PORK, FISH AMONG NEWEST NOVEL PROTEINS IN DIETS
One demographic segment in particular is helping to drive new offerings in this
segment of dog food, said Annabelle Immega, trade marketing manager for
Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.
“Millennials are really driving [this] category with their continued desire for
premium-quality ingredients that are also sustainably sourced,” she said. “With
more interest in novel proteins and superfoods comes more opportunity to
research and develop new recipes with ingredients that weren’t very common
a few years ago.”
In response, Petcurean introduced Now Fresh Pork Stew in October 2017.
Formulated to be served as a treat, a topper or a complete and balanced meal,
the stew is made with 100 percent fresh pork, which is a novel protein not
commonly found in dog food, Immega said.
“Our Now Fresh Pork Stew has zero genetically engineered ingredients and
is available in industry-leading recyclable and reclosable Tetra Pak cartons,”
she added. “The recipe features nutrient-rich turkey bone broth and the
following superfoods: peas, cranberries and sweet potatoes.”
In November, the company debuted Go! Sensitivity + Shine Limited
Ingredient Alaskan Pollock. This diet is free of grain, gluten and potato,
features fresh meat and meal as the first two ingredients, is low in
carbohydrates, cholesterol and fat, and contains coconut oil, tapioca and
chicory root, Immega said.
Last month at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., Sojos in South St. Paul,
Minn., unveiled its reformulated Sojos Wild. The grain-free line features three
novel proteins: Free-Range Venison, Wild Boar and Wild-Caught Salmon.
The raw, shelf-stable dog foods are made with select USDA-inspected
proteins as the No. 1 ingredient and contain human-grade superfood fruits and
veggies, said Jen Loesch, general manager.
Ziwi USA in Overland Park, Kan., is planning to expand its canned selection
“Our canned diets are high meat—at 92 to 93 percent meat—and 100
percent gum free,” said Heather Hickey, vice president of sales—North
America. She added that the meats are sourced in New Zealand, and the
company adds a small percentage of chickpea to thicken the food without
adding bulk to the can.
SAVVY STORES SPOTLIGHT EDUCATION
Most pet specialty stores that excel in selling diets featuring novel ingredients and/or superfoods place high
importance on educating staff to then pass that knowledge on to customers, industry participants agreed.
“We know the holistic pet food world can be an overwhelming place at times, and that’s why we believe
customer education at the store level is most important,” said Crystal Nelson, manager or Ruff Haus Pets in
Chicago. “Customer education begins with our staff, and our training is an ongoing process.”
Jen Loesch, general manager for Sojos in South St. Paul, Minn., agreed that “it’s essential for pet
specialty retailers to ensure their team members are well versed on the brands they carry, as well as the ins
and outs of feeding freeze-dried, raw food, novel-protein diets and the benefits of particular ingredients,” she
said. “Properly trained, knowledgeable sales associates can quickly break down perceived barriers.”
Heidi Neal, co-owner of Loyal Biscuit Co., which has stores in Maine, added that not all customers know
they need the education.
“Some people don’t even realize they are looking for it,” she said. “They just know that what they are
currently using isn’t working.”
The No. 1 way to educate customers is by having conversations with them, manufacturers and retailers
“Individual consultation is the best educational tool, so we always try to have enough staff in the store to
allow for these conversations when the need arises,” said Nancy Stewart, manager and buyer at Bark Avenue
Pet Supply in Mesa, Ariz.
Really listening to what customers say is also important, Nelson said.
“Always listen to your customers, as every canine and feline is unique and different,” she said. “Forming
a relationship based on trust and educated recommendations are important steps to educating customers.
Once you have formed that foundation, you are able to have an open and ongoing discussion with your
Several insiders recommended using social media.
“Social media is an easy and effective way for retailers to reach their customer base directly to
pique their interest about new and exciting products,” said Annabelle Immega, trade marketing manager
for Petcurean Pet Nutrition in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada. “The educational approach is often
overlooked as being too dry for social media, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A great way to add a little
excitement is to include a giveaway with an engagement driver, such as a dog photo contest with a high-
value prize attached.”
Partnering with vendors also fuels staff and customer education about these foods, insiders said.
“Another great option to educate both staff and consumers would be to build strong relationships with
manufacturers and distributors,” Nelson said. “We recommend setting up staff training, in-store demos, and
promotions with your vendors and sales reps.”
While insiders agreed that there are premium, value and mid-tier options
for customers seeking diets with novel proteins and/or superfood
ingredients, several sources said the products at the lower end of the
spectrum often contain lower-quality ingredients.
“Most unique proteins fall into the premium category,” said Nancy
Stewart, manager and buyer at Bark Avenue Pet Supply in Mesa, Ariz.
“I don’t believe there is a way to have value-priced unique protein/
superfood diets and keep the quality.”
That said, Stewart reported that “most animals needing these diets
are compromised in some form, and their owners, if dedicated to their
health and quality of life, need top-quality products and are willing to pay
Crystal Nelson, manager for Ruff Haus Pets in Chicago, has had
similar experiences with her customers.
“Consumers are looking for value when considering a pet food, and
that value extends beyond pricing,” she said. “Customers are looking for
a diet that will ensure the longevity of their animal companions’ lives, and
that is priceless.”
Some price variances stem from ingredient availability, said Heather
Hickey, vice president of sales—North America for Ziwi USA in Overland
“When you look at novel proteins like venison, there’s a shortage this
year, so consumers will see around a 40 percent increase in prices or a
reduced amount of venison in diets due to the shortage,” she said. “Other
novel proteins that are easy to source, such as lamb, mackerel and tripe,
[have a smaller price tag]. There are still a lot of unique products out
there that are not super expensive.”
Not everyone experiences sticker shock from these premium diets,
said Jen Loesch, general manager for Sojos in South St. Paul, Minn.
“There’s often the perceived ultra-premium price tag that goes along
with an ultra-premium exotic diet,” she said.
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