Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
About 10 years ago, an Australian friend was visiting Sandy Bosben in Santa Fe when her dog Marty fell ill. The friend, Zarna Carter, happened to be an animal nutritionist, and suggested recipes for healthy dog and cat food. Within a week, Marty was on the mend and his appearance improved, recalled Bosben. “His coat, teeth and eyes changed for the better,” she said.
Marty’s recovery was noted by Bosben’s friends and she began making them pet food in her kitchen on Saturday nights. Little did Bosben realize that her life was about to change dramatically.
As the Great Recession set in, the construction company she worked for closed and Bosben opened a pet food business that produces fresh human-grade food once a week. Government-inspected meat and poultry free of hormones and antibiotics are the main ingredients in the 30-plus recipes used by Marty’s Meals, along with raw organic vegetables and sprouted grains, as well as nutrients like fish oil, dolomite and kelp.
Marty, a Rottweiler, has gone to his eternal reward, but his image looks down over the commercial kitchen that Marty’s Meals moved to late last year at 506 W. Cordova Road, in the Coronado Center. The rescue dog’s picture also adorns the packaging for the nutritious meals and snacks sold in the retail store in front of the Santa Fe kitchen, as well as in a store in Boulder, Colorado, that opened in 2016.
Bosben opened up the Santa Fe production facility for a tour on Oct. 18 as part of Manufacturing Day. Despite the name, Manufacturing Day is a monthlong initiative sponsored by the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership that includes public and student tours of factories across the state.
Prior to moving into an 8,000-square-foot space that once housed a bowling alley, Marty’s Meals was located around the corner on Pen Road for more than six years in a 2,600-square-foot facility.
Bosben credits Santa Fe city government and state economic development offices with helping her company to grow.
“We sell as much in a day as we used to sell in a month,” said Bosben, who estimates the company produces 182,000 lbs of pet food a year, generating annual revenues of $2 million. “It really takes a village,” she said.
Marty’s Meals plans to invest $2 million over the next decade to expand its operations. Part of the expansion is being financed by the New Mexico Economic Development Department, which will invest up to $175,000, and the Santa Fe Office of Economic Development, contributing $50,000, for a total of $225,000 in public funding.
Through the state’s Job Training Initiative Program, Marty’s Meals also has received $9,000 to help train two full-time employees. Right now, there are 11 full-time workers at Marty’s Meals, she said.
Also playing a key role at Marty’s Meals is international animal nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton, who is part of the company’s advisory team. Patton has more than 30 years’ experience consulting to ranchers, breeders, dairies, zoos and the pet food industry.
Marty’s Meals delivers by truck to its customers in Eldorado and Albuquerque, and also ships via Southwest Airlines, but clients must pick the pet food up at the airport.
Online sales is the fastest growing area of the pet food industry, according to Bosben, and Marty’s Meals doesn’t want to miss out. Bosben is about to purchase a freeze dryer that will significantly reduce the weight of its products without changing its nutritional value, paving the way for the company’s launch of an online sales division in the next couple of months.
Despite the boom in online retailing, Bosben likes having a brick-and-mortar store to help educate customers. Over the years, some of them have turned into benefactors, like the one who wrote Bosben a $3,500 check to buy an industrial mixer. “We have angels behind us,” she said.
The company has traditionally wrapped its food in butcher paper, but is moving to recyclable containers with labels featuring Marty. “Our goal is to eliminate all plastic packaging, but bulk meat is still a challenge,” Bosben said.
Given the love Santa Feans have for their animals and the desire of most pet owners to provide the best care possible, it’s not surprising that Marty’s Meals’ growth potential has been recognized by investors who have made acquisition offers.
But Bosben said she wants to remain independent. “We have a huge responsibility to people’s pets that we take very seriously,” she said.