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Pawsitive move for locals

Pawsitive move for locals
Local pet food entrepreneurs Jeremy and Mary Stewart with Frankie, a wire-haired dachshund. PHOTO SUPPLIED

An Ashburton couple hope their new 100% local dog food will disrupt the New Zealand dog kibble market - and then, perhaps, the world.

The grain-free Kiwi Country dry dog food hit supermarket shelves in a number of Countdown, Super Value and FreshChoice stores six weeks ago.

Founders Jeremy and Mary Stewart are also making headway with plans to enter the export market.

The first shipment to Korea left New Zealand at the end of May and negotiations with a customer in Singapore was close to going ahead.

The opportunities in the pet food industry were almost limitless, Jeremy said.

The pair have been chuffed to see the support from local supermarket chains.

They told the Guardian they were equal parts excited and nervous seeing their beef, lamb and chicken 2kg bags on the shelves. However, they were confident in their product.

"Kiwi Country recipes have fresh meat as the number one ingredient, then we add functional superfoods like NZ green mussel, liver, tripe, fish oil, kiwifruit, flaxseeds, cranberries, and kelp," Jeremy said.

While Jeremy has been involved in the New Zealand pet food industry for many years, the Stewart's Kiwi Country journey started in 2019 with the idea to produce their own brand of tinned pet food.

That plan was canned when they discovered New Zealand did not have the capacity to take on large volume orders.

When a new kibble factory opened in Taumarunui in the North Island's King Country, Jeremy turned his attention to developing a recipe for kibble instead.

"Our ingredient profile is our strength. We tired to create a recipe with the best ingredients we can given the restraints of the manufacturing process," Jeremy said.

The recipe took eight months to develop, test and review to ensure it met international pet food standards.

The couple are now "going against massive multi-nationals" with most of the kibble on supermarket shelves was imported by two companies - essentially a massive duopoly, Jeremy said.

"We'd love to encourage shoppers to look at the ingredients, not only in their own food but in pet food as well," Mary said.

It was a big deal to get someone to change brands, but there were a lot of people looking for local dog food.

The couple said they did not have a firm 30-year plan, but they hoped to turn the company into a multi-generational business for their three children.

Cat kibble could be the next logical step, they said.

By Sharon Davis