Mary Helen Horn, president of Ziwi USA, explains how the company is revolutionizing pet nutrition with its unique approach to crafting alternative-to-raw diets.
Pet Business: Tell us about Ziwi. How/when was the company started? What inspired its creation?
Mary Helen Horn: Ziwi was founded in 2004 by a New Zealand couple who shared a passion for pet health and nutrition, and were looking for a more convenient way for pet owners to give their pets the benefits of a raw diet. Drawing on the knowledge gained from 20-plus years in the New Zealand meat industry, they modernized and refined the ages-old artisan method of naturally preserving meats to create an entirely new product in the alternative-to-raw category—air-dried pet food.
PB: Air-dried diets are certainly a nutritional innovation for which Ziwi is well-known. What are the benefits of producing food this way?
Horn: Health Benefits: Our air-dried recipes are based on a wild-prey model for carnivores. They all contain at least 95 percent meat, organ and bone, are grain-free and low-carb, and contain no artificial preservatives. Our slow and gentle, twin-stage process eliminates potential pathogens in the raw meat; and, because we craft our air-dried foods in small batches, we are able to use very low temperatures to minimize nutrient loss. Research shows that dogs and cats that are fed a species-appropriate diet like Ziwi generally live longer, healthier lives and have less incidence of diet-related allergies and disease.
Concentrated Flavor and Nutrition: The process of removing moisture concentrates the nutrients and the flavor, so our air-dried food has a meaty scent that most pets find irresistible. Concentrated nutrition also means smaller serving sizes, increased digestibility and, ultimately, less backyard cleanup!
Convenience and Versatility: Since it requires no rehydration, air-dried food is the easiest to feed of the alternative-to-raw products. It’s also very versatile: Ziwi air-dried can be fed as a complete and balanced diet, a topper, a nutritious treat or a high-value training reward.
Safety: Since air-drying destroys potential pathogens—such as E.coli, salmonella, and listeria—it is safer to handle than raw meat; this is especially important for people and pets that have weakened immune systems or are recovering from illness.
PB: How does Ziwi help retailers educate pet owners about these benefits?
Horn: We have passionate team members who visit stores daily and conduct on-site trainings. They also provide written and digital materials to help retailers understand and articulate the benefits of Ziwi to pet parents.
Later this spring, we will be maximizing training opportunities for our retailers with the launch of online training modules. The modules will provide a fun, flexible and interactive way for their employees to become experts on Ziwi’s products, ingredient sourcing and core values.
PB: What other types of products does Ziwi offer? What are the key features of these products?
Horn: We also offer a moist/canned range of both dog and cat foods, as well as air-dried training rewards/treats and oral health chews for dogs. Ziwi’s canned recipes are based on a prey model diet, and contain no carrageenan, artificial binding agents, grains or fillers. Our Good Dog Rewards offer complete and balanced nutrition and are low in calories (five per piece), so they don’t sabotage an otherwise-healthy diet. Trainers love the jerky-like consistency because it doesn’t easily crumble. Our Oral Health Chews are also air-dried, to provide a long-lasting and great-tasting natural chew for dogs.
PB: Another unique feature that Ziwi is known for is its commitment to sourcing from ethical farms in New Zealand. Why does the company take this approach to sourcing?
Horn: New Zealand is recognized worldwide for having clean, ethical farming practices and superior-quality meats. Because we craft our foods there, we are able to source from farmers that we know and trust and can trace every batch of Ziwi back to the farm from which the meat originated.
New Zealand has a very temperate climate, which allows for open-pasture grazing year-round. This means we are able to source only meats that are grass-fed and grass-finished, which means they offer more nutritive benefits. It’s also important to us that the New Zealand meats we source are GMO-free and free of added growth hormones and antibiotics.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) strictly regulates and monitors farms and fishing to ensure ethical methods and sustainability, as well as low environmental impact. And, as an island country with very strict biosecurity, livestock diseases such as deer chronic wasting disease and BSE are non-existent there.
PB: Are there any other aspects of Ziwi’s approach to providing high-quality pet nutrition that makes the company stand out in the marketplace?
Horn: Ziwi is still a family-owned company. Our owners have a deep love of pets and a strong commitment to offering only the best in pet nutrition, to ethical sourcing and to investing in research and innovation.
PB: Has Ziwi launched any particularly innovative new products recently? Do you have any exciting product launches currently in the pipeline?
Horn: 2017 saw the launch of several new products, including our Mackerel & Lamb range for dogs and cats. Available in air-dried and moist/canned, it combines the benefits of omega-rich Blue Mackerel and grass-fed New Zealand Lamb. Ziwi Mackerel & Lamb has received numerous awards and recognitions internationally, including Pet Business’ prestigious Industry Recognition Award. We expect to announce the launch of new innovations later this spring.
PB: What does the future hold for Ziwi?
Horn: Ziwi is a young company with a great past and a fabulous future.
As consumers become more informed about the link between nutrition and human health, they are also realizing that a species-appropriate diet is essential for their pets to live long, healthy lives. Because of this, trends indicate that the highest-growth categories in the pet food industry will continue to be natural, grain-free and alternative-to-raw diets.
Ziwi is perfectly positioned in all three major growth categories. And, as the innovator and global leader in air-dried pet nutrition, we will continue to invest in new innovations as we lead the pack in super-premium pet nutrition. PB