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Nugget’s Legacy: ‘Let Food be Thy Medicine’ Leads Pet Brand’s Mission

By Pet Age Staff//July 1, 2024//

Nugget’s Legacy: ‘Let Food be Thy Medicine’ Leads Pet Brand’s Mission

By: Pet Age Staff//July 1, 2024//

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After decades of preparing fresh, healthy meals and snacks for her own dogs, Dayna Bartoldson has dismissed the notion of “people food” versus “dog food.” Food is food, she feels, and it’s either nutritious or not.

That’s why Pet Age spoke with Bartoldson, who explained to us how she’s re-inventing the “healthy snacking” market with innovative, fresh and wholesome real food snacks that are part of a year-round, healthy lifestyle


How would you describe your inspiration for launching Nugget’s Healthy Eats?

My lab rescue, Nugget, was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 11. This inspired me to start making bone broth in my kitchen to support his immune system. This goes back almost 10 years, when the holistic consumables market was just taking off, and we didn’t have nearly the selection of high-quality snacks and supplements that we have today. Nugget lived another four years, and I’m convinced that the focus I put on an immune-supportive diet enhanced and extended his quality of life.

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” The good news is we know that healing can take place in the gut as well and, if you follow Hippocrates’ logic, “Let food by thy medicine,” nutritious meals and snacking are key to optimal health. I did what a lot of entrepreneurs do: create a better solution than what was available on the market. Today, we distribute through Pet Food Experts and Southeast Pet across the country.


What do you consider to be the keys to product development?

Innovation with the purpose of solving consumer problems, not just to make “me too” products that take a piece of market share. Take our bone broth for example. I created it simply to help dog and cat tummies, immune systems and joints, skin and coats be healthier. Through the years, it has been extremely rewarding to talk with retailers and consumers about how our products are making a significant difference to the health of many pets.

There’s been a ton of innovation during the last decade. I think we’re extremely lucky to be living in a time when there are so many life-enhancing and, in some cases, life-saving foods available to our pets. Pet parents are well-served by continued innovation resulting in high-quality alternatives.

And that’s what Nugget’s tries to do. We’re much smaller than our competitors, so we need to offer something truly special. We like to say that we put money into making the highest quality product (ingredients, sourcing, minimally processed practices) rather than marketing. And there are lots of great brands that do this. Retail partners are therefore key to educating and communicating why our products enhance the health of pets.


Why are your relationships with pet retailers so important to you?

Lots of reasons! We partner exclusively with indie retail partners. Imagine for a moment a world with no indies. Where would pet parents go to find a true advocate and partner in a holistic approach to their pets’ care? To get help with loose stools or allergies if they want to consider food and/or supplement solutions over medications? Where might they go to learn how to read an ingredient deck, or about the bioavailability of nutrients? Or about sourcing and human-grade ingredients? In my opinion, no one does this better than the well-staffed indie store stocked with top brands. Our retail partners are key to communicating about our brand and product differentiators. They are often our voice, and we are lucky to have so many great ones.

We also work with our retail partners on new products. I’ve run product ideas past many of our retail partners. Our Fish Brew is a good example. Many retailers asked for it. I explored with them why it was important to their customers. Then we worked with them to compile a list of “must-do’s” such as wild caught, whole fish – including heads, Omegas and more to develop the best product possible.


What are your thoughts on how retailers can educate customers on gut health?

It all starts with developing a trust and rapport with the consumer. I’ve always liked the saying “No one cares how much you know… until they know how much you care.”

And indie retailers have no shortage of passion for helping their customers. From there it’s about creating the time, space and opportunity to have those conversations right there in the store, with all the great products as a backdrop in support.

Your staff doesn’t need to have a degree in microbiology to have these discussions with customers. Keep it simple! Start with easy – the importance of hydrating the diet. Focus on the gut being key to good health; our ancestors have known this for centuries.

In fact, today’s “restaurant” got its name from the French verb “restaurer,” which means “to restore oneself.” Way back in the old-timey days, early restaurants served weary travelers primarily one dish: bouillon. Fast forward centuries to grandma’s “cure-all” chicken soup and leading hospitals feeding bone broth… to today’s exceptionally high-quality bone broths simmered for days with organ meat for our pets’ optimal health.

Remember, gut health doesn’t just mean digestion. More than 80 percent of a pet’s immune system resides in the gut. A weakened immune system means greater susceptibility to disease.

As our pets age, their immune systems become less effective at fighting disease, especially during colder months. Seniors and pets with chronic disease, as well as puppies & kittens and newly adopted pets with unknown pasts, all benefit from a gut/immune supportive diet.

A high-quality “sticky” bone broth naturally reduces inflammation and “seals and heals” the gut. By sealing the gut lining (leaky gut), we can holistically address many of the chronic and systemic health issues customers ask about every day.