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Niche business taps into growing trend

Tom O'Leary Oct 10
Niche business taps into growing trend
Otago Pet Foods makes the Back to Nature brand of pottled raw meat pet food.

Innovative Dunedin business, Otago Pet Foods, is growing on the back of a strong consumer trend towards fresh, natural products manufactured from traceable sources.

The company is owned and run by Mat and Kim Thom who took a leap of faith and started the business from their home in 2012.

It now has a wholesale/retail operation running from a commercial premises in McGlashan St, employing six staff.

Otago Pet Foods makes the Back to Nature brand of pottled raw meat pet food available in some supermarkets.

To operate, the company is required to meet strict Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI) regulations, including meat inspecting and food safety require-ments.

This partly involved Mat studying to become an accredited meat inspector through MPI and to implement a risk management and food safety programme in the business.

The business is based on the philosophy that a carnivore’s paleo diet includes meat, offal and bone.

Otago Pet Foods offers numerous pet food options, including treats, sourced from beef, sheep, poultry, venison, rabbit, hare, turkey and salmon in a variety of forms such as pure meat, mince, bones and selected offal, fresh or dried.

Its premium dog roll is made on-site from beef, chicken, salmon and venison, boosted with added vitamins and minerals.

There are significant health benefits in pets eating a raw meat diet as it is more natural than the dry or wet pet food sold through conventional channels, Mat says.

Also available from Otago Pet Foods are nutritional supplements, such as green-lipped mussel extract which has many benefits, Mat says.

“Powdered extract of green-lipped mussel contains very high concentration of omega three and a unique combination of fatty acids not found in any other marine or plant life.”

As an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin, a pair of critical building blocks for bones and cartilage, the product can reduce and inhibit inflammation, relieving pain associated with pets joint problems.

“All that’s required is a pinch over food.”

After feeding Otago Pet Foods products, customers often comment on their pets improved health, overall well-being and energy levels.

“The proof is in the outcome. We have a lot of thankful customers who have seen the benefit in their pets.”

Mat cautions it is important for a pet’s food to be changed carefully and slowly and he is happy to advise on an appropriate transition to a raw diet.

Starting a niche business that has required educating clients has been tough going at times, however the pet food industry is significant in terms of national revenues and Dunedin has the largest per household dog ownership in New Zealand, Mat says.

Otago Pet Foods is a member of the New Zealand Pet Food Manufactuer’s Association of New Zealand.

Membership helps Mat and Kim keep up-to-date with industry issues and market trends, and has been a great way to network with other business owners.

Data published by the association reveals that 64% percent of New Zealand households own at least one companion animal and, with a total pet population of 4.6 million, is the second highest rate of pet ownership in the world.

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