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Fruitables Offers Large Variety of Combination Flavors

With a staff of less than 10, Vetscience LLC says its Fruitables brand offers pets and their owners the industry’s largest variety of combination flavors.


photos Courtesy of Fruitables

The Fruitables brand, owned by Dallas-based Vetscience LLC, is manufactured at six Midwest processing facilities through co-manufacturing partnerships. Dallas is the brand’s operational headquarters, with a corporate staff of less than 10 handling customer service, product design and research, logistics coordination, and sales and marketing.

“It’s usually very surprising for people to find out that Fruitables is such a small company,” said David DeLorenzo, president of Vetscience LLC. “We seek out people who have extraordinary skill sets across multiple disciplines. Nobody has just one job; in fact, each person has three to four active roles inside the company.”

This philosophy is reaping dividends as Fruitables has grown to an “eight-figure” brand and is “growing at a rate of 50 to 75 percent year over year.”

“This smaller ‘I can do anything’ culture allows us to make decisions quicker, react to needs faster and operate with fewer disconnects between operational handoffs,” DeLorenzo said.

PPN: When was Vetscience and Fruitables started?

DD: We began by funding university research starting in 2005 and began commercializing our products in 2008. Our initial entry into the pet market was through the recognition that pet obesity is mirroring human trends and becoming a major health issue in the United States.

PPN: Who comes up with each product’s formula or recipe?

DD: Kevin Swenkem, the company’s founder, heads up product development, with nutritional expertise provided by Dr. John Bauer. (Dr. Bauer is professor emeritus of small animal clinical sciences and nutrition at Texas A&M University.)

PPN: Wild canids have existed for eons on an exclusively meat diet. Why the huge push to get vegetables, fruits and grains into pet diets?

DD: Wild canids, indeed, ate other animals as prey, and many included fruits, grains and vegetables in their entrails, which were nutrient dense. The reality is that dogs have very different nutritional requirements from humans, requiring their diets to be “complete and balanced” as learned and defined through veterinarian research. Protein, fats and carbohydrates all have a role in meeting these nutritional requirements and come from varied sources, including vegetables, fruits and grains.

PPN: What makes Fruitables different from any other dog treat line available today?

DD: Fruitables created a line of all-natural, deliciously healthful dog treats in Crunchy, Chewy and Jerky formats that offer the industry’s largest variety of flavors with combinations. At the heart of all our treat recipes is the use of fresh CalorieSmart ingredients like pumpkin, which gives our treats an amazing aroma and taste in a low-calorie format.

PPN: Describe the patent-pending CalorieSmart technology.

DD: Our CalorieSmart platform … began with our commitment to fund years of university research performed by John Bauer, Ph.D., at Texas A&M University. We have cracked the code on canine obesity and have published proven results that show dogs lose 2 percent of their body weight per week on our program and have better satiety (are less hungry).

Our pumpkin supplement is ultralow in calories but has a flavor that dogs absolutely crave; it is rich in beta carotene and the right balance of fiber. The result is a system that provides more volume of food with dramatically lower calories and a taste that is so good that pets actually prefer their reduced-calorie meals. Higher portions of food, lower calories, better flavor and better satiety (less begging) results in a program that is proven to work and earns better compliance from pet parents.

PPN: Why the need for a separate supplement line?

DD: While our treats are all CalorieSmart … they are not considered “functional” in the traditional sense that functional products address a specific issue—our treats smell and taste fantastic and have fewer calories per treat than most others on the market. Our food supplement line addresses the very specific nutritional needs of obesity, digestive health and food transition. We are launching a new line of functional treats at SuperZoo 2015 under the Fruitables BioActive brand that will address dental and hip and joint needs. We have multiple patents pending in the BioAactive line and look forward to an exciting new breakthrough.

PPN: Does your jerky have vegetables and fruit in it, in keeping with the Fruitables name?

DD: We have jerky recipes that are pure meat (Bison, Salmon, Chicken) and some new varieties in combo flavors that have 95 percent meat (Bacon and Apples, Duck and Sweet Potato, Turkey and Sweet Potato).

PPN: Your website mentions all the superfoods in Fruitables. Why are superfoods so important for pets?

DD: We believe in … harvest-fresh ingredients rather than dried or processed foods in order to ensure the highest nutritional value. With regard to specific superfoods, we believe that not all superfoods are created equal and that certain foods, like pumpkin and sweet potato, stand out as nutritional rock stars. These rock stars are ultralow in calories, high in fiber and rich in vitamins A, C and E and beta carotene. Superfoods should have an active role in fulfilling specific dietary needs and not just serve as marketing copy.

PPN: Does the company have any plans for cat treats? Pet foods?

DD: We expect to have a line of cat treats in the market in late 2015. With regard to food, we are active in R&D across multiple areas, including the food category, but that doesn’t guarantee that we will bring a food to market soon. We want to create real innovation, not just another “me too” product.

PPN: Why is the idea of organic ingredients so important to the Fruitables name?

DD: We use selected organic ingredients, but we do not source all ingredients as organic due to cost and availability throughout the year. Pet parents form impressions and opinions through their interaction with products, and we believe that having ingredients and facilities that align and are true to our brand is important; our manufacturing partners have the same commitment we do by going through the process to become certified organic.

PPN: In what ways has Dr. Bauer’s background in pet nutrition contributed to the brand?

DD: Dr. Bauer is widely recognized as one of the top “who’s who” in veterinary medicine, with more than 300 peer-reviewed [articles] and a background in small animal nutrition that is truly amazing. He has played an active role in our research and development, helping to shape the nutritional strategies employed in our products. With the launch of BioActive at SuperZoo 2015, you can expect to see Dr. Bauer’s work play a more prominent role in educating retailers and pet parents about our products and their function and delivery of nutritional benefits.

PPN: Describe your new Jerky Bites line.

DD: We launched a line of all USA-origin and -made jerky treats in 2014 called Whole Jerky. This line consists of whole muscle meat in Chicken, Bison, Bacon and Salmon varieties that come in a traditional bar format. Whole Jerky Bites, an extension of the Whole Jerky product line, come in a smaller bite-sized round shape, and they come in combination flavors, including Bacon and Apple, and Turkey and Sweet Potato.

PPN: What do dogs derive from Greek yogurt?

DD: The use of yogurt came about as part of our research on digestive health and its role as a probiotic in maintaining a healthy gut. We discovered that yogurt also had good natural antibacterial properties and could play a role in naturally preserving foods, and it tastes great. As a result, yogurt has been incorporated into our Greek treats and has been a big success.

PPN: Your treats come in chewy, crunchy and jerky formats. Do dogs respond differently to these formats?

DD: Dogs definitely exhibit preferences when it comes to flavors, tastes and textures. Our treats come in a wide variety of formats to address this need. Our pumpkin baked crunchy treats are the perfect size and appeal to a wide variety of dogs. Our Chewy Skinny Minis are perfect for small dogs and training, and Jerky—well, all dogs love jerky.

PPN: How does a nine-calorie treat pack nutritional oomph?

DD: It all starts with pumpkin. Fresh pumpkin is extremely low in calories (263 kcal/kg—that is staggeringly low). Because fresh pumpkin is such a large part of our recipe, it allows us to hit very low calorie targets per treat without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.

PPN: Speak to the overuse of terms such as “organic” and “natural” by some in the pet industry.

DD: A brand that truly is committed to making premium natural foods and treats should not have to demonize other ingredients in order to differentiate itself or become a buzzword-marketing machine in order to communicate that commitment.

We are a very calorie-conscious company, and we believe this is the predominant issue in pet health today. We also focus very heavily on the idea of “sensory enjoyment” for everyone in the family. We think treats should engage the senses with a variety of flavors, aromas, textures and designs that are fun for the entire family to share with their four-legged family members.  

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Pet Product News

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