Highland Park store offers natural food for pets
Ron Freeman sells his natural pet food and treats from booths he sets up in various farmers markets on the North Shore. On Wednesday afternoons, he's at the Central Street market. | Carol Goddard~For Sun-Times Media
HIGHLAND PARK — A Highland Park man hopes to convince North Shore residents who serve wholesome, natural food to their families to do the same for their pets.
Rob Freeman, owner of North Shore Pet Chef, sells fresh, healthy, all-natural pet food and treats.
He sells his offerings at four farmers markets (Northbrook, Glenview, Buffalo Grove and Evanston Central Street) every week. Farmers markets, he believes, attract the same shoppers who are his customers — those seeking healthy food.
Some doggy day-care facilities also sell his products. In addition, Freeman offers free delivery of his products from his Northbrook warehouse to North Shore residents, much as dairies used to do regularly.
“It’s for people who are stressed out, it’s one less errand they have to do,” Freeman said. “It’s like a retro service; it harks to the past, a way to simplify people’s lives.”
His pet food is sourced from a supplier in Lisbon, Ohio, which has never been subject to a recall in its 34 years, as have some pet food products made in China. Packaged in white plastic bags with a no-nonsense food label, the pet food would never attract buyers in a retail pet food store.
According to the website, the food has a higher nutritional density than regular pet food, so owners can feed their dogs smaller amounts. Besides meat and fish proteins, the food contains vegetables, rice, beet pulp, fish oils and some minerals. The nutrient-dense food means less filler such as grains, which translates to “easier back-yard cleanup and fewer tummy aches.”
Freeman said his food is competitively priced.
“We offer a good value for customers,” he said. “We’re more expensive than a big-box store, but more reasonable than a small pet store,” he said. “We appeal to the customer who cares about the best product for a pet at a good value.”
Dog food comes in a variety of flavors in 20 pound bags, with prices ranging from $25.50 for adult food to $34 for the salmon formula. Each of the two cat food varieties costs about $16 for an eight-pound bag.
Freeman said his pet food is fresher than what you could find in a pet store. Vitamin E acts as a natural preservative in his offerings, so the food only lasts about a year.
“In stores, the food could be quite old as it has something in it to keep it fresh,” Freeman said. “All my products are made in 2012. You’re guaranteed to get fresh food from me; I get it directly from the manufacturer and I deliver it to the customer.”
In addition, all his products, food and treats are made in the United States, some in Illinois, he said.
The selection of treats and chews includes antlers shed from animals like elk and deer.
“They have no smell, they don’t break easily, they last a long time and they are loaded with great minerals, especially calcium and phosphorous,” he said. “The dogs have countless hours of chewing.”
Other treats he makes himself, such as the dried sweet potatoes, which he said are loaded with “all the vitamins you’d want for a dog.”
Freeman’s 25 years in marketing are apparent from his interactions with customers who stop by his booths at farmers markets. He not only extols the natural and nutritional qualities of his products, but also pitches the weekly home delivery.
So how does someone go from marketing office products to owning a pet food business?
“I wanted to sell a product that would give back to the community,” he said. “These are natural and healthy products that sell at reasonable prices.”
Sales have been encouraging. He expects to turn a profit this year and start drawing a salary soon.
Not bad for a business that celebrated its first anniversary in June.