In his greenhouse in 1892, a 25 year old man called Bob Martin invented a conditioning powder for dogs. This was the result of his concern for the welfare of family pets and this invention led to the creation of a new market sector – pet healthcare – and to ‘Bob Martin’ becoming a household name.
Whilst working for a local vetinerary practice Bob Martin had become increasingly interested in basic healthcare for ordinary pet dogs. He constantly pestered his new employers with questions and visited local mining districts to talk about canine ills. Miners would show him their simple remedies and inspired him to conduct his own experiments.
By the age of 25 he had the reputation of being able to cure any canine complaint and so launched the new conditioning powder. It was intended to supplement the poor diet endured by many dogs at the time and to ensure that every pet could be kept in peak condition.
His conditioning powders were sold initially at the dog shows where he was already a familiar and respected figure as a breeder, and they rapidly rose in popularity. By the early 1900’s ‘Bob Martin’ was sufficiently well known to be the butt of music hall jokes and his business continued to grow. Bob himself maintained a flamboyant profile and could often be seen bowling along on his tricycle with a greyhound trotting on either side of him.
His son, Robert, was born in 1901 and at the age of 20 followed his father into the family firm. Over the years he gradually took over the business side and was responsible for Bob Martin’s innovative advertising campaigns from the 1930’s onwards.
The Bob Martin range quickly expanded from the original conditioning powders to remedies and preventative healthcare products for a wide range of canine and feline ills. Leading brands such as Pestroy were originally launched as far back as 1936.
In 1938 Bob Martin’s opened a showpiece factory in Southport – it was to play an important role in providing vital medical supplies for British soldiers as well as in maintaining the growth of the company. Production of Bob Martin products was actually halted during the Second World War so that the factory could aid the war effort. The Daily Mail said of water purification tablets produced there for the D-Day landings that they “probably saved more lives in the invasion than any other weapon of defence … through the heroic efforts of hundreds of women in the Bob Martin factory”.
Robert Martin continued to run the company after 1948 and maintained an active involvement up until his death in 1979. His son, now Sir Bruce Martin QC, took up the reins of the business in his turn and Bob Martin has remained a privately owned, family firm to this day.