⚠ Important recall information appears below.
A sailor threw a biscuit to a dog, who promptly gobbled it up — and a company was born. Starting out as A. Hubbard and Sons Bakery in Gloucester, Massachusetts, making biscuits, the company was renamed Old Mother Hubbard in 1926.
Jim Scott Sr., an animal nutritionist, bought the company in 1961 and moved its headquarters to Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1997, the company launched the all-new Wellness brand of pet foods, and that’s when things really took off.
Below, we share more information about the history of Wellness pet food — including up-to-date recall information.
Wellness Quick Facts
Brand line includes: Wellness Complete Health, Wellness Complete Health Grain Free, Wellness Complete Health Limited Ingredient, Wellness Complete Health Pâté, Wellness Complete Health Gravies, Wellness Complete Health Sliced, Wellness Complete Health Morsels, Wellness Homestyle Stews, Wellness Ninety-Five Percent Mixer/Topper, Wellness Petite Entrées, WellBites, WellBars, Puppy Bites, Kittles, Wellness CORE, Wellness CORE SIX, Wellness CORE RawRev, Wellness CORE Wholesome Grains, Wellness CORE Bowl Boosters, Wellness CORE Simply Shreds, Wellness CORE Hearty Cuts, Wellness CORE 95%, Wellness CORE Signature Selects, Wellness CORE Bestie Bars, Wellness CORE Tiny Tasters
Where to buy: Latest deals on Wellness pet food
Company: WellPet LLC
Headquarters: 200 Ames Pond Drive, Tewksbury, MA 01876-1274
Contact info: 1-800-225-0904, email, website
Wellness Pet Food History
It might seem a stretch that a popular dog food would end up under the ownership of a mining company. But that is the story of Wellness.
The Wellness label was the 1997 brainchild of food scientists and animal nutritionists who collaborated on the recipe.
Wellness, with its now-familiar celestial sun and star logo, was said to be the first pet food brand to offer grain-free recipes. It would go on to become a flagship product that, much like a celestial body, collected other pet food companies due to gravity.
A parent company, WellPet LLC, was incorporated around the success of Wellness. In 2004, L Catterton Partners, an equity firm, acquired WellPet for $45 million. Catterton decided that WellPet was both a “defensible” and “extensible” product line. In other words, it was a good product with a lot of potential for growth.
A Coal Company Diversifies
In 2008, the Wellness brand and its sister company, Mother Hubbard Inc., were acquired by Berwind Corp., a private investment management company, in a $400 million deal. Berwind had acquired another WellPet brand, Eagle Pack, a few months earlier, in October 2007.
Marketing materials continue to describe the WellPet company as “family-owned.”
Berwind was, at its inception, a coal mining operation. In operation since the 19th century, the company was hit by the decline of coal and the rise of oil and gas as favored heat fuels. Its acquisition of WellPet was part of an overall diversification of Berwind’s portfolio that began in the 1960s.
In 2012, WellPet showed off a $20 million expansion of its plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, which used to be the Eagle Pack Pet Foods plant.
The much larger facility contains 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space and another 100,000 square feet of warehousing space. A newspaper article described the plant as being “much more automated” with “tighter controls in terms of safety and quality control management.”
In 2017, WellPet announced the hiring of a new CEO, Camelle Kent. Kent was responsible for getting WellPet into the raw food business since she first joined the company 4 years earlier. She had previously worked internationally for the Gillette brand.
“My vision is to support our philanthropic roots in a more visible and vocal way so that when pet parents choose Wellness Natural Pet Food, they know they’re buying a brand that cares and supports pets in need,” Kent said in a 2017 interview with BostonVoyager.
In 2019, the company announced it had launched the Wellness Foundation, a new charitable organization that provides meals to pets in need.
“By feeding Wellness to their own pets at home, pet parents will now know that they’re enabling us to do the same for pets in need,” said Kent.
In recent years, WellPet began focusing on the fast-moving categories of fresh, freeze-dried and frozen premium pet food — such as Wellness CORE RawRev, described as a “kibble-plus product” with freeze-dried raw meat.
Today, WellPet’s headquarters are in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, and the company maintains its separate factory in Mishawaka, Indiana. Its portfolio of products continues to represent the various companies that came together in the course of its history: Wellness, Eagle Pack, Holistic Select, Sojos, Whimzees and the original Old Mother Hubbard brand.
As of 2020, WellPet was among the top 10 pet food companies in the world, with $700 million in annual revenue, according to data provided by Pet Food Industry.
In the next section below, we discuss the Wellness pet food recall history.
Has Wellness Ever Been Recalled?
Yes, Wellness has issued a few pet food recalls in the years since the brand was introduced in 1997.
Most recently, in March 2017, certain dates of Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs, in 13.2 oz. cans, were recalled because of possible high levels of beef thyroid hormone. According to WellPet, “Elevated levels [of this hormone] may affect a dog’s metabolism and can be associated with increased thirst, increased urinary output, restless behavior and weight loss.”
The company added: “Even though the chance of a dog being affected is remote, we are voluntarily recalling this recipe and only these 3 ‘best by’ dates as an extra precaution.”
During the previous month, February 2017, a number of canned Wellness cat food varieties were recalled because of the potential for foreign material. A company rep explained to Petful:
“When our quality team learned that a small amount of metal was found in non-WellPet products made in the same facility, we decided to take the conservative step of voluntarily recalling a small amount of our 12.5 oz. cat recipes with certain best by dates to ensure the well-being of cats and to put our consumers’ minds at ease.”
In October 2012 and in May 2012, Wellness issued recalls: one because of apparent moisture problems, and the other because of the possibility of salmonella.
In January 2012, the state of New Mexico ordered the removal (a so-called “no-sell order”) of Wellness WellBars containing amaranth, a type of grain. Products containing amaranth were approved for humans but not for pets. The dog treats were removed from stores in the state, and WellPet commented that it was reformulating the products. New Mexico regulatory officials are known for being sticklers when it comes to unapproved ingredients: “They’re very stringent,” said a local pet store owner.
Finally, in February 2011, inadequate levels of thiamine was given as the reason for a recall of all flavors and sizes of canned Wellness cat food manufactured within a certain date range — 21.6 million cans were recalled in all, according to an FDA enforcement report.
Tim Callahan, then-CEO of WellPet, said at the time of the 2011 Wellness cat food recall, “Even though the chance of a cat developing a thiamine deficiency is extremely remote, we are voluntarily recalling all of these lots of our canned cat food as an extra precaution.”
The full list of Wellness pet food recalls follows.
List of Wellness Pet Food Recalls
Cause: Potential for elevated levels of naturally occurring beef thyroid hormone. Announcement: Website announcement dated March 17, 2017 (archived here). What was recalled: 13.2 oz. cans of Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs with “best by” dates of Feb. 2, 2019; Aug. 29, 2019; or Aug. 30, 2019.
Cause: Potential for foreign material. Announcement: Website announcement dated Feb. 10, 2017 (archived here). What was recalled: 12.5 oz. cans of the following Wellness cat food:
- Chicken & Herring, best by Aug. 4, 2019
- Chicken, best by Aug. 3 or Aug. 4, 2019
- Chicken & Lobster, best by Aug. 4, 2019
- Turkey & Salmon, best by Aug. 5, 2019
- Turkey, best by Aug. 4 or Aug. 5, 2019
- Beef & Chicken, best by Aug. 5, 2019
- Beef & Salmon, best by Aug. 5, 2019
Cause: Possible moisture problems, which could lead to mold. Announcement: Facebook announcement dated Oct. 30, 2012 (archived here). What was recalled: Wellness Small Breed Adult Health Dry Dog Food, 12 lb. package with “best by” date of Aug. 18, 2013.
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report dated May 4, 2012 (archived here). What was recalled: Wellness Complete Health Super5Mix Large Breed Puppy, 15 lb. and 30 lb. bags and 5 oz. sample bags with “best by” dates of Jan. 9–11, 2013.
January 2012 (no-sell order; New Mexico)
Cause: Unapproved ingredient (a grain called amaranth that was approved for humans but not for pets). Announcement: Article in the Albuquerque Journal dated Jan. 27, 2012. What was recalled: The state of New Mexico ordered the removal from stores of certain Wellness WellBar dog treats containing amaranth. WellPet said it would be reformulating the treats.
Cause: Inadequate levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1). Announcement: FDA report dated Feb. 28, 2011 (archived here). What was recalled: The following canned cat foods and expiration dates:
- Wellness canned cat food (all flavors and sizes, including CORE) with “best by” dates of April 14–Sept. 30, 2013
- Wellness Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with “best by” dates of either Nov. 10, 2013 OR Nov. 17, 2013
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