There’s a dispute ongoing between two raw pet food companies with ties to one another. Answers is the name of the established company; Amish farmers in PA have supplied it with raw materials for its foods for years. Kure is the upstart brand founded by some of those same Amish suppliers last year.
Apparently two sisters who worked for Answers left the company and began advising the Amish owners of Kure. Now an injunction has been granted to Answers preventing Kure from selling its products; inventory of $1 million is sitting in cold storage. Jason Nark at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
Hill said approximately 30 Amish farmers have supplied and packaged products for Answers for years and some became nervous about the sisters’ departure from the company. Five of them decided to form their own business, Initial LLC, which would sell raw pet food as Kure. Hill and Stone formed a pet-food consulting business, Trinity Clean Foods, which advised Kure.
According to court records, Kure began selling pet food in September and sold $80,000 worth of products in three months.
Keith Hill could not be reached for comment, but Allan Sodomsky, a Reading lawyer representing Answers, said Jacqueline Hill and Stone left the company with the intention of starting their own business, one that would sell “the exact same product with the exact same formulas, suppliers, and distributors.”
Answers responded to Hill and Stone’s lawsuit by filing its own, seeking an injunction that would forbid Kure from selling its products and forbid the sisters from consulting for it.
Several longtime Answers employees resigned after Hill and Stone’s departure. According to court records, Answers believed that many of those former employees were disparaging the company on social media and directly to retailers while trying to obtain new deals for Kure.
“They took, basically, the core of our company,” Sodomsky said.
The Amish farmers claimed that they had never had an official contract with Answers and weren’t aware of signing anything that would preclude them from getting into raw pet foods themselves. They also argued that there’s no trade secret for fermented raw products.
Making things more complicated, some Amish farmers are still selling products to Answers, though that is only for a 90-day period at present.
It sounds like Answers felt their business was threatened by their suppliers starting their own company along with help from two principal people, the sisters. I can understand that. And apparently some of the Amish producers did in fact have written agreements with Answers, though they were expired.
I guess the question here is whether there are any clear legal mechanisms that would prevent the sisters from consulting (non-compete agreement?) competitors or the Amish producers from using know-how gained from their relationship with Answers to their own benefit in starting a new company.
There’s more to the story of course so check it out at the link above. I’ll just add that this is the first Amish-owned pet food company I’ve heard of. And apparently raw pet food is becoming a big thing, which makes sense. People want the best for their pets and raw food has its proponents for alleged health benefits among humans, so why not for animals as well.