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Rich Dwyer
Editor's Note: Rich Dwyer is president of Kent Feeds Inc., Muscatine, Iowa. He joined Kent Feeds in 1984 and has served in several sales and marketing positions since that time, including Central region sales manager and beef products manager, vice president of sales - West and vice president of sales and marketing. In 2002, Dwyer was named president of Kent Feeds Inc. with responsibility for all operating departments.

AM: Tell us about Kent Feeds' operations and how you distribute your products.

RD: Kent Feeds is a family-owned, privately held corporation with more than 75 years of experience in animal food production. Kent operates 12 manufacturing and distribution facilities strategically located throughout the Midwest. As a dealer-oriented company, our objectives are to offer outstanding service, quality products and continuous education to the dealer network.

Kent Feeds is part of a family of feed companies called the Kent Group, which is comprised of Blue Seal Feeds in the Northeastern and New England states, with more than 130 years of animal food technology expertise; along with Evergreen Mills in the South/Southwest (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana), with more than 100 years of feed experience.

As we view our competition in the companion animal sector, we see mass merchandisers that do a poor job of answering consumer questions. It becomes our job as suppliers to educate Kent dealers with a solid understanding of animal nutrition and management to answer those buyers' questions.

AM: How has Kent Feeds branched out to the weekend-farmer type of customer, while maintaining a relationship with the core customer?

RD: Branching out to the weekend-farmer customer means having the right products available when and where the customer needs them. The weekend farmer has only two days to complete a "to do" list and still find time to enjoy the animals. So it becomes important to have the products available and the information that can help them do a better job and enjoy the hobby. In addition, extended and weekend store hours are more convenient to this buying public. Dealers understand they need to adapt as the marketplace changes. We offer ideas to help dealers make transitions that increase business.

AM: How have you modified your product lines to better serve the rural lifestyle customer? Please describe some of these new products.

RD: Offering a diverse line of consistent quality products is as important to today's rural lifestyle consumer as it is to the large animal sector. We maintain consistent products by utilizing "locked in" formulations, which means our formula doesn't change due to ingredient price fluctuations, although the price may adjust. Our competition may find cheaper alternative ingredients for a formula, still meet tag guarantees and keep the price constant; however, the product is not the same to the animal. It may cause digestive upsets or cause animals to back off feed for a period of time. Today's rural lifestyle customer has little time to visit a veterinarian or feed dealer to find out what's wrong with an animal.

Also, as new products are developed, we have maximized our approach to the marketplace by creating products that can be marketed across the complete Kent Group trade area. OmegatinŽ Horse Supplement, for example, was developed with help from nutritionists at all three companies and is marketed across our entire trade area.

AM: What are some of the ways you market the company and products to this new audience?

RD: We have expanded our marketing of national products with strong regional ties by taking advantage of the Kent Group's size and scope as a company. Each product manufactured by our companies includes the Kent Group logo on the back of the bag. This logo indicates to consumers we are a family of feed companies concerned about their Family FriendŽ pets. We define a "Family Friend" as any pet or companion animal that the consumer would care to name. AM

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