It started with singing canaries
Our story begins in 1926 when an almost penniless 26-year-old Max Stern decided to leave his native Germany for the promise of America. Germany was suffering from the ravages of the First World War. The allure of America’s stability, freedom and economic opportunity beckoned.
A childhood friend of Stern’s, a local pet dealer, had borrowed a modest sum and could only pay back the loan with 5,000 singing canaries. Stern accepted the canaries and decided to sell them in New York City.
Stern negotiated free passage to America on the Hamburg American Steamship Line and arrived in New York not knowing a word of English. But he did sell the singing canaries to the John Wannamaker Department Store at Astor Place in Manhattan and soon thereafter established his business nearby at 36 Cooper Square.
Stern went back to his native Germany again and again, returning to America each time with more singing canaries that he now sold to a growing customer base including R.H. Macy, Sears Roebuck, F.W. Woolworth, W. T. Grant, S.S. Kresge and others. By 1932, Stern was the largest livestock importer in America and decided to expand into packaged bird foods. The Hartz Mountain line of pet products was born.
Beyond birds—with a best-selling product
In 1959, Stern’s son joined the company and expanded Hartz Mountain’s product lines into goldfish, tropical fish and a full line of aquatic supplies. They expanded again in the 60’s with the dog and cat products, most notably the Hartz flea & tick collar – still the #1 selling flea & tick collar for both cats and dogs to this day.
By the early 1980’s Hartz products were sold in more than 40,000 U.S. and Canadian retail outlets. In the 1990’s Hartz continued to expand product lines with the acquisition of the esteemed Wardley® brand of fish food and supplies. The portfolio also expanded with the addition of the L/M Animal Farms brand and new rawhide and natural treat manufacturing facilities in America and Brazil. Research facilities continued to grow and new generations of pet care products were introduced under the Hartz brand such as UltraGuard Flea & Tick products – the first vet-quality flea control products to be available over the counter.
Moving forward, with drive for innovation
In 2000, The Hartz Mountain Corporation was sold to the J.W. Childs Associates, LP, a leading private equity investment firm, which gave a renewed focus to research and development. The result was a collection of new, innovative products such as Dentist’s Best™ dog chews.
In 2004, The Hartz Mountain Corporation was acquired by Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (SCOA) together with its parent, Sumitomo Corporation (SC). Sumitomo Corporation is one of the world’s leading integrated global trading firms with trade, distribution and diversified industrial and consumer goods.
In 2011, Sumitomo took on a partner and Hartz became a joint venture of Sumitomo and Unicharm Corporation, a leading consumer goods company based in Japan. Unicharm entered into the pet-care business in 1986 and is currently the leading pet care manufacturer in Japan.
Today Hartz is 1,500 products strong—catering to dogs, cats, parakeets, canaries, parrots, cockatiels, finches, goldfish, tropical fish, reptiles, ferrets, chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits.