cooking method than any customer getting snacks made for humans that we service.'” There could be no higher compliment.

For companies such as CCP, it all comes down to transparency and innovation. “If we can’t reinvent or dramatically improve a product, so it is healthier and brings more joy to pets, we won’t be in that business until we can,” Anthony concluded. “We won’t put our heart, soul and money into ‘me-too’ products with fat profit margins based on using common ingredients. To me, that’s cheating ourselves, cheating consumers and worst of all, cheating the animals that are part of our families and deserve nothing less than the best we can give them.”

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