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Pet products business a natural for couple

BY CATHY JETT

KIM AND MARK Pearson discovered a niche market when they moved to Fredericksburg several years ago.

And they’ve set out to fill it.

The couple, who together have worked in the natural pet products industry for more than 20 years, just opened Fredericksburg Natural Pet at 5320 Plank Road. It’s near Knit 2 Unwind in Spotsylvania County’s Five Mile Fork area.

“We offer [cat and dog] food and treats that are eco-friendly and made and sourced within the USA,” Kim Pearson said in an email. “We even sell a food called Sammy Snacks that comes from as close as Charlottesville.”

Fredericksburg Natural Pet currently stocks about 15 different brands of raw, hormone-free and grain-free pet foods by such labels as EVO, Fromm and VéRUS Pet Food; and about 100 different treats, including those Sammy Snacks. It will carry more brands in the future.

“We’re right down the road from Petco, but they’re not our competition,” said Kim Pearson. “We’re focused on educating our customers about the different supplements and foods that we have. We want to be community-based and help them get the best for their pets.”

Americans are expected to spend $20.46 billion on pet food this year, and they’re increasingly spending it on organic food options and earth-friendly pet products, according to the latest trend report from the Greenwich, Conn.-based American Pet Products Association.

Kim Pearson said the demand for natural, locally sourced pet food is a reflection of the way people are shopping for themselves. They’re buying more fresh fruits and vegetables and grass-fed beef at farmers markets or directly from the farmers themselves.

“We want to give them an option for their pets as well,” she said.

Pearson has been a sales rep for an organic pet food company for eight years, and her husband used to be involved in retail sales of natural pet food. He now owns Battlefield Pool Services in Spotsylvania.

The Pearsons lived in a number of larger cities across the country before moving here and were shocked to discover that they couldn’t find the healthy foods locally that they wanted to feed their two dogs, a border collie and a pug.

The problem with the processed, commercial kibble sold by many chains, said Kim Pearson, is that it typically contains preservatives and such ingredients as corn, soy and wheat. Yet dogs are omnivores that thrive on meat, while cats are obligate carnivores. That means Tabby’s tummy is designed to digest almost nothing but meat.

Pearson made the switch to serving her dog a raw diet nine years ago, and said she noticed a tremendous difference. Her pet’s health and muscle tone improved, and it no longer had fleas or ticks.

“The China thing” also helped convince her that she was on the right track, she said, referring to the contaminated vegetable proteins that China exported to the United States to be used as ingredients in pet food. A number of pets became sick and died after eating the tainted pet food.

Pearson said she initially made raw dog food herself, but has since switched to a commercially prepared brand.

“It’s a lot easier, and it’s guaranteed to be balanced,” she said. “Dogs need a blend of organ meat, muscle meat and bone. Most people don’t have meat grinders in their home.”

Fredericksburg Natural Pet is currently open Wednesdays through Sundays, but the Pearsons hope to open more days by Black Friday, which is Nov. 23 this year. The store will focus each month on a different brand of pet food, which will be listed on its Facebook page, Kim Pearson said.

She and her husband also are reaching out to local animal rescue groups and kennel clubs, and would like to host pet adoptions at their new store.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/business/2012/10/11/pet-products-business-a-natural-for-couple/