Frozen Foods Get Hotter
Retailers report that frozen-raw and freeze-dried diets are more popular than ever.
Some of the most healthful foods available for pets are frozen-raw and freeze-dried meals, according to manufacturers, who reported that the category is growing.
“The raw food category itself is trending,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education for Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn. “We’ve seen so much growth in demand over the past several years.”
Some of the popularity of the category is due to the continuing growth of complete and balanced formulas, Schubert added.
“As new pet parents come into the category, they’re looking for better-quality foods that offer all of the recommended nutritional requirements right out of the package and are convenient to feed,” she said. “Interest in freeze-dried products is also increasing for many of the same reasons.”
|Selling the Raw Truth|
When it comes to selling raw pet food, whether it’s frozen or freeze dried, customer education is vitally important, according to retailers and manufacturers. Only pet owners educated in the benefits of a raw diet will understand the category.
Store staff is key when it comes to educating customers and promoting the category, said Hope Williams, co-owner and president of Best Friend Nutrition in Sequim, Wash. If the staff is educated, she said, they can educate the customer in turn.
Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education for Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn., also emphasized the need for knowledge when it comes to selling this category.
“I’ll sum it up in one word: education,” she said. “As a retailer, you need to do your homework before selecting which brands to bring into your store. Once you’ve made that determination, you need to be sure that you and your sales team are able to talk knowingly about the features and benefits of the products you sell and what differentiates them. Customers will have lots of questions, and you’ll need to be able to provide good answers to them.”
Bravo provides educational support to retailers that carry the company’s products, Schubert said.
“We strongly believe education is key to selling products like ours, and so we work closely with our distributors and retailers to make sure they are able to answer all of the questions consumers might have,” she said. “We teach them about the philosophy behind feeding raw, the benefits to companion animals, how to best match customers with the right products, how to transition dogs and cats over to our products, etc. We find that the better-educated retailers have the most success, as they’re better able to outline the options for customers who come in with specific requests for products.”
Lanny Viegut, owner and CEO of Vital Essentials in Green Bay, Wis., also recommends educating store staff on the benefits of feeding raw food.
“Leverage manufacturers’ resources in time and talent to help educate your staff and your customers,” he said. “Then reinforce training periodically, as needed. A store staff that is comfortable and confident sharing the benefits of raw can exponentially increase revenues.”—AP
Terri Grow, owner of PetSage in Alexandria, Va., said pet owners appreciate freeze-dried raw treats.
“They offer an indulgence for their companion and enticement benefits,” she said. “The high flavor intensity of freeze-dried treats offers a feel-good to owners when they offer them.”
Brad Romero, vice president of Ben’s Barketplace in Roseville, Calif., said his store is experiencing explosive growth in the raw foods category.
“Customers are becoming very savvy and researching what is truly best for their pet family member,” he said. “They realize they must become their pet’s main advocate. Learning and understanding what is appropriate for their pet’s ultimate health has surfaced.”
Laura Amiton, owner of Healthy Pets Northwest, which has stores in Portland, Ore., has seen an expansion in this category over the past several years.
“The trend I see is that the category continues to grow,” she said. “Three or four years ago at SuperZoo, I noticed a marked increase in the amount of freeze-dried raw treats at the show. Since then, it’s grown more than I could have imagined.”
Given the popularity of the category, it’s not surprising that a number of new products in the raw-frozen and freeze-dried category have been introduced this past year.
At Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., this year, Minneapolis-based Sojos introduced Sojos Wild, an exotic, high-protein dog food targeting the freeze-dried category, said Ward Johnson, co-owner and CEO. The food comes in three recipes: Free-Range Venison, Wild-Caught Salmon and Wild Boar. Sojos also launched Simply Wild raw all-meat treats at this year’s SuperZoo in Las Vegas, in the same recipes as Sojos Wild.
Vital Essentials in Green Bay, Wis., recently introduced Mini Patties and Mini Nibs freeze-dried entrées for dogs, said Lanny Viegut, owner and CEO. Both products are available in four recipes.
Radagast Pet Food introduced Rad Cat Raw Diet Grass-Fed Beef and Pasture-Raised Venison meals for cats this year, said Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, vice president and co-founder of the Portland, Ore., company.
“Grass-Fed Beef and Pasture-Raised Venison are two of the most commonly requested varieties for us,” she said. “We’re able to keep the phosphorus levels low, which makes these varieties good options for cats with kidney disease.”
Hatch-Rizzi also said that it’s important for Radagast to be able to only use meat from sustainably and humanely raised animals.
“We have been able to find reliable sources for these varieties that we are very comfortable with,” she said.
In the specialized raw diets category, My Perfect Pet in Poway, Calif., released Low Phosphorus Blend in February of this year.
“This product is all natural and made with fresh, restaurant-grade lamb shoulder and other whole ingredients, with naturally higher moisture content and lower levels of phosphorous and linoleic acid, often recommended for dogs with kidney or renal issues,” said Karen Scoggins, founder. “The Low Phosphorus Blend is the third product in My Perfect Pet’s Personal Care product line, joining the Low Glycemic Chicken and Low Glycemic Beef Blends, formulated to meet specific veterinarian-recommended nutritional requirements for dogs with specific health conditions.”
The popularity of raw foods continues to grow, and Vital Essentials’ Viegut said he has high hopes for the future of the category.
“Increasingly, pet parents are learning the health benefits of feeding raw and are seeing firsthand the real-world impact of a raw diet,” he said. “We anticipate continued, substantial growth as we welcome thousands of new pet parents to the raw category each week.”