LDC Top 50 2020
When Tony Raeburn completed his management buyout of pet food, treats and toy brand Pets Choice in 2013, the business was turning over £23m and struggling to meet customer demand.
He streamlined the product range, invested in a morale-boosting office in Blackburn, and acquired several complementary businesses. Pets Choice now sells its products all over the world. Tony won a Queens Award for Export two years ago. “I met Her Majesty and we talked about her love of Corgis,” he says. Tony’s ambition is for Pets Choice to become a leading global pet food brand, with a turnover of £100m within three years.
Why did you join Pets Choice?
Pets Choice was put together by City investors in 1990. The plan was to buy up lots of pet food brands, build it up, float it, and make millions. But unfortunately that didn’t work out. The main shareholder, called me in 2002 and told me they were considering having to put the business into receivership. I’d run the grocery division previously so knew the potential of the business and said, ‘That’s madness’. We both invested our own money and kept the business alive.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced at Pets Choice?
In 2011, our facilities couldn’t cope with customer demand. I went to the board and told them that we needed to invest and buy a new factory. While the board was initially supportive, they began to think it was too risky to invest more money. I bought them out by partnering with Hans Jurgen Deuerer, founder of £600m German pet food manufacturer Tiernahrung Deuerer, which had been supplying cat treats to Pets Choice for years.
How have you grown the business to where it is today?
Acquisitions have played a major role in expanding our business and customer base. Our biggest acquisition was Bob Martin (UK), which completed in November last year. It’s an iconic healthcare brand and the largest producer of cat litter in the UK.