Nearly 20 years ago, Jim Carpenter, the founder of Wild Birds Unlimited, was in his kitchen tweaking a homemade recipe. His goal was to create a special type of bird food—a spreadable suet—that would attract Brown Creepers into his own backyard. Today, that final recipe is known as Jim’s Birdacious® Bark Butter® and it’s sold exclusively throughout the Wild Birds Unlimited system. But instead of attracting just Brown Creepers as originally intended, Bark Butter has attracted 139 different bird species (and counting) across North America.
Bark Butter is just one of several hundred proprietary and private-label products that people can’t find anywhere else—and that’s because they’re made exclusively for Wild Birds Unlimited. This includes the brand’s exclusively-formulated blends of bird seed, suet and other specialty foods that take into account regional differences and seasonal needs of birds throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited brand bird food products contain preferred ingredients which are typically high in fat and protein, providing a real energy boost for birds. Cheap fillers like milo are often included in competitors’ bird food products to lower the price, but since these generally go uneaten by most birds they are not included in Wild Birds Unlimited brand bird food. These and other exclusive private-label products have created a big differentiation between Wild Birds Unlimited and other big box retailers. But according to Jim Lesch, Wild Birds Unlimited’s director of merchandising, it’s about more than just differentiating your brand—it’s about creating distinction.
“For Wild Birds Unlimited, it’s not just about offering private label products that you can’t get anywhere else—it’s also about our products being better–for the birds, our customers and our franchise store owners. We work closely with key manufacturing partners to design and develop exclusive private label products. And our store owners help field-test new products to ensure they appeal not only to customers but to a variety of birds in different regions of North America. These are products that you can’t find in any other store. With that lack of direct comparison to other stores, we add value,” Lesch said. “Customers will go out of their way to come to our stores looking for our unique industry-leading products. This strengthens customer loyalty to our brand, helps maintain competitive margins and creates an unparalleled shopping experience.”
Wild Birds Unlimited has a dedicated team focused on new product development that includes their chief naturalist, John Schaust. The team’s goal is simple—create products that perform better than anything else on the market in attracting and caring for backyard birds. This starts with bird food and extends to a wide variety of exclusive feeders, houses, mounting and hanging hardware and other accessories. Innovations include their exclusive classic hopper feeder designed by Carpenter and protected by a 3-D trademark, Ecoclean® feeders and accessories offering exclusive anti-microbial product protection and the patented Advanced Pole System® providing customized mounting and hanging solutions for every backyard situation. The team has also developed a variety of exclusive seed characters for use on cylinder feeders including an owl, a raccoon, a squirrel as well as festive holiday designs such as a snowman, penguin and gingerbread man.
Another way that Wild Birds Unlimited creates distinction with its private-label products is through their satisfaction guarantees. Many of the Wild Birds Unlimited brand products come with a life-time guarantee since they are so well-designed and made of very durable materials including their exclusive EcoTough® recycled plastic. This means that when there’s an issue with a bird feeder, for example, it can be repaired locally, making it easier and more convenient for the customer.
Paul Pickett, Wild Birds Unlimited’s chief development officer believes that offering proprietary and private-label products in-store creates greater appeal for prospective franchisees, too.
“By focusing our energy on these special products, we’re helping to protect our franchisees’ top and bottom lines while driving brand loyalty,” Pickett said. In our development process we put a big emphasis on validation. Our franchisees love that we offer proprietary products, and that ultimately helps to create an unrivaled franchising opportunity.”