Healthy and humane: Noochies launches pet food that is factory farming-free

15 Sep 2023

US pet food brand Noochies uses nutritional yeast to make its meat-free, healthy dog food and freeze-dried snacks for cats and dogs – a humane pet food range that is free from factory farming meat, it says.

The US company’s portfolio currently includes two dog food products available in plastic pouches – one for breakfast and one for dinner – and two freeze-dried snack products, one for dogs and one for cats. In addition to nutritional yeast, the breakfast dog food is made with oats, sweet potato, and peanut butter while the dinner dog food contains pumpkin seeds, squash, and sprouted grains. All its products are enriched with Bmmune, its patented ingredient blend of fermented proteins and nutritional yeast that has an amino acid profile similar to chicken or lamb and is a complete protein for dogs.

Healthy and humane: Noochies launches pet food that is factory farming-free
Image credit: Noochies/Joshua Erret

The high-protein, meat-free, freeze-dried dog snacks – launched this month – are a category first in the US, the company claims.

‘Pet food today is over-processed and over-supplemented’

Although animal meat is the traditional diet of cats and dogs, Joshua Errett, founder and interim CEO of Noochies, told Ingredients Network that pet food products today tend to be far from natural. This was his inspiration to develop Noochies.

“Pet food today is over-processed and over-supplemented, to the point where meat doesn't play as large of a role in food as you might think,” he said. “Take for instance the inclusion of synthetically produced taurine in cat food. Taurine is an essential amino acid, meaning cats cannot produce on their own, and is naturally found in animal flesh. So why do we have to add it to almost all meat-based foods?

“And if indispensable nutrients like taurine that are supposed to be in meat instead have to be added, why include meat at all? This is what started me on a path to find more sustainable ingredients than factory farmed meats. I don't yet have a complete protein solution for cats – true carnivores – I am working on it!”

It uses nutritional yeast as the main protein base for its products – but the ingredient is not completely novel in the pet food category.

“[It] appears in probably 99% of commercial pet food already,” Erret said. “It is a natural ingredient that is high in protein, high in fibre, and high in B complex vitamins that boost immunity, energy, nutrient absorption, and all kinds of other benefits. It is certainly comparable to meat in amino acid profile – it actually is a complete protein for dogs, containing all the amino acids a canine needs.”

Noochies also fortifies its products, and its dog food meets US regulatory requirements for complete nutrition for animals. Its snacks, which are intended to be fed to cats and dogs intermittently as a treat, are not nutritionally complete products.

Premium positioning: ‘Price does not win in this market’

The products are undoubtedly premium: one 454 g pouch retails for $27.00 on Noochies’ website while one packet of freeze-dried snacks costs $13.99.

Credit: Noochies/Joshua ErretImage credit: Noochies/Joshua Erret

According to Erret, producing cheap pet food does not necessarily make sense strategic business sense in the US – even given the current inflationary climate and global cost-of-living crisis.

“If you look at the pet market, consumers are not buying low priced foods. The opposite is happening. Low-cost brands are not growing, and on a macroeconomic scale, consumers are buying less products for more money. That's because price does not win this market. People want their pets to be healthy and will pay for quality products that provide health benefits.”

The entrepreneur said that Noochies products deliver key health benefits to cats and dogs – notably, for immunity, digestion, and longevity – and this was far more important to the company and consumers than price parity with factory farmed chicken.

Erret described Noochie products as sustainable, humane, and healthy, and said the brand’s target consumers were those looking to feed their animals “harm-free” pet food that was free from factory farmed meat. Younger generations were particularly receptive to these values, he added.

Cell-cultivated pet food could launch in 2024

Erret is also vice president of CULT Food Science, a Canadian company that invests in cellular agriculture startups. Last month (August), CULT announced it had partnered with Singapore-based biotech startup Umami Bioworks to develop a cat food product made using cell-cultivated fish.

The hybrid plant-based/cultivated fish product, called Marina Cat, is also fortified with Bmmune, Noochies' ingredient that it sells to other pet food brands. Commercial production is scheduled to begin later this year with a widespread launch slated for 2024, according to a statement issued by the companies.

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