Revving Up Raw
Molly Mulcahy, vice president of brand marketing for Stella & Chewy’s, discusses how this raw food pioneer continues to innovate in one of the fast-growing pet nutrition categories.
Tell us about Stella & Chewy’s approach to pet nutrition. What sets the company and its products apart in the marketplace?
Stella and Chewy’s delicious recipes are carefully crafted to best mimic a raw diet as nature intended, while making it convenient for pet parents to feed their pets only the good stuff. We set ourselves apart from competitors by developing for all pets, including those who are picky eaters or suffer from food allergies. We only use quality ingredients, responsibly sourced from farmers and ranchers we know and trust. We understand pets are carnivores, and our frozen and freeze-dried diets are over 90 percent meat organ and bone and made from sustainably sourced ingredients. We ensure the highest quality, as each batch is made with care in the U.S., with no ingredients from China.
Stella & Chewy’s is one of the pioneers of the raw pet food movement. How has this segment of pet nutrition evolved since the company was founded in 2003?
More brands have entered the raw pet food category as they see the growing demand from pet parents. More and more pet parents are looking for the best solutions for their pets, so there is a lot more interest in this category. Pet parents recognize that feeding raw is the pinnacle of best in class nutrition.
What are some of Stella & Chewy’s most popular products? What are the key selling points of these products?
Our Freeze-Dried Raw Meal Mixer business is on fire. Pet parents love the convenience and value of adding raw to their pets diet, so that business has grown steadily and continues to expand our consumer base. Our Baked kibble business is just two years into the market, and the results have been outstanding. The business has quickly built a strong following of pet parents that love the pristine ingredients and prefer a less processed baked kibble—and dogs love the taste, as each piece of kibble is coated in raw goodness.
What are Stella & Chewy’s newest introductions? How do these products innovate the pet nutrition category?
Our newly reinvented wet food for cats uses 100 percent human-grade ingredients and is made in a human-grade kitchen in the U.S. The No. 1 ingredient is real USDA inspected muscle meat, and the No. 2 ingredient is nutrient-rich, tasty bone broth. The cat food offers a complete and balanced diet for adult cats. We know cats can be finicky, and this unique combination of pristine ingredients and amazing texture has allowed us to make products that cats truly go wild for!
The new wet cat food has four offerings: cage-free turkey morsels, chicken and salmon morsels, cage-free chicken pate and cage free turkey pate.
Our new Simply Stella’s Limited Ingredient Diets are the first baked limited-ingredient diets coated in raw goodness for a taste that dogs will go wild for. Our new limited-ingredient diets are the perfect solution for dogs with food sensitivities. The new recipes keep things simple, with easily digestible carbohydrates and no extra fillers or additives. The No. 1 ingredient in each recipe is a responsibly-sourced animal protein, and all recipes include only one animal protein. We are launching three new offerings: turkey, lamb and duck.
Our new Lil’ Bites are mighty meals for small breed dogs. They are high in protein for boosted raw nutrition and have unique little bites, perfectly sized for small mouths. The limited-ingredient recipes include single-source animal protein options that provide solutions for common small breed food allergies. This is the best solution for picky small breed dogs. The recipes include unique ingredients like coconut flour, turmeric and chia seed, specially designed to all small breed dogs to thrive! Lil’ Bites has four offerings: Bitty Beef, Chicken Little, Dainty Duck and Little Lamb.
What types of sales and marketing support does Stella & Chewy’s offer its retail partners?
We go above and beyond to support neighborhood pet retailers, as they are the best partners to build our business with. We have a large, dedicated marketing spend on driving pet parents into neighborhood pet stores, with a focus on in and out of store. We have strong digital efforts focusing on the right pet parents at the right time to drive them into neighborhood pet stores.
Our sales marketing support efforts include:
• Product Exclusivity—All of our new product innovation is exclusive to neighborhood pet retailers (excluding freeze dried).
• New Red Door Retailer Program—For independent retailers who meet our distribution thresholds, we go above and beyond with providing dedicated incremental marketing investment to drive more pet parents into their store.
• Stella Squad Retailer Education Program—We’ve invested in an online training program for store associates to learn more about the category and Stella & Chewy’s products, along with opportunity to earn incentives for becoming part of our “Stella Squad.”
• Category Industry Training—We’ve identified what the top “trigger” customer needs are for switching pet food brands, and we share this information with independents so they can better understand their customer needs and provide the optimal recommendation
• Journey Home Fund—For every bag of Stella & Chewy’s purchased, we donated a meal to a shelter of the neighborhood pet stores choice.
• Trade Shows—We attend the two big industry trade shows (Global Pet Expo and Super Zoo) to continue building relationships and work with independent retailers.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing pet stores in the raw food category? How can working with the right vendors help in both respects?
The biggest opportunities for the raw food category are education and continued growth. Pet parents are beginning to understand the power of raw. The raw pet food category is a newer pet food segment and requires more category education to convert pet parents to raw food.
Overall, the biggest trend we see is pet parents wanting to provide better for their animals. Therefore, pet parents are doing more research and proactively seeking out better food options, which include raw pet food.
However, there is still a misunderstanding on the safety of raw. The raw pet food industry has experienced some product recalls, which has resulted in some customers having trust/credibility issues with raw pet food. This, unfortunately, gives the perception that raw pet food is not safe. We need to continue to partner with neighborhood pet stores to help educate on the power of raw and the importance of partnering with brands committed to food safety.
We go above and beyond to keep our products safe. Food safety is our No. 1 priority. We use our SecureByNature patented food safety process to ensure your furry family member is getting the safest and most nutritious food available in the market. Our patented SecureByNature food safety process is designed to make our foods safe from harmful bacteria naturally, while retaining the food’s nutrient value and flavor. In addition, we use a high pressure pasteurization to keep the products safe.
What does the future hold for Stella & Chewy’s? Do you currently have any new products in development?
We will continue to ensure our existing products keep performing and remain safe. We are working on new ways to make raw even more convenient, and make our brand more available to a broader audience of pet parents. PB