Behind the Scenes: Rad Approach
Radagast Pet Food Inc. has seen steady growth since bringing its Rad Cat Raw Diet cat food to market, but education is needed to overcome the public’s misconceptions about raw pet food.
Janice Hatch-Rizzi, left, president and co-founder of Radagast Pet Food Inc., with Susan Serowicki, national sales manager, and Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, vice president and co-founder, at the 2015 Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla.
If Tracey and Janice Hatch-Rizzi’s cat, Juno, hadn’t become ill from the food she was eating 13 years ago, Radagast Pet Food Inc. of Portland, Ore., probably wouldn’t exist today.
When Juno became sick, a holistic veterinarian suggested Juno be switched to a grain-free, raw-food diet—a product that didn’t exist at the time.
Tracey and Janice went to their own kitchen to create their own raw cat food recipe for Juno.
Once Juno made the switch, her problems, namely, inflammatory bowel disease, vanished.
“Before we knew it, we were making food for friends and family, and feeding 11 cats from our little home kitchen,” said Tracey, vice president and co-founder of Radagast. “We realized that we really had a very unique product that would be beneficial to so many others and decided to bring it market.”
The Rad Cat Raw Diet first hit shelves in 2005; it is sold frozen in 8-, 16- and 24-ounce sizes in three flavors: Free-Range Raw Chicken, Free-Range Raw Turkey and Pasture-Raised Raw Lamb.
Pet Product News: How has your company grown since it was founded?
Janice Hatch-Rizzi: Being a small, family-owned company that makes only cat food, we have been slow and steady in our growth. Adding our free 1-ounce samples in August of 2010 helped spread the word about Rad Cat. We have guided our growth to always ensure that we can meet the growing demand as we expand. Sales have climbed steadily year over year by more than 25 percent, and we expect the same and greater growth in the future.
Green Dog, a popular Portland, Ore., pet store, is fully stocked with Rad Cat Raw Diet cat food and was one of the first pet stores to start carrying it. Pictured are Christine and Mike Mallar, owners of Green Dog.
PPN: Where are your ingredients sourced; where is Rad Cat manufactured?
Tracey Hatch-Rizzi: All of our products are produced in our own facility in Portland, Ore. All of our meat, poultry and other ingredients are sourced from the U.S., with the exception of our organic psyllium, which only grows in India and the Middle East.
PPN: Is there still growth potential left in raw?
THR: The raw category seen tremendous growth in the last decade, and it’s only going to continue to grow. The more raw companies diversify and the more education and marketing each company does, the more people will be looking to the category.
PPN: What about raw keeps pet owners away?
THR: There definitely is a commitment factor to feeding raw. It was a bit intimidating when I started feeding raw, but I fell into a pattern and realized it’s a lot easier than I thought. Overcoming customer objections is about developing a slightly different routine, which seems challenging at first. It’s not much different than feeding canned food. Raw takes a bit more time to feed, but we’re really only talking maybe five minutes per day.
PPN: The FDA hasn’t defined what raw pet food is. Is this a problem?
THR: The FDA is our regulatory body, and it would make us more comfortable if they fully understood our segment of the industry. We all would benefit from the FDA and raw food manufacturers working together to come up with an accurate definition. Raw pet food has been one of the fastest-growing segments of commercial pet food for over a decade, so an accurate definition of raw and minimally processed foods is overdue. In the human food supply, there is tolerance for salmonella and E. coli in raw meat; in the raw pet food segment, there is a zero-tolerance policy. Most consumers don’t know this. Some standards for human food should be raised so that raw pet food companies purchasing human-grade ingredients can be assured that the poultry and meat we receive is pathogen free.
PPN: The FDA will be collecting samples of raw pet food for testing from pet retailers across the country through the end of August. Does this concern you?
THR: The biggest concern is that they are singling out only one segment of the industry. I would have expected and preferred some dialog, because this campaign feels like they are working against us. The FDA and raw food manufacturers should be working together.
PPN: Share information about Rad Cat Raw Diet.
THR: We were the first raw diet for cats that doesn’t contain any vegetables or grains. Each variety is from a single-protein source. Many other raw diets on the market combine two or three protein sources, which can be unappealing to a cat’s discerning palate. What really sets us apart is that all of our meats and poultry are free range, organic or pasture raised, rather than just antibiotic free or cage free. Instead of adding ground bone, we use ground eggshell, which is much easier on the digestion. Raw diets are much easier to digest than canned food and dry food, especially. Cats extract the moisture they need from the food they eat. Often, cats that eat dry food are in a constant low-level state of dehydration, which can lead to such health problems as feline lower urinary tract disease. Cooked food takes longer to digest than raw, which is not optimal for a cat’s short digestive tract. We formulated our products to be highly digestible and healing for the digestive tract.
PPN: What's your biggest challenge?
THR: The resistance to raw diets that we see from the media and various associations’ statements. So many are based on uninformed opinions. There needs to be more education about raw diets and some quantifiable research to support what we all see and know for ourselves already: that there are tremendous health benefits to raw feeding that can completely change pets’ lives—and sometimes even save them. First there needs to be dialog; that isn’t happening just yet.
PPN: Do you have any plans to broaden your product line?
THR: We soon will release Grass-Fed Beef and Pastured Venison, two of our most-requested proteins.
PPN: Does Radagast give back in any way?
THR: We support organizations any way we can by donating to events, raffles and auctions. We regularly support a few rescues on the West Coast. A wild cat rescue in Oregon had a very sick cougar many years ago that would only eat Rad Cat, and they have become very dear to us.
PPN: Where can pet retailers who'd like to carry your food find it?
THR: We are distributed nationwide and in western Canada; our products are sold primarily through independent retailers across the country.
PPN: Does Rad Cat require refrigeration?
THR: All of our products are sold frozen and retailers must have freezers in order to carry our products. There are a few distributors that have freezer programs that we are part of. When stores are looking to add a freezer, we will provide free product to fill the freezer to help them offset the cost of the purchase.
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Pet Product News.