TOPEKA, KAN. — Hill’s Pet Nutrition officials and community leaders cut the ribbon at the company’s new 25,000-square-foot Small Paws innovation center in Topeka, the result of a $30 million investment dedicated to researching small and miniature dog nutrition.

The company first broke ground on the innovation center in August 2019 with an initial investment of $20 million. The new facility adds to an already robust presence Hill’s has in Topeka, where it also operates its global headquarters, a pet food manufacturing facility and its Bark Park in Gage Park. The company also runs a manufacturing facility in Emporia and plans to open a new $250 million pet food facility in Tonganoxie in 2023.

"Hill's is excited to announce the opening of an expansion of our global Pet Nutrition Center to focus on the special needs of small dogs and also to enhance our involvement with those who care for pets through the new innovation center," said Jesper Nordengaard, president of Hill's. "We are always investing in technology and development to serve the nutritional needs of pets as well as learning from veterinarians, customers and caregivers through their experiences. This is how we fulfill our mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets and live our goal of transforming lives."

At the Small Paws center, Hill’s will zero in on the behaviors, genetics, genomics and microbiomics of small and miniature dogs to better inform the development of proper nutrition for these breeds, “which represent more than half of pet dogs in the United States and around the world,” according to the company.

"All around the world, there's a steady increase in the popularity of small dogs," said Dave Baloga, vice president of science and technology for Hill's. "Our investment in this specialized facility will help us develop food with the taste and aesthetics that small dogs prefer and that works best with their distinctive behaviors and unique physiology. The Small Paws Innovation Center will allow us to better understand their needs and discover new ways to help them lead happy, healthy lives."

Roughly 80 small dogs weighing less than 20 lbs will find a new home in the Small Paws center, where they will be cared for and studied by a team of veterinary staff. They will have access to a range of indoor and outdoor enrichment activities, including the company’s own Bark Park.

The new facility will also house an Engagement Center for veterinarians and pet caretakers. Seminars, educational programs and other professional and student programs will be hosted at the Small Dog center.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by Nordengaard; Baloga; Kansas Governor Laura Kelly; Noel Wallace, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Colgate-Palmolive, the parent company of Hill’s; Mike Beam, Kansas secretary of agriculture; Kevin Cook, Shawnee County commissioner; Bonnie Rush, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University; and Matt Pivarnik, chief executive officer of the Greater Topeka Partnership, among several others.

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