The Can-Pet Inc. story begins in 1976. Originally under the name Global Pet Food Sales Inc., a wholesale retailer, the company was quite unique in that it dually operated as a wholesale to the trade with a small retail outlet at the front of the warehouse open to the public.
With the public’s enthusiastic interest in the retail division, Morris Manna, President of Can-Pet Inc., decided expansion was in order. Accordingly, the company opened retail outlets throughout the Greater Toronto Area, in cities such as Scarborough, Mississauga, and Newmarket. Next to follow, an interest developed in selling company franchises.
The Can-Pet concept
“We were approached about our stores and the concept of what we were doing,” said Manna. Eventually, the decision was made to green light franchises and by 1995 almost 50 retail stores had been established, in addition to the growing wholesale division. Continuing with the theme of growth, the company was then approached about becoming an exclusive distributor for a variety of pet specialty food brands.
Not wanting to pose a conflict of interest, the company separated itself from its Global Pet Foods retail business, and in the process renamed its wholesale distribution business as Can-Pet Inc., the name under which the company is known today.
“We reinvented ourselves. Instead of calling ourselves wholesalers, we became distributors,” explained Manna, who added “a distributor is more than a wholesaler because a distributor doesn’t just deliver product. A distributor helps market a product, with an experienced sales and marketing team along with the manufacturer they assist in growing the brands.”
Through this, Can-Pet Inc. has emerged as one of the most established distributors and marketers of pet specialty foods in Canada. Known through two divisions, Can-Pet Inc. looks after the Ontario marketplace while its sister company Quebec-Pet Ltée takes care of Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes. The company is a multi-faceted organization, not only in terms of company structure, but also by the customers it services. Responsible for more than 700 retailers, this customer group is divided into three main subcategories: Independent operators, Franchise operators, as well as being a logistical centre to service National chains.
Diverse in its operations, Can-Pet Inc. is also diverse in its wide range of product offerings, with more than 3,000 items on hand, carrying everything from “Good, Better, Best”, seemingly appropriate considering economic conditions. Can-Pet provides products that cover all niches, no matter your location. Manna summarized, “We are able to service all our customers in all regions on a weekly basis.”
When supplying product, retailers can buy what they need weekly, also known as “Just In Time” purchasing, or can opt-in for special purchasing of promotions, buying a little extra to ultimately enhance profit margins.
Can-Pet Inc. believes it’s products ensure the success of its retailers, in addition to helping these same retailers coexist with the competition, a challenge for any retailer.
This respect for the customer and the relationships developed by Can-Pet Inc. over the years are appreciated at all levels.
“The pressure to load up the customer with inventory is not in our dictionary; it is not what we do. Retailers appreciate that and appreciate their relationship with us,” Manna summarized. “We accommodate their needs wherever possible. Our relationship is long-term, through the slower and busier retail seasons.
“Our relationships with our customers is what sets us apart, it goes beyond a supplier or financial relationship. We understand their individual needs, as they have been with us for a long time.”
Being one of the oldest companies in the business, and in fact one of the pioneers of the pet specialty food industry, Can-Pet Inc. notes that the pet industry has continually changed over the years.
“When we began in 1976, the only place pet owners could buy pet food was in the grocery store. Today’s pet owners are very knowledgeable, keen on ingredients, and the quality of their pet’s food, which ensures we bring unique products to the pet specialty market,” said Manna, who added that the pet specialty sector still has plenty of room for growth as about 75 per cent of consumers still buy basic formulated pet foods from their local supermarkets and mass merchants.
Manna goes on to say, “That’s why we call ourselves distributors of specialty pet food. We try to ensure that all products in our warehouse are healthy, wholesome and, where possible, all natural. We now even distribute several organic products. In fact, we even distribute such a high quality pet food product that a 12 kilogram bag retails for $159. It just goes to show that consumers want the best for their pet. We find that the same lifestyle one has at home is often carried over to their pet. They know the tolerance of their pet’s breed and want the best for them.”
Today, the company’s goal is to continue bringing new and innovative products to the industry, offering the Canadian marketplace the best possible foods from around the world. Can-Pet Inc. understands value, a trait shown across all employees of the company. All of Can-Pet employees, many of whom have been with the company for over 20 years, attend informative educational seminars to learn about company brands and products. Manna goes on to say, “We view everyone here as family, in fact the third generation of the family has now joined the business.”
Manna concluded, “We are hoping that more consumers will visit a pet specialty store and see that for a couple more dollars they can buy a specialty pet product and get the proper education, which could be paramount to the health of their beloved pet.”