Phoenix Feeds and Nutrition Inc.

Helping dairy farmers improve the bottom line with a custom solution
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

By merging a neighborly business approach with state-of-the-art technology and proven nutrition science, Phoenix Feeds and Nutrition Inc. (Phoenix) has been delivering feed solutions that ease the burden on New England’s dairy farmers. Since its formation in 2004, in just over a decade, the Vermont-based company has experienced rapid growth.

Phoenix understands making a living in the dairy business is no easy task; and in an increasingly competitive, commercialized dairy industry there’s no room for error on the farm. It’s a constant study of inputs and how to generate the best output and Phoenix is taking the guessing out of the equation starting with nutrition science and high-quality, custom-blended feed.

“Today, farmers need to be more price-conscious, because they’re operating on lower margins,” explains Dave Santos, vice president and director of sales and nutrition for Phoenix. “By running lean and mean and maintaining lower overhead than the larger, big-name feed companies, we’re able to pass along the cost savings to our farmer customers.”

For a better price, Phoenix delivers a high-quality, tailor-fit feed blend for individual operations. “The animals our customers feed are really the best indication of the quality of our feed,” says Tom Hickley, former quality control manager for Phoenix. “The fact we’ve had the growth we’ve had over the past few years is a pretty good indication our customers are satisfied from a quality standpoint.”

Baking up a better a fit

At Phoenix, there’s no cookie-cutter solution or standard formula, because no two cows or dairy farms are alike. “We want to ensure that the animals we feed get the best feed and the best nutrition they can receive so that those animals are healthier, they produce cleaner, safer milk and to make sure the end consumer is getting the best product they can get,” adds Santos.

Phoenix brings in soy, corn, canola and a range of other ingredients other feed mills use to its New Haven, Vt., facility; however, the basis of the company’s feed begins with a simple sustenance: day-old bread. “We pick up perfectly good bread from bakeries across New England that, for whatever reason, hasn’t been packaged,” shares Santos. “We screen, process and grind it and can make unique bakery blends for each of our customers.”

Craig Newton, co-owner and president of Phoenix, as well as previous partner Brain Elithorpe originally owned a bakery feed business that sparked the company’s approach to bakery feeds. “Craig started his career out of college in the 1970s working for Agway,” recounts Santos. “He eventually started his own company called Feed Commodities International [Feed Commodities] in 1986, which he then sold to Agway in the late 1990s. At the time, Brian and I were working for Craig. Agway went into bankruptcy and Feed Commodities went up for sale, which prompted us to start Phoenix in 2004.”

Santos goes on to explain that in 2006, Craig came back into the business out of retirement to join Phoenix. “That fueled our growth,” Santos adds. “Craig and I have a very hands-on approach. We do all of the purchasing and pricing – there’s no middle management. This allows us to run lean and mean with low overhead and lets us deliver the cost savings to our customers.”

A unique approach

When Agway went out of business, Santos says it sparked a change in the industry with an influx of more independent nutritionists. “In 2004, we noticed more independent nutritionists hired directly by farmers to do the nutrition work and putting it out to bid to feed companies,” he details.

Santos, originally a California-native, worked in the independent nutrition industry on the West Coast for several years. “Vermont was a late bloomer in the independent nutrition concept,” he explains. “It took about 10 years for it to hit Vermont and parts of New England, so when we started Phoenix, the timing was right.”

Noticing this shift in the market, Phoenix took a unique approach by working directly and catering business to independent nutritionists. “We do have three of the top dairy nutrition specialists on the road for Phoenix, but we also work with 16 independent nutritionists,” says Santos. “We’ve tailored the company to work with them all.”

Fueling growth

The company’s approach has certainly paid off, as Phoenix has welcomed unprecedented growth in recent years. Today, Newton and Santos reside as co-owners and Phoenix continues to compete with some of the biggest names in the feed business.

Phoenix now has approximately 43 employees with a 20-truck fleet, serving all six New England states, as well as northern New York. “New York is our largest customer base,” notes Newton. “About 45 percent of our feed goes to farmers in the state.”

More demand and more market share are fueling a fire of growth for Phoenix. “We recently invested $1.5 million into our feed-mixing automation and a large bakery separation processor,” reveals Newton. “With improved technology and customization, we’re able to adjust quickly to farmers’ needs.”

Phoenix is also ramping up operations when it comes to accountability and compliance with the Safe Food Safe Feed movement, part of the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act. “These new regulations became law as of last year and they’re raising the bar for feed companies to be more accountable,” explains Santos. “It’s forced us to really look at the way we do things to set up the right procedures. Traceability is very important; in the case of a recall, we need to be able to retrace and know exactly the point of origin.”

High-quality standards remain the backbone of the rapidly progressing company. A decade later, Phoenix Feeds and Nutrition Inc. continues to set the bar high in custom-fit feed blends and cost savings, welcoming unprecedented growth supported by farmers looking for neighborly service and fast results.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Feed Ingredient
Gene's Electric Inc.
Green Mountain Kenworth
Interstate Commodities, Inc.
J.W. Safety Management & Training, Inc.