How pandemic pets drove a raw-food boom for pet suppliers

“It’s honestly a bit baffling to see the disconnect between the understanding of human dietary needs and that of dogs. Imagine what you’d think if your doctor told you to eat a biscuit made of factory by-products and a spoonful of vitamin powder for the rest of your life. Our pets deserve a healthier diet than that.”

The Raw & Fresh Pet Food team: (from left) David Elliott, Adam Guest and Bodog Olah. Raw & Fresh Pet Food

Commercial pet food ingredients are determined primarily by margin and shelf-life expectations, says Elliott – and accredited breeders and pet nutritionists overwhelmingly feed raw diets to their own pets, with many adopting popular dietary models such as the “prey model” or the “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF)” model.

However, the gold standard in pet nutrition can be found in the internationally accepted nutritional guidelines developed for pets by the US Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

These standards have been scientifically tested over years to provide a complete and balanced diet – and with some effort, this can be achieved using only natural ingredients.

A recent survey of Australia’s pet owners over the pandemic found that people’s decisions about what to feed their pets were most strongly influenced by the pets themselves, with 43 per cent of pet owners choosing “whether the pet likes it” as the main reason for selecting a certain food, with ingredient quality the second-most chosen reason (41 per cent).

Elliott says that Raw & Fresh is focused on delivering both – high quality ingredients that pets love.

“A balanced meal for a dog might also include fresh bones, lamb necks and kangaroo ribs – things that add enrichment for the pet, that they thoroughly enjoy eating, and which also offer benefits for other health needs like dental hygiene,” says Elliott.

He says that the company benchmarks their pet meals against AAFCO’s “Complete and Balanced” labelling standard – and exceed the AAFCO requirements, as well as going beyond the traditional dietary ratios in raw food models such as BARF.

“We’ve invested a lot of time with our nutritionist team to ensure our recipes are scientifically formulated Complete and Balanced meals that don’t use any artificial or synthetic vitamins, minerals or fillers,” he says.

The Pets and the Pandemic Snapshot, compiled by Newgate Research for Animal Medicines Australia, used surveys and focus groups to assess pet ownership growth since 2019.

The survey found that Australia’s dog population grew by 20 per cent during the pandemic, now numbering 6.3 million, with almost half (47 per cent) of all Australian households now owning at least one dog, up from 40 per cent in 2019.

“Over the last five years, it’s become obvious that families are taking more care with the foods and products they are providing their pets.”

David Elliott, CEO of fast-growing Australian pet meal delivery company Raw & Fresh Pet Food

Meanwhile, 30 per cent of households own one or more cats.

The report also found that demand for pet ownership continues to grow, with 7.3 million households saying they would like to add a pet to their family.

Raw & Fresh has seen this remarkable growth in pet ownership reflected in their own growth of 116 per cent year-on-year since 2019 – and the company has so far tapped into a tiny fraction of Australia’s $13.1 billion per annum dog and cat food market.

“We have introduced healthy meals to over 50,000 pets and during the pandemic alone we prepared around 2 million meals,” says Elliott. “Our goal was to create a healthy balanced diet for dogs and cats which came with affordability, convenience and great customer service – and it’s clearly meeting a growing need.”

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