These Types of Dog Food Are Becoming Popular Alternatives to Frozen Raw Food | Current problem
“You are what you eat.” Ever aware of nutrition’s role in overall health, today’s consumer embraces this axiom, and the awareness extends to their food choices for the furry set.
“With the growing humanization of pets, more and more dog parents want to feed their puppies fresh, less processed food,” said Ruth Stedman Marriott, CEO and co-founder of A Pup Above, a product manufacturer smoothly based in Austin, TX. cooked pet food. “That means less kibble and more real, minimally processed foods being added to the bowl by dog parents today.”
Pet owners looking for a lightly cooked diet for their dogs often want a fresh-frozen option but don’t choose raw for a variety of reasons, Stedman Marriott added.
“In my case, our puppy Lola didn’t want to eat raw, but we also didn’t want to feed her kibble due to her highly processed nature and high carb content, so we started cooking for her, which which ultimately led us to create Puppy Above,” she said.
Adrian Archie, founder and CEO of petNmind Raw Pet Foods and Supplies in Coconut Creek, Florida, noted that while the lightly cooked category is relatively new to most petNmind customers, interest is strong.
“We’re seeing strong customer adoption because it appeals to the concerned pet parent who isn’t sure about raw food but wants to feed the best,” he said. “It is also very palatable in many brands available and can be used as a mattress topper.”
Archie continued that for these reasons, the category is a good option for finicky pets, and because lightly cooked foods are easy to digest, they’re a good choice for seniors and small dogs.
Freeze-dried selections also offer a minimally processed food that’s more convenient to serve than frozen, according to Stedman Marriott.
Nancy Guinn, co-owner of Dog Krazy, a retailer with multiple locations in Virginia, agreed that freeze-dried options are a popular alternative to raw.
“Customers who are afraid of eating raw but want better nutrition than kibble buy freeze-dried kibble,” she said. “It’s like a stepping stone to raw, and when they see how well their dog is doing on freeze-dried, they realize how much cheaper it is to feed them raw.”
Heather Hickey, senior vice president of sales at Ziwi USA, a manufacturer in Overland Park, Kan.
“These diets are rich in natural nutrients that promote health and well-being,” she added. “Our artisanal, air-dried recipes provide customers with a complete and balanced diet that contains superfoods such as green lipped mussels for glucosamine and chondroitin.”
Amy Snell, national sales manager at Northwest Naturals, a Portland, Oregon-based manufacturer, added that the flexibility offered by freeze-dried selections is another benefit.
“Many pet parents use freeze-dried as a garnish, a nutritious complete meal, or a balanced treat,” Snell said.
Buyers of Dog Krazy do a freeze-dried trial by taking samples at home.
“If we get a bag of food, we turn it into samples,” Guinn said. “Because once a dog has had it, he won’t eat plain kibble.”
For furry family members on the go, freeze-dried foods can make travel easier.
“Customers love freeze-dried for travel because it doesn’t need to be frozen,” Archie said, noting that about 25% of petNmind’s food inventory includes freeze-dried selections.
“Because the price of freeze-dried is higher, our customers use it more as a supplement or to add variety to the diet, more than as the basis of their pet’s nutrition,” he said. .
Giulio Ferrari, founder of The Paw Depot, a pet store in Frisco, Texas, also noticed pet owners using freeze-dried raw foods and lightly cooked foods as toppings.
Also, throughout the pandemic, more people have become aware of the spread of germs. For germ-afraid pet owners, giving their puppies a piece of raw chicken is simply something they can’t imagine, Ferrari said, which is why sales in the lightly cooked and freeze-dried categories are strong.
“It’s not a trend, it’s a necessity,” Ferrari said. “Both are more expensive than raw but can be used as a garnish, and freeze-dried can be an easy impulse buy. I’m not saying there aren’t other reasons people buy it, but the main one is germophobia.
In response to consumer demand, manufacturers are developing nutritious recipes in the freeze-dried and lightly cooked dog food categories.
Launching in 2021, A Pup Above’s gently cooked sous vide line features freshly made bone broth in every recipe, making it easier for pet owners to incorporate broth into their dog’s daily diet. said Ruth Stedman Marriott, CEO and co-founder of the Austin, Texas-based company.
“As a result, pet owners don’t have to buy the bone broth separately, thaw it, and add it to the bowl,” she added. “The bone broth in our recipes is gently simmered for several hours, which gives our recipes a great flavor in addition to the health benefits.”
The ingredients are 100% human grade, sourced from steroid, antibiotic and hormone free meat and non-GMO products, she noted.
Northwest Naturals recently launched its 28-ounce freeze-dried value bag, which is available in beef, chicken, and turkey recipes for dogs. More Valor Bag recipes are expected to be released in the near future.
“We also just launched a beef and trout recipe, which turned out to be very palatable,” said Amy Snell, national sales manager for the Portland, Oregon-based company.
The product is available in raw frozen and freeze-dried formulas and features grass-fed American beef raised without antibiotics or added hormones, while trout is sustainably sourced from the Pacific Northwest.
New recipes are on the horizon at Ziwi USA, according to Heather Hickey, senior vice president of sales for the Overland Park, Kansas-based manufacturer.
“We are building a new super kitchen in Awatoto, New Zealand,” she said. “Once complete, the new facility will allow us to launch exciting new products.”
On the innovation front
When formulating freeze-dried and lightly cooked dog food, manufacturers consider a myriad of factors.
According to Amy Snell, national sales manager for the Portland, Oregon-based company, Northwest Naturals follows Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines for developing complete and balanced foods.
“We also do feeding trials, checking blood levels and palatability,” she said.
Current market trends are another consideration, said Heather Hickey, senior vice president of sales for Ziwi USA in Overland Park, Kan.
“Pet parents are looking for optimal nutrition, but also convenience,” she said.
With this demand in mind, the company’s air-dried recipes offer feeding simplicity.
Hickey added that tasty and functional ingredients with health benefits are a must.
“We include cold-washed green tripe from grass-fed animals in all of our red meat recipes,” she says. “Trips are nutrient-dense, but they’re also very appetizing.”
The process used for lightly cooked foods is crucial, said Ruth Stedman Marriott, CEO and co-founder of A Pup Above in Austin, Texas.
“The reason we developed a way to cook food sous vide is that other techniques, such as kettle cooking, [dry] food, leading to a loss of nutrients and flavor,” she said. “Research has shown that the sous vide method of slowly and evenly cooking foods to retain all of those healthy goodness preserves whole food nutrients and enhances flavors.”
Manufacturer research and development is a key part of the selection process when considering food offerings, said Nancy Guinn, co-owner of Dog Krazy, a retailer with multiple locations in Virginia.
However, she added that trust and a personal relationship between manufacturer and retailer are equally crucial.
“I trust the manufacturers I work with, but I always ask questions about food sourcing and manufacturing,” she said.
Promote the good stuff
Knowledge is key to helping consumers find a nutritional fit for their pets, retailers and manufacturers agree.
Nancy Guinn, co-owner of Dog Krazy, a retailer with multiple locations in Virginia, noted that understanding pet nutrition and available foods are both central to the sales equation.
“Our associates need to know what they’re selling. ‘It should be fine’ is not an acceptable answer,” she said. “Make sure employees know what they’re talking about and make sure you’re offering the right products.”
Adrian Archie, founder and CEO of petNmind Raw Pet Foods and Supplies in Coconut Creek, Florida, agreed.
“Employee knowledge is paramount,” he said. “Most pet owners are unfamiliar with nutrition and desperately need guidance. Additionally, innovation within the industry is in overdrive, further confusing customers.”
For these reasons, training at petNmind consists of material based on dog and cat nutrition, covered in a classroom setting. A sales manual has also proven itself on the sales floor.
Ruth Stedman Marriott, CEO and co-founder of A Pup Above in Austin, Texas, noted that understanding of fresh foods and why they should be added to a pet’s bowl is growing.
“As dog parents view their pets more like their children, they intuitively understand this, which is driving the big shifts we’re seeing in the marketplace toward fresh food,” she said. “However, we’ve found it’s still helpful to outline the ‘why’ behind eating fresh vs. kibble vs. canned food.”
Retailers carrying A Pup Above products receive infographics that discuss the benefits of fresh food to facilitate easy, non-judgmental conversations.
In 2021, Ziwi launched an online training module for retailers.
At the end of the course, students receive a voucher for a free bag of food as a thank you.
“Pet parents rely on knowledgeable store staff to guide them to the food that will meet their pet’s needs,” said Heather Hickey, senior vice president of sales for Ziwi USA at Overland Park, Kansas.