Inspired Pet Nutrition, the UK pet-food company behind brands such as Harringtons and Wagg, marked its centenary year in 2023 and last month announced it has hit nearly £200m ($251.8m) in annual turnover, having doubled sales in the last five years.

The family-founded business, based in Yorkshire in northern England, has ambitions of keeping up or even exceeding that rate of growth and becoming one of the top three largest pet-food businesses in the UK.

Inspired Pet Nutrition has been relatively active in the deals market over the last two decades, investing in the Real Pet Food Company in 2007 and acquiring Pet Food UK in 2021, for example. With private-equity business CapVest becoming the company’s majority shareholder in 2020, it is perhaps unsurprising that its growth plans lean heavily on M&A.

Chief commercial officer Fiona Fox talked company strategy and category trends with Just Food.

Just Food: Fiona, how has Inspired Pet Nutrition managed to grow at the speed it has in recent years?

Fiona Fox: Growth has been focused on the core business – dry dog food – but also entry into adjacent categories, wet dog and cat food and treats, and via the brands we got through acquisition.

JF: How does the dynamic work of being family-run – Richard Page, whose grandfather founded the business in 2023 is chairman – with private-equity firm CapVest being the majority shareholder?

Fox: It’s the best of both worlds. Richard is chairman. He is super-involved in the business day-to-day. The legacy values are there. You’ve then got people like me from FMCG business backgrounds. And CapVest as the majority shareholder brings benefits in terms of funding and brainpower and structure.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

JF: What is your background?

Fox: I joined just over a year ago in November 2022. Before that, I worked for Procter & Gamble for ten years and Mars for eight years [where roles included global sales director and commercial director, Europe].

JF: What was the appeal of Inspired Pet Nutrition?

Fox: What the business is great at is focus, challenging you to get better. I joined to become part of something very exciting, all the way from value to premium, super-premium and even uber-premium [the latter two sub-categories boosted through the Pet Foods UK deal, which saw IPN gain brands including Barking Heads and Meowing Heads].

JF: What is the company’s USP?

Fox: The DNA of the business is making pet nutrition affordable and accessible for all – democratised nutrition at any given price point.

Inspired Pet Nutrition chief commercial officer Fiona Fox
Inspired Pet Nutrition chief commercial officer Fiona Fox

JF: What resources does the company have?

Fox: We have 450 employees. Here at Thirsk, we have offices, distribution and our biggest factory. Just before I joined, £26m was spent on expanding the factory. And we have a site in North Wales for treats and wet food. The expansion is all about how successful we are going to be in the future.

JF: Inspired Pet Nutrition has expressed a desire to increase turnover at the same pace it has over the last few years. How do you plan to achieve this?

Fox: In the core business by continuing to drive scale. The expansion gave us a step change in capability and M&A is obviously part of the strategy. Further acquisitions are definitely part of it.

JF: Any particular type of targets?

Fox: Synergies play into that. But adjacent categories, complementary brands, that is interesting as well. But that’s where CapVest’s expertise is.

JF: But, as you look to grow, like everyone else you have been buffeted by headwinds including inflation pressures in the supply chain [Inspired Pet Nutrition recorded losses of £47.7m in the 12 months to July 2023].

Fox: Nobody has escaped it. All business have faced economic challenges. There’s no silver bullet or way to avoid it. We have kept our core DNA in mind – affordable/accessible.

JF: But presumably you have had to increase prices?

Fox: We have made a real effort to put the customer first. We had to make tough choices on costs. When we had to pass those on we could say that we had done everything possible up to that point.

JF: And what was the response from customers and consumers?

Fox: It’s never easy but pet ownership has been on the increase and the category itself is in a pretty healthy place. We do see a lot of switching between products but our brands are still in a strong place, showing growth in value and volume, which is a good place to be.

I think the growth across all price points will continue

We are seeing growth across all parts of our portfolio, including premium brands. Harringtons is a major brand across all areas. It’s really well placed for consumers who want to stay in mass but also for those who want to trade up. I think the growth across all price points will continue. It comes down to whether it is beneficial and whether you are meeting a consumer need. We try to be really agile as a business.

JF: What is the level of competition like in your category?

Fox: There is competition across all areas of the market – a huge number of brands and manufacturers, lots of smaller players. Even us moving into wet cat food and taking some market share. It’s an interesting time.

JF: Do you think there will be much consolidation?

Fox: We will continue to be open minded but it’s genuinely an exciting category and I don’t think the pace of change will slow down over the next few years.

JF: What’s your view on plant-based dog food?

Fox: It is something we had in the portfolio before. There is definitely a trend for humanisation. Wagg has flavours including sausage and mash and fish and chips. It is easy for consumers to relate to but it’s hard to say what the evolution of that will be. We want to try to be on the front foot and stay close to trends.

JF: And what about alt-protein, insects or cell-based meat?

Fox: The short answer is never say never. Only time will tell. So much of it is in its infancy. But it’s definitely an interesting space. It will ultimately come down to what resonates with consumers.

JF: In 2020, Inspired Pet Nutrition became the first major UK pet-food manufacturer to be certified carbon-negative and has been involved in initiatives including donating 3.5 million meals to pet charities. Why are such projects important to the business?

Fox: I don’t think we are unique. Sustainability has to be a focus for everyone. What’s important about carbon negative is it’s about taking action now and not just signing up to something in the future. There are lots of other initiatives we are signing up to but they are more of a journey whereas we can do things like planting trees today. It’s that balance between taking action now and the glide-path.