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New Brunswick company feeds pets around the world like royalty

Lee Corey and his family dog.

A Fredericton-based pet food company that exports its morsels globally began in 1991 with just a penny for a thought.

Lee Corey thought his family dog, a beautiful yellow Labrador named Penny, deserved high quality food. As a pet parent and grandparent, Corey knows that pets are considered part of the family for many people.

He began making pet food for Penny, and that was the spark for what would become Corey Nutrition. Its mission: deliver quality product on time and with good customer service.

“Dogs and cats aren’t just dogs and cats anymore. They sleep on your bed,” Corey says. “It might be dog or cat food, but we are in the food business.”

Lee Corey and his son, Michael and daughter, Emily

Family-owned Corey Nutrition was the first pet food company in the world to reach international safety standards that are as strict as those for human food. Pet owners may not want to, but they can safely chow down on Corey Nutrition pet food. In fact, the company’s pet food is made with food processing standards that are used in making popular breakfast cereals.

The family business that started with a man and his dog now has 45 employees, including two of Corey’s four children, and a processing facility that spans five acres (two hectares). His daughter plans to take over the company when she completes her PhD in animal physiology.

Corey’s company didn’t always make pet food. In the 1980s, Corey quit his job as a fisheries biologist with the New Brunswick government to make feed for local fish farms. They were the only fish feed company on the East Coast so business was booming.

When Corey decided to make pet food in 1991, he had already developed an instant market through his previous endeavours. Most of his fish feed customers had pets and started to buy the food.

“The customers loved it,” Corey says. “And the dogs did really well.”

As the fish industry dropped down to two very large, international companies that got their feed from global companies, the demand for Corey’s product went down.

By 2015, Corey lost his last fish feed customer. But his strategy years earlier to make a transition into pet food paid off; sales were up. To keep those sales growing, Corey Nutrition looked to the world for new markets.

“Pet food is a worldwide business,” Corey says. “People anywhere on the planet can get information on the company.”

Corey Nutrition exports to several countries, including Mexico, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, which are members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The CPTPP will make it easier for Corey Nutrition to gain access to new markets for its products.

Corey credits Global Affairs Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service for helping to open doors to new customers outside of Canada.

What also helped Corey Nutrition achieve export success was hiring employees who speak the language and understand the culture of the overseas companies he exports to.

“You build a bridge much more quickly when you can communicate with the customer,” Corey says. “That gets you across the bridge real fast.”

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