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Posted: March 01, 2012

Small biz: Raw dog food?

Holistic vet buys it

Mike Taylor

When Jim Adams created Redbud’s Raw Premium Dog Food in 2010, he said his formula of raw meats, whole eggs and organic vegetables and fruits gave dogs more energy, shinier coats, brighter eyes — and fewer trips to the vet.

With the exception of trips to the vet to buy more Redbud’s, apparently.

That’s because one vet who stocked the product was Dr. Judy Jasek, owner of Belleview Animal Clinic in Englewood. She believed in Redbud’s enough that she bought the company. The deal was announced in late January.

"I’ve known her since we started making the dog food," said Adams, a former marketing executive at Chipotle Mexican Grill. "She was very interested in it from the get-go and started selling it at her clinic. I’ve referred a lot of people to her because I like her approach to veterinary medicine."

Adams will retain some ownership and continue to oversee the making of Redbud’s Raw at a USDA-inspected meat processor in Globeville.

Jasek has operated a private practice for 24 years and began integrating holistic care into her traditional veterinary practice about 10 years ago. The seed for what she calls a paradigm shift in her practice was planted when she observed the benefits that chiropractic treatments had on a horse she owned.

"The raw dog food fits really well into that, because the fresher the food, the better," Jasek says of her integrated approach to treating animals. "I’ve tried lots of different diets. I think the best thing to feed pets is a fresh-food diet, and there’s nothing fresher than raw."

Redbud’s, which comes in chicken, beef and pork – and soon, turkey — is available at about 14 Denver-area locations. The 2-pound bags, consisting of 16 2-ounce frozen medallions, sell at retail for $12.99. Most dogs should eat 2 percent to 3 percent of their body weight per day, Jasek says.

Redbud’s is named for one of Adams’ two dachshunds, Red, whose silhouette adorns the packages. That brand will remain intact for now, but there’s no doubt that Jasek will become increasingly associated with the product, though there are no immediate plans to change the dog food’s name to "Dr. Judy’s" or put her face on the packaging.

Jasek plans to market the product statewide with an emphasis on educating pet-food retailers about the benefits of a raw diet, along with proper feeding instructions. Adams estimates there are about 250 boutique pet-food outlets in the state, so there is ample growth potential. The goal is to add Redbud’s to 25 locations in the next year, he says.

Before selling majority ownership, Adams had already taken several steps to ramp up the product line, adding three distributors, a salesperson and a controller. He also improved the packaging, replacing the clear bags with bright, color-coded ones.

"We were buying a clear bag and putting a sticker on it, and it looked homemade," he says. "At some point you’ve got to sort of step up and go, ‘Hey, we’re playing with the big guys here.’ We believe our quality is every bit as good. The localness makes us fresher. We’re psyched to put that out there."

While Adams doesn’t discount the value of his experience as former head of marketing at Chipotle, he points out the vast difference between owning the retail presence where the product is sold versus having to ask for a retail presence.

Thus, he knew Redbud’s was moving up in the world when it was promoted from the bottom shelf of the freezer at Mouthfuls Pet Bar in Denver, to eye level. The new Redbud’s owner figures to help make that happen more often.

"I think the education part is going to be huge, letting people know that it is safe, and increasing pet owners’ comfort level with feeding the raw diet," Jasek says. "It’s very much in alignment with my professional direction. I feel very strongly about how I treat my patients and my holistic approach, and I believe nutrition is the most important thing that you do. It’s the first line to promoting good health in pets. So I’m real excited about it."

Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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