ZiwiPeak Pet Food

March 2015

A pet food company benefits from New Zealand's good reputation as a food producer

Petfood has always been associated with the meat industry but is often seen as an adjunct, mopping up waste products left over from the human consumption production chain. ZiwiPeak approaches pet nutrition from another angle – putting pets at the front end of the pet food chain – with a very strong brand and a quality product that people are prepared to pay good money for.

A report, produced for NZTE by research company Coriolis, identified the pet food industry as an emerging sector in the primary industries, with strong export volume and value growth. It is a big export opportunity for New Zealand.

In 2012, pet owners globally spent $67 billion on dog and cat food. New Zealand currently occupies about 1% of that global export value share. The report stated that NZ’s existing export markets can be grown significantly, targeting high growth, high value markets.

The report says petfood has a strong comparative advantage and clear links into existing New Zealand strengths as a primary industry based exporting economy. It is a growing global market and the “super-premium” (cat and dog) sector is profitable.

Some New Zealand firms have successfully innovated in the area of value-added retail ready petfood. And there are many medium sized firms that are successfully operating in this area. But there are challenges involved in exporting meat-based products. Because of this, a lot of effort has been put into developing the technology and packaging to overcome those challenges.

Key markets for petfood are richer Western markets with high pet numbers, in particular the USA, Australia, Western Europe.   Strong growth is also occurring in key Asian markets and in South America, where small dogs in particular are treated with premium dog foods and treats. The large companies such as Nestle and Mars take the bulk of the market with factories located close to major markets.

Peter and Kimberly Mitchell, who developed the product and production techniques in New Zealand, founded ZiwiPeak. They are now based in Carmel, California where they head up the US team.

Tauranga based CEO Geoff Morgan has an Economics degree from Otago University and over 30 years’ experience in exporting and food companies, including working overseas in Australia and the UK. He fully understands New Zealand’s advantages as a top-quality food supplier and how to sell those benefits to discerning markets in North America, Europe and Asia.

At home Geoff has always had cats, currently Noodles and Tigger, and brings a cat person’s perspective to the table in a “dog dominated” pet industry.

ZiwiPeak exports to 20 countries. They distribute to independent stores and sell online through their website and through Amazon in the US from their central distribution center near Kansas City. The US market accounts for 65% of the company’s business, and is the most advanced and mature pet food market in the world. The company has a US based office and contract canneries in NZ and the USA. In all other markets they use importer distributors to service each individual market.

ZiwiPeak uses venison, lamb, beef, fish and green lip mussels in its food. They do not incorporate cereals or grains or vegetables. Dogs and cats are carnivores and need meat. The food is “air dried” to make it shelf-stable for 21 months rather than using additives or preservatives. This means ZiwiPeak is a unique food in the market that has all the benefits of raw feeding, combined with all the convenience of dry food. “Raw without the Thaw” is how they describe it.

ZiwiPeak has a number of strategic alliances with Alliance, Mountain River Processors, Ovation Group, Meateor Foods & Progressive Enterprises. The products are sourced nationwide and are processed at the Mt Maunganui factory to produce a biologically appropriate diet for pets.

From an animal health standpoint, the closer to raw meat that domestic cats and dogs are fed, the better. However there are issues arising from the storage and distribution of raw food, as it needs to be either frozen or fresh with consequent logistical challenges and human health issues feeding raw food at home.

Drying food retains nutrient value while extending shelf-life for up to 21 months. Removing water content concentrates nutrients while minimizing cost of transport.

Pet food is a big opportunity for the New Zealand meat industry to add value, and there is good support from NZTE to help make this happen.

The product sells for around $40 a kilo, with a kilo of dried product containing the nutritional equivalent of 3kgs of fresh meat.

Geoff says people are prepared to pay a premium for quality feed for their pets. ZiwiPeak’s customers see their pets as their children, and only the best will do. There are also distinct advantages of feeding a quality product. The health and energy of the pets is greatly enhanced with happy healthier pets, who live longer and don’t need to visit the vet as often, and don’t need expensive supplements to solve skin and coat issues.

Most mainstream pet foods are extended with grains or vegetables but this is not always the best option for pets. Cats, for example, are obligate carnivores (meaning they cannot digest vegetable protein at all). Cats and dogs fed a pure meat diet also produce less excrement (which is a significant advantage for apartment dwellers in cities), and ZiwiPeak is 96% digestible so much less mess!!

ZiwiPeak can lever off the competitive advantage of New Zealand’s green and high-quality production credentials, and high animal health status with a reputation for safe, secure, disease-free meat. They are certified for the EU and USFDA, they have RMP and HACCP Plans certified by MPI. They conduct their own testing of product through external laboratories.

Geoff believes the strong brand is a real strength for the company. He says people often get confused about the difference between branding and labeling. Putting a company name and logo on commodity items that can also be purchased from Australia or South America is not branding.  “A brand is a promise to the consumer that when they buy your product they will enjoy both tangible and intangible benefits. ZiwiPeak isn’t just promising good food, we are promising happy and healthier pets and a better and closer relationship between the pets and their pet parents. It’s a big promise and our product has to deliver. And that’s why they will pay $40 a kg for it when you can buy dog biscuits for $4 per kg.”

“ZiwiPeak is in the baby food business. Our customers expect the best for their babies and know that the right nutrition is the best thing a parent can do, every day, for their baby.”

Samantha Syme joined ZiwiPeak in 2013 and is the company’s Brand and Marketing Coordinator. Samantha has degree in design and was working in the fashion industry before she joined ZiwiPeak. She acts as ZiwiPeak’s brand champion and makes sure all their packaging, web and company messages have a consistant brand message and always deliver to a high standard. Samantha says, “Recently we were advised by one of our Dubai retailers that Lady Gaga feeds ZiwiPeak to her beloved French Bulldog.” Samantha checked out the story and then co-ordinated the release of the story to all importers and distributors, updated the website and Facebook pages, and distributed a media pack to online and print media in New Zealand.