It all started with fish.
The farming of any fish, shellfish, or aquatic plant has been practiced for thousands of years. The First Nations people were adept at a form of aquaculture by transferring fish species from one body of water to another. In 1857, the first Superintendent of Fisheries in Lower Canada studied the incubation and hatching of Atlantic salmon and by 1865, oyster production had begun in Prince Edward Island.
Commercial aquaculture in Canada began in earnest in the 1970’s and since then has been growing rapidly at a rate of about 9% per year. Today, aquaculture produces 50% of the world’s seafood.
Seeing the trend
When aquaculture was emerging in Atlantic Canada, Lee Corey recognized the possibilities in the sector and left his job as a biologist with Agriculture Canada to start a company to supply fish food to the developing aquaculture industry.
The turning point came when his supplier’s entire facility was consumed by fire, effectively leaving Corey without a business. But, sporting a robust streak of entrepreneurship, he risked uncertainty and built his own facility. From there, the Corey Nutrition Company grew along with aquaculture until it leveled off in the mid 2000’s and the customer base shrank.
Corey found out that sled-dog trainers were feeding his company’s fish food to high performance dogs. Realizing this opportunity, he armed himself with the best pet-food product he could make and entered the marketplace without a real, concrete plan. Generally, this is a formula that doesn’t translate to success but Corey enjoyed a loyal customer base and the company grew.
“We looked into what was setting our brand of pet food apart.” Says Wayne Arsenault, CEO of Corey Nutrition. “We found that we make our food differently than anyone else in the world. No other company can match the energy level our dry kibble offers. Sled dogs are burning 6000 to 7000 calories a day and our Inukshuk Brand is a favourite among teams because we have enough energy in our food to service that output.”
Corey Nutrition is an official sponsor of the Yukon Quest, a 1000-mile sled dog race from Whitehorse, Yukon to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Innovation makes the difference
Taking cues from their aquaculture past, Corey infuses nutrients into their kibble under a vacuum. “Unlike other brands that spray on the essential oils and fats,” says Arsenault, “we fill all the air pockets with those nutrients which make our kibble denser and crunchy, which is good for your pet’s dental health. Also, our brands are easier to digest because the ingredients are ground much finer, another process that is unmatched in the industry.”
Corey Nutrition’s innovative packaging design and food formulation techniques have led them to be selected as Innovative Exporter of the Year by Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB).
Human-grade pet food
The Corey facility was the first to be Safe Quality Food (SQF) certified by the Safe Quality Food Institute, whose program is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and links primary production certification to food manufacturing and distribution.
Does that mean humans can eat the pet food? “You could,” laughs Arsenault, “but it has a pretty lingering aftertaste. I had a 32-32 Inukshuk and that was very fishy.”
He also confesses that at trade shows, it’s not unusual to see Lee Corey occasionally toss a kibble in the air and catch it as a treat.
Pet ownership is growing internationally and the way people interact with their pets is transforming. More and more, pets are considered a member of the family and the changes in the nature of pet ownership reflect new economic realities.
The opportunity to commercialize this trend into a wide range of goods and services is an incredible opportunity for a company that can position themselves in such a way to gain credibility amongst this growing demographic.
The majority of Corey’s Nutrition’s sales are from exports. “We identify markets we want to be in,” says Arsenault. “Then we work with the Canadian consulate to build a relationship with legitimate local partners who understand the market at the ground level. Through them, we create the marketing plans for the various markets. For example in Mexico, Pro series has become a significant player in the pet-specialty market.”