PET Food Processing - March 2018 - 34


Top: Rafael Mendoza keeps a sharp eye on the Handtmann
ConPro system used to produce the company's Thinker meat
sticks. Bottom: An Ishida combination scale and an MFG pouch
packaging system provides a boost to Plato's efficiency.
in her first year with the company. "We have to be
the ones to innovate," Merrell says. "From my vantage point it seems like the smaller companies are the
ones that are innovating and taking more risks, and
to do that we need to be open and positive because
you never know where the next idea will come from."
Merrell says by finding custom solutions and streamlining processes, Plato now has the capacity to meet
its growth targets. He estimates the company is currently running at 50% of its capacity and expects that
within two years he will be in the market to expand
capacity and plant size for the third time in 10 years.
Poised for aggressive growth with a full pipeline
of new products in the works, Merrell says cats may
finally get the Plato treats they deserve. A complete
and balanced dog food formula isn't out of the question either. "That is something that is difficult to do
well," Merrell says. "I think there is an opportunity
there, but it needs to be something that we have an
advantage at that ties in to our ethos. Whether that's
through responsible sourcing or a very specific ingredient deck, there are a lot of different pieces to that
puzzle. It's a big bet."
Today's pet owners want to feel good about what
they give their pets and a treat, in particular, is an
important way humans show love for their pets. "Our
products add value to that interaction, and I think
that's why we're growing," Merrell says. "Pet owners
will see a different reaction to our treats than with
other products."
Plato distributes its pet treats primarily through
pet specialty stores. Merrell says the challenge for
Plato is getting the initial trial for people to see the
response they get from their pets. "Our philosophy of
responsible sourcing, clean label and a short ingredient deck is a value system that we have as a company
but it's also something that resonates with a consumer
who already supports these values," Merrell explains.
"We're not inventing this mindset. We're not convincing them to care. We're speaking to what they already
care about. I don't think we have impacted anybody's
perception as far as that goes but we are responding
to that."
Merrell is excited about the road ahead. He says,
"The value pet owners are placing on quality nutrition and the role technology is playing in the food
processing world gives me hope for a bright future for
Plato and this industry." PFP



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of PET Food Processing - March 2018