If it moves, it dies.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
FOR one, you will never find Special Cat anywhere else in the world but in the Philippines.
That's right, Special Cat is a fairly new premium dry cat food that is being manufactured exclusively for the Philippine market.
Back in 2014 when the United States experienced crippling port congestion that delayed the shipment of goods, including pet foods, Manila-based businesses were affected.
Pet Discount, Inc., which imports dog food from the US, had to look for an alternative source. They found Monge, a leading Italian pet food manufacturer, and ordered a shipment of their premium dry dog food called Special Dog. Then it occurred to Jehan Teng Sy, owner of Pet Discount, to ask Monge for a companion product for cats. From that simple question, a new product was born: Special Cat.
“If there's a Special Dog there should be a Special Cat – it's like a couple. So, we asked Monge if they could make a Special Cat for us and they agreed,” Sy told MetroPets.
To serve the Philippine market, Monge designed all-new packaging for Special Dog and Special Cat in English. They also made smaller bags to suit the local market's preference.
Sy said Special Cat is a premium yet affordable cat food. Pet shops retail the 7kg bag of Special Cat for P700 while online pet shops sell it for P795.
“We don't sell in groceries. We sacrifice our cost so it can reach consumers at a lower price. We are very confident about its quality because it's made in Europe, which has set higher standards for their pet food industry than elsewhere,” said Sy.
Available only in chicken and turkey flavor, the kibbles of Special Cat look like small florets or stars in dark brown color.
“Cats don't need kibbles in shapes that are not practical like the round ones with holes, or kibbles in different colors as they can't really see too many colors,” Sy said.
Special Cat is developed to be good for cats' at “All Life Stages” so its small pellets are particularly appropriate for kittens.
So, what else makes Special Cat special? Here's what the packaging says:
* Special Cat contains 32 percent protein and 13 percent fat.
* Its ingredients include cereals, meat and meat by-products (chicken and turkey), oils and fats (salmon oil), vegetables, fish and fish-by-product, minerals, yeasts and Yucca plant extract (reduces stool odor).
* Has probiotics Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) + Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) which regulate gastrointestinal micro flora, and aids in absorption of calcium and other minerals.
* Has low magnesium content to protect the kidneys
* Has Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids for healthy and shiny coat
* Enriched with Taurine, Calcium and Phosphorus for strong bones and teeth
Since Special Cat's launch last year, Pet Discount says it has done much better than expected. The owners forecast that the brand will steadily gain a better foothold on the market as it matures. After all it's not everyday that an Italian company goes out of its way to produce something unique for cats here, giving our resident cats one good reason to meow out loud: “It's more special in the Philippines!”
By ALMA J. BUELVA
A startup dog food company, Escuin Pet Food Manufacturing, is making a strong pitch for raw feeding with its fresh line of frozen uncooked meat with vegetables and dog treats made from natural ingredients.
Its brand, Natural Goodness Real Food for Dogs, hit the ground running at the start of the year with two ready-to-serve raw dog meals (chicken or beef) and three varieties of dog chews – pumpkin biscuits, chicken strips and sweet potato chips.
Necessity is the mother of invention and for Donna Escuin, a self-taught canine nutrition expert, she built Natural Goodness from the ground up to save her little dog Audrey from obesity due to unhealthy diet.
Back in 2012, Audrey, a Pomeranian that should ideally weigh 2kgs max, tipped the scales at 4kgs. For a year, Audrey would see a vet every three weeks for check-ups and x-ray tests. As the dog got heavier, Donna's purse got lighter.
Fast forward to 2016, Donna not only got her dog healthy again after putting her on a natural diet, she also left the corporate world for the kitchen where she developed her first batch of Natural Goodness products that are “homemade, human grade dog food that the consumers can trust,” she said.
Aside from ground meat of fresh raw chicken or beef, every pack of frozen Natural Goodness Real Food for Dogs contains nutritious and calcium rich meaty bones such as necks, wings, and backs for chicken and ribs, necks, tail for beef. It also contains organ meats like liver and muscle meat such as thighs, tenderloin and hearts. For added nutrition and flavor, a cooled slow-cooked vegetable stew is added to the mix along with fresh eggs, virgin coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, turmeric and malunggay.
“We have four resident testers (two Pomeranians, an Aspin, and a cross-breed) plus dogs of breeder friends who tried our products and they loved them,” said Donna.
A 2-kilo bag of frozen chicken doggie food costs P570, and P710 for beef. Donna gives discounts for bulk orders.
For treats, Natural Goodness' sweet potato chips (with malunggay flakes) and pumpkin biscuits are both priced P120 each for a small bag, and P370 each for a big bag.
A small pack of chicken strips costs P150 while the big pack sells for P450.
The raw meals can be frozen for four months from manufacturing date, while the treats are good for one month when kept in room temperature not exceeding 30ºC, and two months in a refrigerator. She also keeps her products fresh by preparing them based on demand. Most of her initial customers are dog breeders.
Donna arranges meet-ups at BF Homes Parañaque with customers who order the frozen doggie food. The treats, however, can be delivered to customers from Metro Manila for a minimum P60 shipping fee.
A popular local online pet store is interested to carry Natural Goodness products, said Donna, adding that supplying to other retailer pet stores later may be the way to go to give her more time to focus on product development and marketing.
WHAT'S (not) COOKIN'?
With Natural Goodness now in the market, Donna plans to enroll herself in an online course in Australia to formalize her education in canine nutrition to boost her and her products' credibility.
To date, she has relied on her own intensive self-study on raw feeding and advice from veterinarians to come up with her own carefully balanced dog food close to the “natural prey model” of eating that is intrinsic in every dog.
“I came to fall in love with the Biologically Appropriate Feeding method...I kept sharing my recipes in groups on Facebook. The only thing that saddened me was too many people I talked to would say they could not continue the diet because it was too much work. So, in my head I was like, okay I'll do it then,” said Donna.
She believes raw feeding is gaining traction among local pet owners though misconceptions such as how bones will choke dogs or raw meat will turn them into blood-hunting monsters continue to dissuade others from trying it.
Raw feeding advocates like her believe that switching a dog's diet of kibbles to raw food should be second nature.
“All dogs are designed to consume raw so it should be natural for them to love this diet. However, when a dog is too accustomed to over processed kibbles or canned food, it may find it strange at first. If you are feeding cooked, try mixing some raw little by little. However it is not recommended to mix raw to a kibble because these two foods require a different level of acid to be digested and may confuse the dog's digestive system which may lead to upset stomach,” said Donna.
The suggested amount of raw feeding is 3 percent of the dog's ideal weight, but Donna said it is best for a dog owner to first seek a veterinarian's expert opinion before changing a dog's diet and for how much more or less.
“Feeding dogs raw food can start with one meal once a week. One natural meal a week is better than nothing,” she added.
Meanwhile, she plans to move Natural Goodness' kitchen out of her house in the coming months and to open a Natural Goodness store next year.
“We are a very small company—so small that the owner who answers the emails also does the cooking, packing and arranging shipping and meet ups,” Donna revealed.
But she's not complaining because advocating raw feeding and offering alternative dog food is what she really wanted to do ever since she saw how it helped improve her dog Audrey's health.
“I decided to go into this business to spread awareness and knowledge. To be able to offer much better option for pet owners to better care for their loved ones. If there are any Audreys out there suffering, I hope to help them through our product,” said Donna.
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By ALMA J. BUELVA
PURINA Petcare Philippines, a business unit of Nestlé, plans on making 2016 more fun and exciting for people and their pets.
Without giving specifics, Joshua Frederick P. Alarkon from the local Purina office told MetroPets that they will continue the meaningful programs they have done in the past like the Lend A Paw campaign. He also hinted at the possibility of additional pet products to provide local consumers with more choices.
Known for its creed “Your pet, our passion”, Purina staged the social media-driven Lend A Paw program in 2014 and 2015 which encouraged pet owners to share original photos of themselves and their pets holding hands as a way of reaching out to shelter cats and dogs with the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
“We saw the way pet owners love to take photos of their pets, so might as well do it in a way that could help,” said Alarkon.
For every valid photo entry, Purina donated a bowl of Alpo or Friskies for the animals at PAWS. In total, 17,000 bowls of pet food were donated in 2014 and 18,000 more in 2015.
Alarkon said it's likely that there'll be a third run of Lend A Paw this year, again for the benefit of PAWS.
“We chose to partner with PAWS because what they do is close to what Purina stands for,” he added.
The Lend A Paw campaign was primarily an avenue for Filipinos to help shelter animals, but it also attracted a big share of participants from abroad. This year, Purina aims for bigger participation among local pet lovers.
Meanwhile, Purina is in the middle of a Facebook-based campaign called PuspinsofMeownila that seeks to elevate the image of the humble native cat to high-quality pet material. (See related story).
“Purina wants to fulfill the lives of pets and pet lovers. Across the year we will have programs and events for dogs and cats,” Alarkon added.
Purina is the maker of the premium canned cat food Fancy Feast and also the popular brands Alpo, Friskies, Beggin' Strips and Tidy Cats (non-clumping cat litter). Asked if there'll be new products coming in the market this year, Alarkon declined to answer but emphasized that “pet lovers will be happier this year”.
RESEARCHERS in Chapman University in Orange, California in October 2014 discovered that a lot of commercial dog and cat food are being mislabeled based on their DNA analysis of food samples.
The tests, which were initially conducted to find out if horse meat was being used in pet foods, showed that of the 52 food samples almost 40 percent had a meat, usually pork, that was not listed on the label. While 31 have been labeled correctly, 20 were mislabeled and one with an unidentifiable meat substance.
TODAY interviewed assistant professor Rosalee Hellberg, co-author of the study, who said some products even claim to have beef as a number one ingredient but had no no beef in the product at all. Hellberg said the issue of mislabeling occurs less in wet pet food.
Giving manufacturers and resellers the benefit of the doubt, the researchers claim the mislabeling could be either accidental or intentional. Still, Hellberg said it could be a form of economic fraud considering the billions of money people spend on pet food every year. In addition, the mislabeling of pet foods could have dire consequences to a pet with food allergens.
TODAY said the Chapman report did not include a list of the products tested or those that were found to be potentially mislabeled as it was supposed to be an industry study that is not meant to single out particular pet food brands.
In reaction to the Chapman report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued this statement: “Consumers should be able to trust that what is on the label is in the product. Pet foods do not require the FDA’s approval before being marketed; however, all ingredients are required to be listed on the label using their common or usual name. The FDA has taken action in the past when ingredients are not properly listed on the label or when one ingredient is substituted for another ingredient.”
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