This article was published in the January 2024 issue of Pet Food Processing. Read it and other articles from this issue in our January digital edition.

Seven years ago, Jacqueline Taylor and Amber Cordero saw a gap in the pet food market for high-quality, nutritious pet food that looked good, tasted good, and contained an ingredient list that was easy for the pet parent to understand.

“We literally set out to create a brand that we would be happy to have in our own kitchens and be happy to feed to our own fur babies,” Cordero said. “Our aim is to offer products that will help empower pet parents, like us, to feed their pets better.”

After recognizing the void in the market, the two women — Taylor, a New Zealand native, and Cordero, a New Zealand transplant originally from California — set out to source local ingredients, develop dog and cat food and treat formulations, find a contract manufacturer to produce their products, and build their new women-owned brand — The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.

The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.’s dog and cat food products offer limited-ingredient, complete-and-balanced formulations.

The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.’s dog and cat food products offer limited-ingredient, complete-and-balanced formulations.

Photo by The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.

“We all know that what we put into our body determines how we feel and how we live our life,” the company explains on its website. “We are so careful about what we eat, making sure our food is wholesome and nutritious so we always feel our best, so why shouldn’t our animals have the same? After all, they are an important part of the family.”

Dogs Niu Niu, Roco and Homie, and Cali the cat, are the company’s official taste testers.

“Once they give the lick of approval, we know we can share our delicious food with your best friend,” Cordero said.


Keep it simple

When they started their company, one of Taylor and Cordero’s complaints about pet food products already on the market was that there were not enough wholesome ingredients in many of the product offerings. New Zealand Natural’s mission is to keep their products simply nutritious through a combination of high-quality proteins, secondary ingredients that offer essential nutrients, and vitamins and minerals essential for a complete-and-balanced diet.

“Our species appropriate diets are based on what your carnivore would get in the wild,” according to New Zealand Natural. “Our dog food has over 90% meat, organs and bones and our cat food has over 97% meat, organs and bones. Just what your pet needs.”

Taylor and Cordero also kept it simple when naming their product lines — the dog food and treats line is called WOOF and the cat products are called MEOW. Each package features photos of the raw ingredients on the front, with additional information about the added ingredients on the back. The packages also note that the products are free from gluten, grains, corn, soy and wheat.

“We tried to formulate our recipes so that they included everything your pet needs to thrive and don’t include anything they do not need — such as fillers, gluten, grains, etc.,” Cordero said.

The brand’s cat product line, called MEOW, features single-protein as well as meat and seafood flavors

The brand’s cat product line, called MEOW, features single-protein as well as meat and seafood flavors, including lamb and king salmon, chicken and king salmon, lamb and hoki, and beef and hoki.

Photo by The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.

The majority of the brand’s ingredients are sourced in New Zealand, including its wide range of proteins. WOOF products include chicken, lamb, duck, beef, wild brushtail (possum), wild venison and wild goat, and the MEOW line includes lamb, chicken, duck, beef, wild venison, wild brushtail (possum), king salmon and hoki.

“We offer unique ingredients such as our Wild range, which includes the likes of wild goat, wild venison and wild brushtail — all of which are sustainably hunted in New Zealand,” Cordero said.

Additional superfoods are added to the recipes to deliver extra nutrients. Manuka honey, made by New Zealand bees, is rich in vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E and K. It also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese and copper. Green lipped mussels, also sourced from New Zealand, are high in chondroitin and glucosamine to support joint mobility and are rich in Omega 3s. Hoki liver oil is the most easily digested source of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to support skin and coat health, as well as being a good source of vitamins A and D, according to the company. The hoki is supplied from a Marine Stewardship Council certified fishery in New Zealand.

In addition to superfood ingredients, the products are made with other fruits and vegetables, all chosen to deliver essential nutrients and flavors. Fruit ingredients include apples, blueberries, coconut, cranberries and goji berries. Vegetables and herbs include basil, bok choy, broccoli, caraway seeds, carrots, cinnamon, fennel seeds, flaxseed, kale, kelp, parsley, rosemary, shitake mushrooms, turmeric and wheat grass.

“Ninety-seven percent of our ingredients are sourced in New Zealand,” said Amber Cordero, co-founder of The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.

“Ninety-seven percent of our ingredients are sourced in New Zealand,” Cordero said. “This includes our protein as well as most of our fruit and vegetables. A few of our supplements and vitamins are sourced offshore. For example, we don’t grow coconuts in New Zealand, so we source those from an organic coconut farm in Sri Lanka.”


Gentle processing

In addition to keeping the ingredients simple, Taylor and Cordero set out to keep product preparation simple as well. The duo opted to process their products as freeze-dried and air-dried formulations.

“We combine the nutrition and taste of fresh, raw food and put it through a gentle freeze-drying process which protects all the natural enzymes and nutrients, so none of the wholesome goodness is cooked out,” Cordero said.

Freeze drying also allows the product to be shelf stable. The formulas are designed to be rehydrated with water before serving. Animals can also consume it dry, but because the water has been removed, it’s important for pet parents to provide additional water to meet their needs.

“Freeze dried is such an amazing product as it allows the pet parent to feed their animal as close as possible to fresh raw but without the mess of making it themselves or having to make sure that what they are serving is complete and balanced,” Cordero said. “It’s the convenience of kibble, but with the nutrition of raw food.

WOOF dog food and treats come in seven different protein varieties

WOOF dog food and treats come in seven different protein varieties — chicken, lamb, beef, duck, wild venison, wild goat and wild brushtail (possum) — all sourced in New Zealand.

Photo by The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.

“For pet parents who are looking for an option that is closer to kibble in texture — and that offers a kill step — we offer our new range of gently air-dried foods and treats which are perfect as they can be fed without the need to rehydrate,” she added.

New Zealand Natural offers seven WOOF and seven MEOW freeze-dried flavors; three WOOF and three MEOW air-dried flavors; and five WOOF and five MEOW treat varieties.

The dog food comes in three different sizes — a small treat/travel pack, perfect for on-the-go feeding or for trying out new flavors, and two larger 9.9-oz and 2.2-lb sizes. The cat food comes in treat size packages and larger, 9.9-oz packages.

“We also offer a variety of limited-ingredient treats, many of which are single ingredient, which are also perfect to use as a topper, mixer, or simply as an add-on when you are building a better bowl,” Cordero said.

WOOF and MEOW single-ingredient treats include wild goat, green lipped mussel and venison lung. Other limited-ingredient treats include lamb green tripe and green lipped mussel, and beef green tripe and green lipped mussel. The treats are perfect to use for training or just as treats, according to the company.

New Zealand Natural’s products are formulated to be complete-and-balanced diets for dogs and cats at all life stages.

“Our freeze-dried food and treats are ideal for older and younger animals who may need a softer nugget — especially once it’s been rehydrated,” Cordero said. “And, a lot of people really enjoy feeding our air-dried food and treats when training their pets or using them as toppers or mixers.”


New Zealand and beyond

New Zealand Natural’s products are all produced in small batches in New Zealand. The company works with contract manufacturers to produce its proprietary recipes, as well as to freeze dry, air dry and package all the formulas.  

“It’s the convenience of kibble, but with the nutrition of raw food,” said Amber Cordero, co-founder of The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.

Products have a 24-month shelf life from the time the batch is made until the package is opened. Nitrogen flush technology is used during packaging to ensure freshness in each bag of food. The nitrogen flush reduces the oxidation within the bag, ensuring the product will taste fresh when the package is opened.

Once the bag is opened, there is a three-month recommended use-by date. After the product is rehydrated, it can be kept refrigerated for up to three days.

When the brand was launched seven years ago, the company first targeted New Zealand and Singapore.

“We sold out within the first two weeks, so we knew we were onto something then,” Cordero said. “In New Zealand, we initially launched into the veterinary channels (vet clinics, etc.) and even worked with local vets to develop our range of treats. We then made the decision to expand into pet specialty channels.”

WOOF and MEOW products are now sold in pet specialty stores across New Zealand, Australia, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the United States and Canada.

“They [pet specialty stores] understand the importance of feeding pets the best possible food and they are willing to take the time to help educate customers,” Cordero said.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.