FREDERICTON – Pet food maker Corey Nutrition Company has entered a five-year partnership with publicly traded Chinese company Dogness International Corporation to have its products distributed in China.
“For us, the opportunity is very significant … we could double our business,” says CEO and founder Lee Corey.
The deal includes five-year extensions up to 20 years. It will see Dogness distribute the high-end Corey North Paw throughout China, starting with Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Corey North Paw is food for dogs and cats that’s made with zero grains, and sustainably-sourced Atlantic herring and lobster, among other ingredients.
“The deal is underway but there’s a registration process for pet foods in China that’s underway now and it’ll take probably another three to four months to get that finalized. But that’s coming together nicely so we hope to be on the shelves there in the first quarter of next year,” Corey said.
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Corey Nutrition and build a long-lasting and rewarding relationship,” says Silong Chen, CEO of Dogness Pet Care China, in a press release.
The company’s CEO, Dr. Yunhao Chen, adds that “we look forward to exploring the exponentially growing Asian pet market together with Corey.”
Talks between Corey and Dogness began sometime last year when Dogness put out an inquiry and the deal was signed in March this year. Agriculture and Agric-Food Canada, the Canadian embassies and Opportunities New Brunswick’s team in China helped the company set up meetings and screen candidates for the partnership, among other things.
“These things all work hand-in-hand to help some little company in Fredericton open an export market in China, which I think is really exciting,” he said.
Talks were then carried out with the help of Jay Yang, a Beijing native who completed his MBA at UNB Fredericton. When his studies were nearly done, Corey decided to hire him full-time as an international sales manager. Yang also handles communications with the Chinese department of agriculture.
“I thought, what if we hired a genuine guy from Beijing to handle our negotiations with China. Because he’s culturally sensitive to what’s going on over there. Of course, his language knowledge is firsthand. And that worked really well,” he said.
“We’re trying to make it easier to work with our customers. They’re not from here, they don’t think like us, so let’s put a guy on our side of the wall who understands all about that. And that has worked extremely well.”
Currently, only a handful of Canadian pet food manufacturers have managed to penetrate the Chinese market, Corey said.
“The opportunity there for us is frankly quite huge. If I have a worry it is, if this actually engages the way we hope it will or we think it will, we’ll be very busy doing a lot of business there,” he said. “We are very excited but cautiously optimistic it isn’t too big for us to handle…We’ll start with a single container going to Beijing and then, I think we’ll be shipping a lot of products to China.”
Corey Nutrition’s interest in China is because of its growing middle class that love dogs and cats, as well as Canadian products.
Canada’s reputation as a country with a cleaner environment means consumers in Asia – China and South Korea especially – perceive Canadian food products and by extension, pet foods, to be of higher quality. Corey said the Chinese also like the fact that Corey Nutrition is a family-owned and operated company that has its own manufacturing plant, unlike many private label brands in the market.
“So the three things that they love about us is we’re Canadian, we’re a family-owned business and we owned our own production [facility],” he said.
Moving product to China from New Brunswick also isn’t complicated, Corey said. They can be shipped from either Saint John, Halifax or Boston for about $3,000 (U.S.) per container.
Plus, with the U.S. and China’s ongoing trade war, “that kind of puts Canada in a very good light by default,” Corey said. Corey Nutrition is seeing the shift away from doing business with the U.S. to Canada in other parts of the world too, like Mexico.
“We get opportunities that come to us because the Mexicans are really quite annoyed at this whole wall discussion. We have ongoing business in Mexico partly because the Mexican folks are just a little bit offended at how they’re being treated. That’s nothing to do with Canada and nothing to do with our company, but they’re conditions that happened out there that benefits us, Canadian manufacturers and exporters,” he explained.
But Canada’s relationship with China has been rocky recently too, and Corey says international politics is something he worries about. But business must go on.
“Today we’re working in 14 countries around the world. There are little conflicts going on here and there and unless we have a direct order from our federal government not to ship to China…then we will continue to work [there],” he said.
Corey Nutrition also exports to Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, South Korea, and the Spanish-speaking South American countries. For Spanish-speaking countries, Corey followed the model he used in China: hire a native speaker to help the business grow. Last year, the company hired a Colombian native whose wife works at a university in Fredericton.
“His first language is Spanish, and that’s really opened up doors for us in Mexico, Panama, Peru…Brazil is the only outlier there, but any of those countries down there where Spanish is the core language,” he said.
“What I think is it’s no different than when we’re working with the province of Quebec. That’s closer, but it’s the same thing. It’s a very respectful thing to do for your customer to communicate correctly, not English-translated, but in their language and understanding their culture. And folks really respond to that, they really appreciate that. That’s the neat part that we’ve done here that’s different. That’s really helped us to grow our business.”
Banner image: Front row, from left to right – Silong Chen (CEO and Chairman of Dogness Pet Care China), Lee Corey (CEO of Corey Nutrition Company). Back row, from left to right – Johan Chan (Director of Dogness Pet Care China), Dr. Yunhao Chen (CEO of Dogness International), Emily Corey (VP of Research & Development at Corey Nutrition), Jay Yang (International Sales Manager at Corey Nutrition).