From humble beginnings, Pet Nutrition House’s brands of pet food are now sold in 62 countries, keeping pets healthy and well-fed the world over. For Matthew Wismayer, building the company to this level of success has not come easy, and he is still far from finished.
When Matthew Wismayer left his family’s business in the textiles industry in 2010, he set out with a very clear vision: to create a pet food brand that would offer a genuine, healthy alternative for pet owners and that would be able to compete with the massive multinationals that dominated the sector.
“We knew we stood no chance if we tried to be a clone of other companies,” Matthew recalls. “So, our best chance of success was to create our own story, something which was exciting and intriguing. Multinationals only see numbers and profitability, whereas we had a clear principle in mind as well, that of formulating healthier diets which would better the lives of our animal companions. This was what we felt would gain us visibility and respect in the pet market.”
That approach has clearly yielded fruit. When it started, Pet Nutrition House was the first company to produce a local pet food brand in Malta. Within three years, it was the first to sell internationally. Today, it employs around 50 people, sells its Pet Prince and Pet Princess brands in 62 countries across four continents, and has recently inaugurated the first factory plant of its kind in Malta, which is set to give the company even greater exposure, visibility and capability for growth.
For Matthew, the company’s continued success is down to years of hard work. “Building a brand like this has taken determination, sacrifice and perseverance,” he says. “I was in my comfort zone in the family business, and it would have been fairly easy for me to remain where I was. But, creating my own story by getting out and building something new was very important to me. It has helped me better my life and allowed me to contribute to consumers, the economy and the people we work with.”
Today, 75 per cent of Pet Nutrition House’s business is export-driven, so its international outlook and plans for its market share to grow even further are no surprise. “Interacting with people from all over the globe is the most fascinating and exciting part of the job,” Matthew says. “Understanding their needs and serving them in the best way possible is sometimes challenging, but these interactions are vital for a business to be progressive and successful.”
Matthew believes that one of the key reasons the company has managed to set itself apart is its ability to create one of the most diverse, intriguing and appealing range of products in the pet world, today comprising some 550 items. “Although we are not a multinational, with the limited resources we’ve had, we’ve performed miracles in attaining our goals, which has helped us attract more attention and interest,” he says. He also points to the importance of the local shop owners who put their faith in the company in its earliest days. “We were an unknown brand, competing against giants. It should have been impossible,” he laughs, “but the local pet shops that were willing to place us on their shelves close to important brands provided us with crucial visibility.”
Today, the largest market for Pet Nutrition House is in Europe, but Matthew reveals that Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are all markets with much greater room for growth, and the company is already working hard to tap into new markets in the Americas. “Being present in Europe is already an important milestone. It’s proof that we are up to standard and producing high-quality products, which are being received very well. Our objective in the coming months is to consolidate our existing markets while exploring new ones, such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile.”
However, it is in Malta that the company recently unveiled its latest major achievement, with the inauguration of a new factory at the end of a four-year process. “This is the pinnacle of all that we’ve been working towards and achieving,” Matthew says. “We believe this will help us build more value for the brands we have, giving us more of a competitive advantage. Our objective is to create strong local pet food diets using Maltese ingredients aimed at longevity and a healthy lifestyle. Mediterranean diets are known to be among the healthiest worldwide, and we intend to blend as many functional ingredients in our pet diets as possible to offer a unique lifestyle for our animal companions.”
The factory is also a practical demonstration of the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. It is equipped with over 1,000 solar panels capable of generating 70 per cent of its energy needs. Other measures have also been put in place to maintain a low carbon footprint, including the use of eco-friendly and recyclable packaging materials. As Matthew explains, “we’ve always had this green vision and an environmental and social responsibility towards the Maltese people and the planet.”
Despite these incredible achievements, however, 2022 was not all plain sailing. During the pandemic, people spent more time at home with their pets and spending on other activities was limited, so the pet industry experienced a significant boost, Matthew recalls. “However, with the onset of the war in Ukraine, inflation and price hikes, we’re seeing consumers becoming far more conscious of expenditure. Meanwhile, costs of raw materials are increasing every week. I expect the scenario to remain very challenging for some time, but on the other hand, this year has taught us to be more attentive when creating new products, focusing on ones that represent good value for consumers and, most importantly, are affordable. I believe this will be the key to success in the coming years.”
Nevertheless, Matthew is highly optimistic about the company’s future. He highlights that it has been growing at a rate of 18 to 20 per cent every year, while the industry average is 6.1 per cent, and he expects to continue outperforming competitors in the year ahead. “Our goals are to continue tapping into new markets, particularly in the Americas, while consolidating our existing ones, which are still not at full potential and therefore offer room for growth. We don’t predict a slowdown because we have a very clear and enticing vision of how we want to reach our consumers.”
Moreover, there are exciting new developments ahead for the company, first of which is the opening of its first flagship store in Malta, with plans for more concept stores just around the corner. “We aim to offer a whole experience to pet owners who visit our shop,” Matthew explains. “There’s a lot of innovation going into it to ensure you don’t only come out with a product, but that you also have a memorable experience. We want to offer a unique and diverse concept, which is as yet unseen in the pet world.”
The biggest focus, however, is on further internationalisation, with exports set to increase to 90 per cent of the company’s business over the next year. Yet, while the Maltese market will represent a smaller share of business, Matthew is keen to stress that Malta remains central to the brand’s identity. “We’re proud to be a Maltese company and we understand the value of selling something Maltese,” he says. “We believe our local identity can help us achieve greater success worldwide and help other businesses in Malta that might follow our path. It’s not something we’re doing just for ourselves. Our inspiration is always the same: to continue sharing our story with the world by presenting consumers with something different, unique, authentic and truly inspirational.”
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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