ROCKFORD, ILL. — Phelps Pet Products, a private label manufacturer of meaty and meatless jerky pet treat products, announced Feb. 1 plans to double its production capacity after acquiring a full fleet of treat manufacturing equipment from Simmons Pet Food.
The new equipment is being transported from Simmons’s plant in Siloam Springs, Ark., to a 180,000-square-foot facility in as an extension of Phelps’s existing manufacturing campus. Phelps has not yet disclosed the location of this new facility. The expansion, which represents an investment of more than $20 million by Phelps, will not only allow Phelps to build on its current production capacity but will also add capabilities for producing shaped jerky-style pet treats.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with Simmons on this transformational growth step which will bring expanded state-of-the-art capacity and new capabilities to better service our customers,” said Rick Ruffolo, chief executive officer and president of Phelps Pet Products. “After three years of unprecedented growth, there was an urgent need for significantly more capacity to fulfill the increasing customer demand for our innovative ‘Made in the USA’ treats, USDA certified organic recipes, our upcycled ingredient options, and our first-to-market plant-based (meatless) jerky treats.”
The new facility will increase Phelps’s warehouse space for ingredients and finished products, processing and preparation, and packaging operations. The company aims to have the new facility fully operational in the third quarter of 2022. As Simmons focuses on its core wet pet food business, Phelps will take on many of the company’s former dog treat customers.
“We are a company of pet lovers, and as we move full speed ahead growing the capacity of our core pet food business as announced in 2021, we are pleased to know that Phelps Pet Products will put this equipment to good use to expand their pet treats capabilities,” said Scott Salmon, president of Simmons Pet Food. “We are excited about their potential as the industry continues to experience unprecedented growth.”
Phelps Pet Products has been growing capacity to meet surging demand for its jerky-style products since 2014. Between 2014 and 2016, the company’s production space grew from 10,000 square feet to 130,000 square feet, with sales growth to follow. Since posting 37% sales growth between the first quarters of 2018 and 2019, the business has been running full speed ahead, Ruffolo said. In 2021, the company invested more than $1 million in equipment alone to keep capacity in line with demand.
The addition of this latest 180,000-square-foot plant represents Phelps’s fifth manufacturing facility, all of which are focused on jerky-style pet treat production for private label and branded products.
“We are excited to be investing over $20 million in the new equipment, additional team members, and expanded capacity and capabilities,” added Rich Bartuska, director of operations at Phelps Pet Products.
Founded in 1966, Phelps Pet Products has established itself as a go-to manufacturer of jerky-style pet treats in the United States. The company sets itself apart by maintaining clean-label, organic and sustainable certifications, including its most recent certification with the Upcycled Food Association, and with plant-based offerings for producing meatless jerky.
In 2021, Phelps inked an exclusive licensing agreement with The Walt Disney Company to produce a line of Disney-themed dog treats dubbed Table Scraps. The treats not only highlight beloved characters from Disney and Pixar movies, but also speak to several up-and-coming ingredient and formulation trends taking the pet food and treat market by storm, including plant-based proteins — which Phelps began offering in early 2020 — organic and superfood ingredients and the use of upcycled food ingredients.
The company’s ability to deliver on niche product and formulation trends, coupled with expanded capabilities and capacity, is expected to drive continued growth for Phelps Pet Products.