A formidable hawk among sparrows

While his school mates at the Norbert Gymnasium at Knechtsteden abbey wanted to become doctors or lawyers, he said his desired occupation was a retailer. And that is what Torsten Toeller became. Hence, he embarked on a career that would take him to the top of his sector in just 20 years. Today he manages the leading company in pet food and supplies, Fressnapf Holding GmbH, from Krefeld-Linn. Fressnapf expanded from Germany to ten European countries; East European countries like Poland and Russia are next on the list. Across Europe, the group’s turnover crossed the 1 billion euro mark back in 2008. Today the group has a turnover of 1.3 billion, 875 million euros of which are generated in Germany. The market share of Fressnapf was 23 percent in 2009. Toeller is in charge of over 1,150 shops in eleven countries in Europe. No single competitor even comes close to these figures.

But Torsten Toeller’s first encounter with retail took place before he finished school. His parents managed a set of supermarkets in the Cologne region. Their son Torsten practically grew up between supermarket shelves. He already took on part-time jobs in retail as a school student. Hence, one cannot put his desire to enter retail purely down to chance. At the same time it was his own ambition and relentless creativity that took him to the top. He didn’t take over his parent’s stores; he wanted to do something of his own. After his Abitur (school-leaving qualifications allowing university entrance) he first did an apprenticeship at Allkauf in Grevenbroich. He certainly wasn’t a typical apprentice, acquiring the trainer certification after just two years. After his apprenticeship he studied at the food akademie Neuwied. He qualified as a certified graduate in retail business administration at the top of his class. But his real opportunity to take a big leap forward came during a trip through the USA. As the marketing director of Markant AG in Offenburg, he was given the task of taking a look round the states and identifying new trends in food retail.  

It was in the large pet markets that Toeller found a new trend. Nothing of that sort existed in Germany; the pet supplies market here consisted primarily of small specialist pet shops. But his German bosses at Markant weren’t interested in expanding into pet stores. So Toeller decided to set up his own business. To do so he sold his BMW and borrowed some money from his parents. At the age of 24 he set up his first Fressnapf market in Erkelenz. And with this move he obviously had his finger firmly on the pulse, filling a gap in the market; there was nothing between traditional specialist retailers and discount stores. In 1990 he founded Fressnapf Tiernahrungs GmbH and focused on rapid expansion through franchise holders. Today his group of companies is the number three in the world after Petco and PetsMart, the “big brothers” and role models from the USA. Toeller, now 44, has received many awards for his incredible success story, most recently in 2010 with the German Retail Award (Deutscher Handelspreis). And he continues to focus on innovation, expansion and emotion. In 2009 he launched the Fressnapf online shop, catalogue orders were already flowing before that. But the Fressnapf markets themselves were also getting bigger. The new XXL markets lay out their range on between 1,200 and 1,500 square metres. The largest markets, Kölle-Zoo and Megazoo, offer up to 2,500 square metres. Founder Torsten Toeller is the company’s managing director and still the driving force behind the company today. But he has also formed a powerful team of five managers at the helm of the company and they all pull together in the same direction. Fressnapf skipped the wholesalers and takes care of the logistics itself – which in the end pays off for the customers.

The company has built up a great deal of know-how in 20 years. Fressnapf works together with universities in the area of pet food. The company has long since focused on having its own brands made especially for the company. The customers find exactly the type of pet food they’re looking for – from cheap to premium, from organic to therapeutic diet food. Toeller responds to demographic developments and the feminization of society: pets in Germany will become even more important. Future trends like the Internet, work-life balance and experience orientation are already being implemented today in the company. Toeller, who himself has 2 dogs and 17 koi, wants to stay ahead of the game at all times. Today he is still faster, cheekier and better than the competition, the hawk among sparrows.


Fressnapf Tiernahrungs GmbH
Westpreußenstraße 32 - 38
47809 Krefeld

Tel: 02151 51910