“We see Spain as a base for development in Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa”
Since 2002, Dr. Zoo has been producing and selling biscuits, snacks, treats, ice-creams and other pet food supplements in Argentina. The company was established as the successor to a family business lost to the crisis that hit the country in 2001.
When the decision to move into Europe was taken four years back, the natural choice was Spain, where the firm found support through ICEX Invest in Spain for dealing with the basics of setting up and running a business that varies from one country to another, such as accounting, legal, customs and regulatory systems.
With a planned investment of 1.2 million euros in our country, 350,000 euros of which has already been invested, the company is setting up its first production plant in Europe, and already distributes from Spain to six other countries in the European Union.
What made you decide to create Dr. Zoo?
Pets improve people's quality of life, and we think that the best way to build relationships with them is by playing with them, rewarding them, stimulating them, and educating them. This is the focus of what we do, and it also means an improved quality of life for those pets. We started out after an economic crisis in Argentina led to the disappearance of our family-run animal nutrition business. We were familiar with the market and began making dog biscuits, adapting existing machinery and distributing the product by using the customer network we already had.
When did you arrive in Spain?
We grew in Argentina, started distributing in Latin America, and then began working on the project to move into Europe four years ago. The original idea was to look for distributors, but then we changed our minds and decided to become our own distributors, and it soon became obvious that we needed to set up production here to achieve volume. Although we hadn’t chosen the country, it also soon became very clear that Spain was the best place. After two years of research, we took part in an industry expo in Madrid in February 2020 to present our products, and we’ve been here ever since. Although the pandemic made a physical presence impossible, we continued from a distance with the development of commercial networks, planning, legal issues, the purchase and construction of machinery and everything necessary to move forward with the project.
How did ICEX-Invest in Spain help you to establish yourselves in our country?
When you arrive in a place you really know nothing about, the first thing is to create networks, not only commercially but also with people who deal with the issues that are fundamental to the operation of the company - legal matters, accounting, customs and other regulations - and that’s where ICEX and later Ivace (the Valencian Institute for Business Competitiveness) were of great help, providing us with information, and putting us in touch with these people.
What infrastructure do you have in Spain?
After deciding that the country we wanted to be in was Spain, the next question was where in Spain to set up business. This was a more complicated decision, because there were so many good options. There was another key factor here too, aside from business considerations. All of us at Dr. Zoo have families, and that was one of the reasons we chose to set up the business in Valencia. We currently have a warehouse located in La Pobla de Vallbona, about twenty minutes from the city of Valencia. We distribute our products from there, and are now finishing installation of the production plant.
What investment have you made in Spain over the last four years?
So far we’ve invested some 350,000 euros out of a total planned investment of 1.2 million euros, and over the next two years we’ll be recruiting around 25 full-time permanent staff, plus approximately the same number of part-time employees. They’ll be working in quality control, human resources, accounts, trade marketing and maintenance, etc.
What has the response been to your product on the Spanish market?
Since our first expo in Spain in February 2020, we’ve begun setting up distribution networks to learn how the market works, and about business customs and practices in order to adjust our product line to Spanish demand. The response has been excellent, our products are selling well, and today we are in a position to begin production in Spain with a product that is better suited to the European market.
How important is Spain in the company's strategy?
We have a vision for our company, and we didn’t come here solely to develop in this market; we see Spain as a base for growth in Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We’ve only just started, and we’re not only working in Spain but also in the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria and Egypt, and we are currently in talks with several other countries. It seems incredible to us, accustomed as we are to the trade regulations between Latin American countries, to arrive here and be able to sell in 27 countries with just a simple delivery note. We feel sure that Spain will serve as a base for further growth. The infrastructure is very good, and so is the human potential. The people we deal with on a daily basis - those who are part of our own team, customers, suppliers, service providers, government employees, etc., never cease to amaze us every day with their hard work, professionalism, and the enthusiasm with which they carry out their tasks. This is fundamental for the development of our company.
What sort of customer profile do you cater to?
Our products are mass consumption products, so what we're aiming to achieve is the widest possible distribution. We generally work with pet food distribution channels, FMCG distributors and retail chains, although we are always open to any new channels that might come our way.
What projects do you now have underway, and what are the upcoming challenges?
Our most immediate goal is to get production started within the next 60 days. The challenge in the medium term is to distribute our products as widely as possible throughout Europe, to the point that we exhaust production at the plant we’re currently setting up. Once this has been achieved, we plan to expand. It’s a big market, and we have a lot of work ahead of us.