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January 11, 2017

When families sit down to a traditional meal, it’s a way of celebrating familial roots and enhancing family ties. This custom has crossed over into the pet space, as meal times are a great way of bonding with your dog. In addition, meals comprising raw or freeze-dried raw foods replicate a dog’s ancestral diet, providing a carnivorous meal they love.

A recent study produced by GfK, an international market research and consumer insights company, cited Merrick Pet Care’s Backcountry product line as the top-selling new natural dog food launch in pet specialty in 2015. Merrick joins a plethora of new and established names offering both freeze-dried raw and frozen raw canine options available in pet specialty stores nationwide.

“Backcountry raw infused recipes deliver a perfect combination of protein-rich, grain-free kibble plus real whole pieces of raw, freeze-dried meat for the nutritional benefits and fresh taste of a raw diet in a convenient format for pet parents,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations at Merrick Pet Care. “And given this success, we’ve expanded the line with Backcountry Freeze-dried Raw Meals or Mixers, available in beef and chicken, to provide a nutritional raw boost in a convenient and safe format. It can be served either as a complete and balanced meal or as a mixer on top of kibble.”

Meanwhile, Bravo! offers both frozen raw diets and freeze-dried raw foods based on a simple, single protein, limited-ingredient formula philosophy.

“Our product line of raw foods called Bravo Blends was developed to allow for easy customization to meet the specific nutritional needs of our customers’ dogs,” said Bette Schubert, Bravo! co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education. “Our formulations run the spectrum from healthy, complete and balanced diets, to condition-specific, limited-ingredient, single-protein diets, especially for dogs who are allergy or food-sensitive.

“Our Homestyle Complete freeze-dried dinners have really been a game changer for us in terms of sales and bringing new pet parents into the category,” Schubert said. “This line offers grain- and gluten-free formulas with added veggies, cranberries and vitamins and minerals. We’re gaining new and loyal customers one bite at a time.”

Natural Transition
According to Matt Koss, founder and president of Primal Pet Foods, freeze-dried formulas can be a stepping stone to raw frozen foods.

“Once a customer has transitioned to freeze-dried raw, a natural progression can be the addition of raw frozen foods into the feeding rotation,” he said. “Frozen foods can offer a wider variety of protein sources and will typically be less expensive per pound when compared to a rehydrated freeze-dried formula. Our gateway products, such as raw bones and raw goat milk, are a very approachable introduction to the freezer. These nutritionally functional products have proven to be strong selling SKU’s for our brand.”

Primal Foods runs promotions with pet specialty retailers throughout the year, offering a variety of deals to its consumers.

“These promotional deals can cross promote products or introduce a new product line or the expansion of a line, to name a few,” Koss said. “Our promotions are exclusive to brick and mortar retailers and often feature a raw frozen item to help insulate the retailer from the threat of online sales. We are looking to build long-term and lasting relationships with our specialty pet retailers and our promotional tools are one of many ways we accomplish this.”

Puppies to Senior Dogs
Recently acquired by Wellness Pet Foods, Sojourner Farms began making its Sojos Original raw pet food back in 1985.

“We just launched two new recipes specially formulated for growing puppies,” explained Ward Johnson, Sojos co-founder. “Sojos Complete for Puppies is the first life-stage food in the raw, shelf-stable category. It combines raw, freeze-dried turkey and Omega-rich salmon with select superfoods and a targeted blend of essential vitamins and minerals. It rehydrates in just five minutes to minimize prep time for both puppies and new pet parents, and the ‘soft serve’ mix is particularly friendly for puppies with developing teeth and gums. Also new this year is Sojos SimplyPuppy, raw all-meat treats that come in two varieties: protein-rich turkey and salmon or beef and venison.”

According to Johnson, the company’s “new puppy recipes come at an exciting time… as they represent the next wave of innovation in raw nutrition for pets.”

Stella & Chewy’s has embarked on an active educational drive with their pet specialty retail stockists to inform dog owners how freeze-dried raw food is different from traditional dog food by offering in-store samples, promotional discounts and in-pack coupons that offer consumers savings on their first and repeat purchases.

“Freeze-dried foods can be easily sampled in-store or at pet-centric events and are an ideal way to introduce new potential purchasers to the raw food segment, as they eliminate some barriers that can exist when learning more and trying raw food for the first time,” Stella & Chewy’s Director of Marketing Lee Hessenthaler said.

Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers have been well-received by pet parents since owners can “add raw food nutrition to their dog’s existing diet by adding the product to their current food.”

“Research has shown two thirds of pet parents ‘mix’ kibble with other foods before feeding,” Hessenthaler explained. “So instead of suggesting a change in feeding behavior, it can serve as an easy way to complement and enhance their current brand to deliver raw food nutrition to any meal.”

According to Heather Hickey, national sales director for Nature’s Logic, the company’s raw diets offer complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages.

“With over 95-percent meat, Nature’s Logic raw frozen diets emulate a pet’s ancestral carnivorous diet,” Hickey said. “Our very palatable muscle and organ meat, along with our proprietary dried veggie and fruit concentrate, ensures that dogs are getting all the nutrients they need without any added chemical or synthetic vitamins or minerals.”

For convenient preparation and serving, Nature’s Logic patties come in two sizes, 3.2 ounces or eight ounces and are available in beef, chicken, rabbit and venison.

“We also offer cooking instructions on the package if you prefer to cook for your pet,” explained Hickey, who added that if you reverse the process by initially cooking the meat patties, it’s another way of converting to raw.

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