How do you convince customers to try raw
freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
“You have to have and share knowledge. We, as a holistic company, try to stay
away from the commercial products just to ensure quality. Where [ingredi-
ents] are sourced is one of our main concerns. Who manufactures it is a big
concern for us.”—BRITTANI BASH, manager of Just for Pets in Austin, Texas
“I use my own personal experience to inform customers of the benefits.
People are a little bit more willing to at least explore the possibility
of using raw foods, where before I think there was a lot of negative
information out there about how it was very dangerous to use. … There
were a lot of scare tactics used to deter people from using it. But now,
it’s becoming a little bit more accepted.”—KEN DAMINGER, ownerof
Daminger’s Natural Pet Foods in Sewell, N.J.
“Retailers should educate customers about [these] foods through associate
training, educational programs, nutritional materials and even product samples.
This builds rapport with pet owners and creates loyal, repeat shoppers who are
willing to pay more for a food that provides the best possible solution for their
pet.”—MICHAEL LANDA, CEO of Nulo Pet Food in Austin, Texas
Raw freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are seeing
increased interest from customers, retailers reported, and new offerings are coming on the market to
Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis recently
introduced the Cloud Star WellMade Dehydrated
Mix line, which is available in four meat plus
vegetables blends—with chicken, pork, beef and
lamb—as well as a meat-free vegetarian option,
said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for
“Every diet, including the vegetarian diet, is
complete and balanced and can be fed alone or
with fresh meat,” she said. “WellMade Dehydrated
Mixes … give consumers lots of preparation options
when deciding how to feed their dogs.”
Purpose Pet Food in New York recently
launched its line of freeze-dried dog food and
treats, said Vanessa Quick, director of sales for
the company. The line includes three formulas of
dog food, available in 14-ounce bags, including
Beef & Veggie, Chicken & Veggie, and Turkey &
“Freeze-drying is an innovative method that
enables pet owners to get the benefits of raw,
but with convenience,” Quick said. “Since the
freeze-drying process locks in the nutritional value,
taste, color and freshness of each fresh, raw ingre-
dient, pets enjoy the same great taste as regular
raw food conveniently and without safety issues.”
The company is adding two more formulas in
the near future, Quick said.
Stella & Chewy’s recently introduced its
Raw Blend and Raw Coated Kibble, featuring a
lightly baked kibble coated with a freeze-dried
raw protein. In addition to the coated kibble, Raw
Blend includes freeze-dried raw pieces of Stella &
Chewy’s Meal Mixers.
“Stella & Chewy’s Raw Blend and Raw Coated
Kibble are doing great,” said Kim Albright, owner of
Kim’s Natural Pet Foods in Valrico, Fla.
Increasingly, retailers are checking manufacturer labels carefully, with an emphasis on
ingredient sourcing and nutritional content.
“One of our favorites is Stella & Chewy’s,” said
Brittani Bash, manager of Just for Pets in Austin,
Texas. “They’re real big on the market right now.
They add real ingredients into the food. It’s very
nutritious for the animal.”
She also carries Nature’s Logic and Instinct,
which she noted is moving more into the freeze-
Nulo Pet Food introduced five freeze-dried
recipes for dogs this summer with its complete
and balanced Freeze-Dried Raw diets line.
“Every recipe is made with up to 83 percent
meat, organs and bone, with fruit and vegetable
pairings,” said Heather Acuff, customer care and
product development manager for Nulo Pet Food in
“Alternative food sales are continuing to
climb, and this trend runs parallel to the increasing
demands from pet owners for foods that are
less processed, more natural and deliver more
whole-ingredient benefits,” Acuff added.
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Many customers are unfamiliar with raw freeze-dried offerings, and they often don’t know the benefits.
“These are newer food formats,” said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Whitebridge Pet Brands in St. Louis.
“While consumers may be familiar with these types of foods in the human market, they are probably not aware that they are
also available for pets.”
It’s useful to identify what customers’ expectations are, and to be ready to explain diet safety and how products in the
category fit into feeding pets overall.
“Customers are used to kibble,” said Brittani Bash, manager of Just for Pets in Austin, Texas. “People are habitual. Their
main concern is: Is it OK for their dog?”
Bringing customers up to speed is a big part of Bash’s business, she said.
“You have to know what your store stands for,” she said. “One of our main goals is to educate our customers. Nowadays,
pets aren’t just pets. They’re family. Knowing how to talk to [customers] is really important.”
Customers are increasingly interested in what’s printed on pet food labels. They’re looking for familiar ingredients, sourc-
ing transparency and better overall nutrition, said Michael Landa, CEO of Nulo Pet Food in Austin, Texas.
“Greater emphasis will be placed on these ‘cleaner’ labels,” he said. “I also believe that pet parents seek to engage more
with their pets at mealtime.”
It’s important to start a dialogue with customers to understand what their needs are.
“We always ask questions,” said Ken Daminger, owner of Daminger’s Natural Pet Foods in Sewell, N.J. “We want to find out
as much information as we can about the pet and what the issues might be, and then we try and assess what we have as the
best solution. If you don’t ask questions, you’re just guessing.”