Triple Crown Nutrition Inc.
It takes countless hours of training, hard work and planning to win the prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments in the sport of horse racing. Beyond the hours spent conditioning and training animals, leading nutrition is an important — if not the most important — success factor. Based in Wayzata, Minnesota, Triple Crown Nutrition delivers more nutritional value in every batch of its premium equine feed, carefully blended and bagged for champion horses and hobby animals alike.
The question Triple Crown Nutrition poses to customers is, “How does your feed stack up?”
Rob Daugherty, founder and CEO of Triple Crown Nutrition, says this question is important because so many factors in animal health and performance are directly related to diet, especially considering the unique equine digestive system. “Animals need high-quality fiber to digest, and the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients to be healthy,” he says. “Not all feed can provide this.”
The basis for Triple Crown Nutrition began in 1989 when Daugherty purchased an oat cleaning plant and feed mill in Ada, Minnesota, with the intention of supplying the racing industry with premium oat-based products and trade commodities. “One of the reasons I was attracted to the business is that they happened to own an underutilized trademark named ‘Triple Crown,’” says Daugherty.
A racing feed is born
Right away the facility received many improvements, such as allowing specialty grains and oats to go through a triple cleaning process to be packaged or processed in a further steam crimping/flaking system. The mill improvements also included a more gentle feed mixing system, thus reducing the breakage of steam flaked or crimped grains, guaranteeing the equal dispersion of vitamins and mineral additives. This made the company’s distinct type of feed ideal for the racing industry.
At this stage in the game, Triple Crown Nutrition had customers in the industry at racetracks from upstate New York all the way to southern California, Texas and Florida. “One of our customers who purchased various products from us, asked for a specific kind of feed with added benefits that could match the big-name brands,” recounts Daugherty. “He asked if we could come up with the best possible formula for performance, regardless of cost, that could fit into the space of a 50-pound bag.”
In 1990, Daugherty partnered with Dr. Bill Vandergrift, an equine nutrition expert, who had a similar vision to create a prestigious product line with only top ingredients. He incorporated technology called Equimix; a blend of prebiotics, probiotics, organic minerals and key nutrients, combined with quality grains. “The end result was a technologically superior great looking feed — something you could put out on your dining room table because it looks a lot like granola,” jokes Daugherty.
Jump-start right out of the gate
At first the dealer wanted two tons (80 bags) of the first batch of the new feed. “It got handed out to trainers on the tracks and the dealer came back and said, ‘On the next truck, let’s put on 600 bags,’” says Daugherty. “We knew we were on to something so we designed the Triple Crown Nutrition logo and put it on the next batch sold.”
Once the brand made its way around racetracks across the country, “We started to get noticed by manufacturers with feed mills,” says Daugherty. “We decided to form joint ventures to manufacture for us and ship from their locations to their dealers so we weren’t shipping across the county. This became a model we would expand with many companies.”
In 1995, Triple Crown Nutrition introduced Triple Crown Senior, one of the first formulas ever developed for older horses, using shredded beet pulp as the base. “The success of this product allowed us to better understand the importance of high fiber, low carbohydrate diets before there was much industry discussion of how to help animals with metabolic disorders,” explains Daugherty.
The next generation of products
Triple Crown Complete, a lower-protein version of Triple Crown Senior followed. Early on, Daugherty and his team recognized the importance of fiber in the equine diet. This led the company to innovate in forages and chopped grasses. “In 1998, we introduced Triple Crown Chopped Grass Forage and Chopped Alfalfa Forage. Both were designed to supplement fiber when hay quality or quantity was a concern,” he says.
The next product the company launched was Triple Crown Lite. “This product works really well for over-conditioned animals, having all of the vitamins and minerals with lower calorie content,” explains Daugherty. “We found it also works well for ponies and minis; animals that don’t need a high amount of calories but still need vitamins, minerals and nutrients.”
The company continued to release specific products for various animal diet concerns, including Triple Crown Growth and Triple Crown Low Starch. After building a custom plant attached to the feed mill, in 2012, the Triple Crown Safe Starch forage was released. “In this mix we use chopped grass hay with added oils, vitamins and minerals,” says Daugherty. “The idea is taking this feed technology and combining it with hay, which really enhances fiber in the diet.”
Even after a serious fire in January 2013, which nearly shut down most lines, Triple Crown Nutrition continued production with the help of feed manufacturing partners around the country. “We were able to transfer a lot of feed business to our partners and continue this way,” says Daugherty. “Fortunately, we have great insurance and we were taken care of. We’ve spent the last three years rebuilding and we haven’t replaced the plant as of yet, but we’re working on that as far as location.”
Connecting with customers
Aside from plant rebuilding and expansion, the next big step for Triple Crown Nutrition is a brand-new feed blend called Triple Crown Naturals. “We’re using oats, flax oil and things like really high levels of pre- and probiotics; we’re also using organic yeast,” says Daugherty. “We’re the first feed company to use organic yeast.”
Per customer requests, the product is formulated with non-GMO ingredients. “We have released it in limited form, but so far we’ve had great feedback and the price is comparable to the rest of our products,” says Daugherty. “We’re going to expand the Naturals line to include other products down the road.”
Daugherty says Triple Crown Nutrition can react to customers’ needs and animal nutrition concerns because his team takes the time to listen. “Early on, we took great pride in our 1-800 number, which is on the back of every bag,” he says. “Customers could call in with a question and we made sure we had a live person to talk to them. Today, we’re still doing that, but more so in the form of social media and live online chat. We have more than 120,000 Facebook fans and we’re very active in sharing tips and answering concerns.”
After 25 years in business, Triple Crown Nutrition continues to go above and beyond for its customers with a signature line of premium equine feed that supports optimum nutrition, health and champion performance.