Barrett Petfood Innovations

Fresh, locally-sourced pet food
Written by: 
Erica Berry
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

Barrett Petfood Innovations is a full-line pet food manufacturer that operates out of Brainerd, Minnesota. The company specializes in manufacturing and co-packaging super-premium animal feed and pet food for domestic and multinational brands.

Founded as Barrett Ag Service Inc. in 1980 by Mike and Bunny Barrett, the company was originally established to manufacture organic fertilizer. When the business started to decline, the couple’s daughter, Sarah Barrett, began to research different uses for the manufacturing equipment and found the same extruder used to manufacture fertilizer was better used to produce pet foods.

In 2005, the company added the necessary machinery to successfully manufacture pet foods, starting with bird feed and eventually adding a full line of animal feed and pet food as well. Sarah, director of operations, joined the team in 2006 and her brother Tom Barrett made it an official family business when he came on as vice president of business development and purchasing in 2009. After nearly 10 years of successful pet food manufacturing, the company re-branded under the more suitable Barrett Petfood Innovations name.

All in the family

As pet owners themselves, the Barrett family’s mission is to develop products that are not only fresh and locally sourced, but nutritious as well. In an effort to use the freshest ingredients, the company manages a 3,000-acre farm and grows a number of crops, such as kidney beans, corn, chickpeas and yellow peas, which are used in these products. The farm also produces soybean to trade locally for meal.

“We care about our pets and our customers’ pets,” says Tom. “We like to create better products and do things differently for customers by growing our own crops. It’s something bigger manufacturers just can’t do and it adds another value component to use locally sourced, fresh ingredients.”

Barrett Petfood differentiates itself from competitors by taking on all sized customers, working with them to develop niche products, offering a wide product line and the type of personalized service that is expected from a family-owned company.

“We are completely different than any other pet food manufacture in the United States,” says Tom. “We don’t put minimums on our customers, instead we help customers understand that they can reach their price point and still receive a fresh, quality product. Whether they are multi-national corporations or smaller store, we treat everyone the same.”

Customer satisfaction

To please customers, the team is pushing the limits of pet food extrusion, making blends with fresh meats and grain-free blends other manufacturers do not dare to make. In addition to company-owned crops, the Barrett Petfood is able to purchase all ingredients straight from the source, saving our customers both money and peace of mind.

“The level of fresh foods we use is what really sets us apart,” says Tom. “We don’t like to say no to customers, so if they want fresh blueberries, or another special request, we do it. It’s our job to make a customers’ vision a reality.”

A majority of Barrett Petfood clients are dog and cat care specialty and boutique brands found in pet specialty stores. The company also caters to big box stores and works directly with distributors that serve zoos.

“Not all of our customers are big companies, so we have had the experience of watching our smaller clients grow,” explains Tom. “Most of them have grown or doubled and tripled in size, which is what we want to see happen. It’s good for our business.”

Growing strong

While other companies suffered during the recession, Barrett Petfood was experiencing rapid growth. From 2009 to 2013, the company grew 200 percent per year – forcing the team to add onto the existing manufacturing facility and buy new machinery to increase capacity. In 2014, Barrett Petfood saw a 75 percent growth, operating five to six days per week.

“We are on our way to becoming a leader in the pet food manufacturing industry,” says Tom. “If we didn’t make a point to be different, we would have never made it, which is why finding innovative ways to create unique and quality products is our mission.”

The team’s hard work and dedication to its clients has not gone unnoticed. In 2014 the company received the Minnesota Governor’s International Trade Award, which is given to a company that excels in exporting each year. “We are very excited to be chosen, given that past winners have included companies like 3M and the Mayo Clinic,” Tom explains. “It is truly an honor and we are looking forward to what the future holds for us.”

Although the idea of creating a pet food brand of its own has come up as a future business venture, Barrett Petfood Innovations has decided to remain focused on manufacturing quality food. The company also hopes to grow and support the local economy, using more locally sourced ingredients and hiring more people. 

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Trouw Nutrition USA