Five Questions: Primal Pet Foods Founder Matt Koss

Glenn Polyn//August 1, 2022//

Five Questions: Primal Pet Foods Founder Matt Koss

Glenn Polyn //August 1, 2022//

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Pet Age recently spoke with Matt Koss, founder of Primal Pet Foods, to learn about the brand’s history and his plans for the future.


What did you bring to the pet industry when you started Primal Pet Foods in 2001?  

When I started Primal, I wanted to create a solution for what I had identified as a significant gap   in the quality of ingredients being utilized to produce commercial pet foods.  As a trained chef, I had access to an abundance of wholesome, edible grade raw ingredients that were not being fully consumed in the human food market.  Rather, many of these highly nutritious food sources were being sold intentionally or discarded due to the lack of demand in the human food supply chain in the United States.  Ultimately, it was my beloved canine Luna that inspired me to change the pet food industry and create foods that would positively impact the lives of companion animals. The Primal journey began when at age 10, Luna started experiencing health issues – her kidneys were failing, and she had lost her appetite.  After exhausting all diet options available in the market, I turned to a holistic veterinarian who encouraged me to try a high-quality diet based on bones and raw food. I started preparing my own species appropriate pet food for Luna, and quickly saw the improvements in her health – an increase in appetite, vibrant energy, and a sense of happiness that I had not witnessed from her since her diagnosis of renal failure.  I was determined to share my solution with other pet parents and educate them on the benefits of feeding a quality raw food diet. In doing so, we helped push the industry to look beyond what had traditionally been available – and contributed to the innovation and building of the raw and freeze-dried raw pet food category. 


Why should consumers consider feeding their pets a raw food diet? 

Dogs and cats are carnivores – a raw meat-based diet offers the greatest nutritional value to them.  Species appropriate diets of raw foods are highly digestible, offer optimum nutrient absorption and provide a natural form of moisture critical to overall health. Dogs and cats should obtain most of their water from the food they eat, and raw foods contain 70-80% moisture.  When Primal was founded, I wasn’t aware of the large number of pets that were being brought to their veterinarian for basic health issues that could be solved by an appropriate diet. I quickly learned that low-quality, highly processed foods had the potential to cause health issues with skin and coat or could even lead to renal failure or diabetes. I founded Primal to help make raw food diets more accessible to all pets – providing solutions that deliver a sustainable, species appropriate, wholesome form of nutrition for dogs and cats. 


What do you attribute the growth of raw frozen food during the COVID environment?  

Our raw frozen food offerings have continued to grow at similar rates to our freeze-dried raw offerings.  This continued growth is taking place mainly because more pet parents are aware of the category and understand the benefits that species appropriate foods can make for their dogs and cats. Our strategy has always been to support independent pet retail and we see the frozen category as an opportunity to do this – it is a great way to get shoppers into their local store.  Our team intentionally positioned frozen raw as a competitive advantage to support our retailers, and that has gained significant traction. As we entered the COVID environment and stores started to shut down, frozen became a key driver to retailers being able to maintain consumer loyalty. The frozen shopper realized they couldn’t get our frozen products online. Our brick-and-mortar partners quickly pivoted to curbside service and home delivery options for their frozen consumers. Many of our independent pet retail partners have indicated that their frozen foods were the key driver to maintaining “in-store” sales.  This strategy has proven to be a major success for our retailers over the last two years.  


Why is independent pet retail your core focus?  

Neighborhood pet stores believe in education – they understand the importance of teaching their shoppers about pet nutrition. We know that the raw food category wouldn’t have been possible without a strong and successful education program. And thanks to the knowledgeable retail training team that my colleagues, Matt Pirz and Jessica Aron, built, we became the pioneers of retail education in this industry. Our pet retail partners have been open and willing to let us come into their stores to speak about the benefits of feeding raw. Neighborhood pet has been incredibly supportive of our brand as well as our entire team for the last 20 years, and we remain committed to them.  Independent pet continues to be the core focus for our frozen business because we see it as a great way to keep brick-and-mortar stores relevant in today’s e-commerce focused environment. 


After 20 years of being in the pet industry, what continues to drive your passion?  

We set out to make a positive impact on the health of all dogs and cats by educating consumers about the benefits of raw food. After 20 years, we continue to learn and innovate, bringing new, highly nutritious products to market. It helps that I’ve been surrounded by a team, or what feels more like a family, of intelligent and passionate people. We all share in the commitment to helping pets, and I love to see how we can bring this dedication to our jobs, our brand, and the industry. I started Primal because I wanted to make the most nutritious food for pets, and that continues to be my passion. Our team continues to innovate with the same goal I had 20 years ago – to improve the quality of life and overall health and happiness of pets. 


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