Nourishing Pets and Pet Stores
Michael Landa, founder and CEO of Nulo Pet Food, discusses how his company has embraced the role of innovator in the pet nutrition category while driving new business into the independent pet specialty channel.
Pet Business: What inspired you to get into the pet food business? What were some of the key deficiencies in the pet nutrition market that you wanted to address with Nulo?
Michael Landa: My inspiration for Nulo stemmed from the decade I spent founding and running one of the nation’s largest at-home pet care businesses. During this period, I witnessed firsthand (with the 18,000 dogs and cats under my company’s care) the silent epidemic of pet obesity and the rapid rise of diabetes in dogs, and particularly in cats. We now understand the culprit of this unfortunate trend is the proliferation of low meat protein, high-carb and high-glycemic ‘cost-optimized’ foods being fed to our nation’s pets—and marketed as super-premium.
As a former engineer, I dug in and immersed myself in the minute details of pet nutrition to build a better food platform, enlisting the help of some of the nation’s best formulators, scientists and nutritionists to help me get there.
PB: Tell us about Nulo’s approach to providing the best possible nutrition for pets. What are the company’s guiding principles?
Landa: Given my history and my advocacy for feeding better foods, our approach to nutrition is simple and unwavering. In all of our recipes we seek high-meat, low-carb, low-glycemic outcomes with functional ingredients that are viable and contribute on an as-fed basis, not simply shoved in a premix at 0.001 percent to make the label. For me, it’s all about the nutrition that ends up in the bowl. Pets rely on us to get it right.
PB: How does the company maintain its position as an innovator? How has your approach evolved over the years?
Landa: By continuously investigating best practices—both in pet and in the human space—we are always looking for new and exciting concepts and ingredients that allow us to extend our nutritional platform into other categories or forms. You’ll find we’re not ‘line extenders’ for the sake of line extending. If there is a valid gap, or an opportunity to deliver a solutions-based food better than what we see in the market, we’ll pursue it.
PB: What are some of the latest products introduced by Nulo? How do these products reflect the company’s unique approach to providing high-quality pet nutrition?
Landa: We’re very excited to begin shipping a host of new products—two food platforms and two treat lines.
First, our Limited+ LID line is resonating with retailers and consumers as a true LID—single protein, high-meat, lower-carb solutions. Crude protein levels are 30 percent or more, with the majority coming from animal sources. It also includes the human-grade form of the BC30 probiotic with guaranteed viability as fed. Limited+ delivers all of the benefits, but elevates the nutrition in the category.
Next, our Complete & Balanced Raw Freeze Dried diets provide raw whole prey nutrition in an easy-to-serve, freeze-dried form with 80 percent or more meat, organs and bone in every recipe, complementary fruit pairings and functional ingredients like kale, kelp, parsley and spinach for superior nutrition. It’s also the first freeze-dried pet food to include the BC30 probiotic—one billion CFU/lb guaranteed!
We’ve been receiving remarkable reviews from the early shipments of our new functional Jerky line as well. Our Jerky is made with simple, whole ingredients—a ‘clean-label’ treat with no added sugars or cane molasses. It’s derived from muscle and meat tissue, not mechanically deboned meats, as is often the case. This, along with the provision of visible fruit pairings in each recipe, make it very attractive visually to consumers, not to mention extremely palatable to dogs. It’s also the first Jerky Treat to feature the BC30 probiotic with guaranteed viability. It is a healthy treat that delivers real function.
Finally, our high-meat Training Treats in Duck, Turkey and Salmon recipes have no added sugars, artificial preservatives or artificial colors. True to our platform, they are also free of grain, soy, wheat, corn and gluten. For retailers looking for a super-healthy three-calorie treat solution for their customers-in-training, this product is a nice alternative to what’s currently available in this category. I encourage folks to compare.
PB: Last year, Forbes honored Nulo as one of “The 25 Most Innovative Consumer Brands of 2016.” What does this distinction mean to you and your team? What does it say about the company?
Landa: We’re pretty proud of the recognition. It’s not an award that you can apply for or get nominated for. They find you. It’s selected by a panel of some of the most respected consumer products experts in the nation. We believe that what the panel saw in Nulo was our disciplined approach to innovation—both in terms of our nutritional efficacy and differentiation, as well as our consumer marketing approach, which is not just a ‘marketing platform’, but a living and breathing brand embodiment of who we are and how we think on a day-to-day basis.
PB: Aside from producing an expanding lineup of high-quality products, how does Nulo help drive success for independent pet specialty retailers? How is the company investing in this retail channel?
Landa: Our unique positioning and marketing activation strategy makes us one of the few brands that has the ability to authentically drive new consumers into independent pet stores. We deploy localized, integrated marketing tactics that support retailers that embrace our partnership together. We see measurable results in terms of traffic, trial, conversion and loyalty.
PB: What does the future hold for Nulo? Do you currently have any new products in the pipeline or new areas of development that you can discuss?
Landa: We have a few very interesting concepts in development that relate to the increasing consumer desire to engage more with their pets during meal prep. We’ve been studying opportunities to elevate both the nutritional and sensorial aspects of the overall mealtime experience. PB