"MEAT" the Innovators
Lanny Viegut, owner and chief innovator of Vital Essentials, discusses how differentiation and innovation help the company lead in the rapidly growing raw food sector.
Pet Business: Tell us about Vital Essentials’ approach to raw diets and treats.
Lanny Viegut: At our inception in 1968, we pioneered the ALPHA Prey-Model to be the foundation of our raw diet. In combination with the ALPHA Prey-Model approach, we are committed to single-source proteins in our diets and treats. This allows pet parents the choice or rotation of proteins they feel are most appropriate for their pet. Single-sourcing also provides pet parents a variety of options for dogs with allergies, sensitivities or ailments that may be triggered by certain animal proteins.
PB: What sets your company apart from other raw food manufacturers?
Viegut: We are family owned and operated with an innovative culture, and strong commitment to the ALPHA Prey-model approach. What distinguishes Vital Essentials from the rest of the pack is our custom-sourcing program, our engineered freeze-drying technology that we build on site, our limitless scope of operational capabilities, and we are vertically integrated and GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) compliant. We also have a hands-on owner with a meat science degree who has invested his entire career in the meat industry.
PB: What are some of the newest product innovations from Vital Essentials?
Viegut: New product and packaging innovation is an integral part of our culture at Vital Essentials. A year ago, we introduced a freeze-dried snack line that includes: Beef Tendons, Rolled Salmon Skins and Turkey Necks, followed by our Vital Treat line, which includes: Beef Nibs, Wild Alaskan Salmon, Rabbit Bites, Beef Tripe, Turkey Giblets, and Chicken Breast.
When our customers asked for more, we piloted an innovative, multi-channel national voting campaign, where more than 2,000 votes were cast by our stores, distributors and pet parents from all across the USA. Voters were asked to choose three of seven newly proposed freeze-dried treats. As a result of the balloting, we will soon be introducing four new Vital Treats: Salmon Rings, Chicken Hearts, Bully Sticks and Duck Nibs.
This month, Vital Essentials is introducing Freeze-Dried Mini Nibs and Freeze-Dried Mini Patties. The line features new flavors, packaging and smaller bite-sized nibblets for all breeds and ages. Qualifying stores will have access to a premium, VE-branded, natural wood retail display unit—a first for Vital Essentials.
PB: What does the future hold for Vital Essentials, and the raw-food category overall?
Viegut: The future is bright for Vital Essentials, and for other leaders in our category. Increasingly, pet parents are learning the health benefits of feeding raw, and they are seeing, first-hand, the real-world impact of a raw diet as they transition from traditional kibble diets.
Freeze-dried products will continue to evolve and exponentially grow, occupying more retail shelf space and playing a more significant role in the raw pet food market than ever before. We anticipate continued, substantial growth as we welcome thousands of new pet parents to the raw category each week. As leading raw diet providers, the ultimate investment we can make for our future and the future for millions of healthier pets is a categorical commitment to raw pet food awareness and education, inviting and welcoming new pet parents to the “category of the future.”