WE SAT DOWN WITH DIFFERENT DOG FOUNDER ALEX TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HER DIFFERENT DOG JOURNEY AND MISSION FOR THE BRAND.
LDW: We have always wondered what was the inspiration for the name Different Dog?
DD: Ever since we saw how processed pet food was made we realised the industry had lost sight of what was best for our animals and we wanted to change this and do things differently. And as soon as we started doing everything differently and cooking fresh natural ingredients for Crumble (our dog) we noticed what a healthier and happier pup she became – a really different dog and so the name was born.
From day one we’ve had the sign “The Dog Food Industry is broken, do everything differently” hanging up over the kitchen door and today we get countless customers saying how our food has transformed their dogs, giving them shinier coats, brighter eyes, better poop and overall happier, healthier lives. From day one our sole mission has been to change dogs’ lives with real food.
LDW: We love that you had a sign hanging over the kitchen door to remind you of your mission, we know DD started on your kitchen counter, how have things changed since?
DD: Yes – we started in the kitchen at home. At that time I was researching and compiling a (human) cookbook so, with the help of our pet nutritionist and vet, it was an easy transition as the processes are very similar. They were pretty crazy days – loads of research and reading, experimenting with ingredients and processes whilst working and looking after Crumble and our 3 young boys. We were (and still are) obsessed with getting everything right and drove to the lab in Stafford to take samples in for nutritional testing every week. It took us a year and a half and 150 versions of our core recipe to perfect things. It was a huge labour of love, and our friends began to think we were mad. But that investment of time and effort was worth it – the benefit is clear every time a customer tells us we’ve changed their dog’s life. We now feed thousands of dogs, and we have forty people working with us to help as many dogs as possible across the country.
LDW: We can relate to your story and know how challenging it is to bring ‘mad’ ideas to reality! We are so happy you stick with it. Right now being a sustainable business is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, how do you ensure you never compromise on your mission whilst being very conscious of your carbon footprint?
DD: We have made decisions, for example banning plastic in our packaging 3 years ago, that has cost us more but meant a lot to who we are – we want healthy futures for our dogs and that involves looking after the planet we all live on. We have just achieved Carbon Neutral status, something we’re proud of, and we’re mid-way through the process of becoming a B Corp.
We use compostable packaging and have a free returns programme for boxes and insulation. Sustainable sourcing of our high-quality ingredients has always been a priority for us. We only use British meat and fish, and we work with a lovely local butcher based here in Shrewsbury. Our fruit, veg and superfoods are sourced locally wherever possible. This works not only to improve the nutrition of the food – the better quality the ingredient, the more bioavailable it is for the dog – but also lowers our carbon footprint and helps boost the wonderful small businesses local to us in Shropshire.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve from a sustainability perspective, this has always been a big area of focus for us and we have exciting plans for the next 12 months in this area – so watch this space.
LDW: Great to hear that you committed to being sustainable and that you were already taking these steps years ago. Out of interest, what were the first recipes you introduced and how has the product range developed since?
DD: The first recipe we cooked was a version of our Chicken Casserole, which is still one of the best selling recipes in our range. We actually have a pack from that very first batch in our freezer at home. It’s amazing to look at the hand scrawled label with batch #1 on it. Today we’re cooking batch #1676!
We’ve always been passionate about biodiversity in the diet to naturally promote gut health. That’s why we now have at least 12 different recipes, as well as a treat range, probiotics and our nutrition boosting bone broth, which is really popular.
We regularly introduce seasonal recipes – right now Venison & Thyme is doing well and our Festive Feast is flying out of the kitchen as we head towards Christmas.
LDW: Yes, at this time of year we can imagine how popular your festive feasts are! You must have come across so many dog owners looking for help with their dog’s health issues over the years, what health concerns seem to be most common?
DD: Absolutely loads. This is why we exist. Sadly, dogs in this country are not healthy, and the increase in obesity, diabetes, skin and coat issues over the last 20 years is frightening. One of the causes of that is an over-reliance on heavily processed food. Some of the things we see all the time are skin and coat issues, digestive problems, arthritis and joint conditions, weight challenges, pancreatitis, allergies and dietary issues, lack of energy and listlessness. There are lots more. To help with certain conditions that a lot of customers ask for support with, we have developed an extra support Health+ range. To be clear – we are not a prescription diet however this range proactively supports as many dogs as possible through a natural diet and is unique in the pet food market.
You are what you eat – this goes for dogs as well as for people. If you start with a healthy diet of gently cooked whole foods, you will see clear results in terms of overall health and happiness.
LDW: Alex, thank you so much for telling us more about your journey so far, plans for the future and your mission. We do love all the work you are doing to ensure dogs are thriving and are in great shape and that you are doing your bit also for the planet.
Create your plan here and use the code LDW50 to get your half-price box of nutritious deliciousness. This December Different Dog is supporting the Hungary Hearts charity and will be giving rescue dogs a helping paw by donating a meal for every sign-up to Different Dog.
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