Warwickshire firm that's making dog food from insects
THE phrase ‘grub’s up’ has been given a whole new meaning by a Henley company, which markets dog food made from insects.
Percuro dry dog food and snacks combines the dried larvae of black soldier flies, with plants.
And, according to founder Denise Saber, doggy diners can’t get enough of the stuff.
Denise, who launched the company two years ago after a 30-year career in finance and investment, has four dogs of her own plus two cats, two horses and several chickens.
A self-confessed ‘clean eating obsessive’ she wanted her animals to have an equally healthy, ethical and sustainable diet but couldn’t find a petfood that ticked all the boxes.
Working with major industry manufacturer United Petfood, she set about developing her own dog food brand, using larvae farmed in the Netherlands.
She said: “When you first give it to them, they’ve never smelt it before because it’s insect and plant, but then they taste it and go mad for it. We’ve put in lots of really nice ingredients like olive oil, apple and hempseed oil, and the dogs absolutely adore it.”
Earlier this month, the canine delicacy was given a boost when celebrity vet Dr Scott Miller, a regular presenter on ITV’s This Morning and author of the book Puppy Parenting, became brand ambassador for Percuro. Dr Scott also stars in his own Channel 4 TV show Vet on the Hill, which follows life at his practice in London.
Denise explained: “He’s a great environmentalist and keen to push alternative proteins. A lot of the tick-boxes for us are also important to him, so it’s a meeting of minds.”
Pecuro, which launched its first dry dog food product 14 months ago and added snack product Snappies to the range in December, has already raised £1.4m in funding.
The products are sold in recycled packaging and target pet owners who want to swap meat-based pet food which relies on carbon-intensive reared livestock, for insect based meals which have a lower impact environmentally.
Denise, who moved to live on a farm near Henley 14 years ago, put together a team with experience of the global pet food industry including chief executive Brett Vye, who spent eight years at Hill’s Pet Nutrition in marketing and customer development and chief marketing officer Iwan Tamm, former European marketing director for Hill’s.
The UK pet food market is worth more than £2bn. More than 12 million dogs are kept as pets in the UK, with one in three households having one, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.
Pets consume about 20 per cent of the world’s meat and fish and academic researchers estimate pet food is responsible for a quarter of all environmental impacts of meat production, including greenhouse gases, phosphates and pesticides.
This is forecast to rise, due to the trend for more owners to feed human-grade meat to their pets.
The British Veterinary Association, among other industry bodies, has called for more pet foods to use insect protein to boost sustainability.
Percuro already has deals in place with Pets at Home, Ocado and Waitrose to market its products online and also sells in markets outside the UK including Germany, Singapore and the UAE. It has also just signed a distribution agreement with a Japanese distributor for Snappies.
Denise and her team are now raising another £3m to help the company expand.
Now near the top of the agenda is to launch a version of the insect-based food for cats.
“We’ve done all the work on formulation, so the next thing is to bring dry cat food to market,” she explained.
“I’ve tested our dog recipe on my cats, as it’s safe for cats to eat, and they go crazy for it. Since cats are very fussy about what they eat, we are very excited.”