TruKnox pet treats brings production from China to Loudon

It's not hard to dine local in East Tennessee. Innovate Pets manufacturing plant in Loudon is bringing that same luxury to the area's dogs.

Innovate Pets launched TruKnox pet treats in March, a product that will be produced in the company's 40,000 square-foot space.

TruKnox pet treats are made with only natural flavors, with no added grains, corn or soy, and no rawhide. This follows the industry trend, Innovate Pets principal Scott Huff said.

"You have a better educated consumer now than ever before, and you follow the trends just like any other consumer product," Huff said. "People eat healthier, they're better educated about what they should eat, and that trend follows into pets. It's the same stuff."

While in the development stages, the treats were produced in an Asia. Once production begins in Loudon, the treats will be sold in area stores. They can be purchased online from the development stock.

TruKnox is Innovate Pets' first self-owned brand. It produces Lil' Pete cheddar cheese flavored knots and ground cinnamon flavored twists, Moonshine glucosamine treats for senior dogs and Martian Green mint and parsley treats for fresh breath.

Innovate Pets has produced treats for other companies since it opened in 2016, and has a long history of work overseas.

"We're a small company with a big footprint," Huff said.

Innovate was started in 1994 in Chicago as an engineering services group. During the "mass exodus of manufacturing" in the 90s, Huff spent a lot of time in Asia before moving there in 2004. During that time he met Innovate Pets general manager Chatchai Lertviwatkul and his family, who helped Huff with his ventures abroad, including another manufacturing plant in Cambodia, now owned by United Pet Group.

"As time went by, things have changed in Asia, and it's not as cheap as it used to be," Huff said. "There's a desire to make this stuff as close to the consumer as you can. It became obvious."

Huff grew up in Kentucky, and his family moved to East Tennessee when he opened Innovate Manufacturing in Hardin Valley in 2015. When he found the space in Loudon for Innovate Pets, there was a "rapid" 6-month turn from the building purchase to the start of production.

"Power prices, which are very important for a facility like this, are very competitive in this area," he said. "We're literally in the middle of the Eastern United States, so we're a one-day truck drive from 70 percent of the U.S. population. That's a big deal for distribution."

Innovate has a tool manufacturing plant in Dongguan, China, that produces the treat molding tools that the company uses. Innovate International in Shenzhen does CAD work and other engineering services.

"The injection molding tools are over five tons," Huff said. "We make them in China. Not a lot of people who do this kind of molding make their own tools. That's something different about us."

Dentables grain-free toothbrush treats are produced at Innovate Pets using the molding tools made in China.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Cortney Roark

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Published July 27, 2018