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Canidae's innovative approach to sustainability in the pet food industry

February 16, 2023
Dog sitting and looking

Canidae Pet Food recently launched its kibble refill stations, self-serve merchandisers that dispense kibble into reusable bags, eliminating the need for single-use plastic bags.

Can you reduce your pet's carbon pawprint? Megan Wade, senior manager of research and development at Canidae Pet Food, joins the Ag Future podcast to discuss how Canidae is pioneering sustainability efforts in the thriving pet food industry, including innovative initiatives like their kibble refill stations, which aim to reduce single-use plastics. Tune in to learn more about efforts in the pet food industry to create a more sustainable future for our furry friends.

The following is an edited transcript of the Ag Future podcast episode with Megan Wade hosted by Tom Martin. Click below to hear the full audio or listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Tom:            Welcome to Ag Future, presented by Alltech. Join us from the 2022 Alltech ONE Conference as we explore opportunities within agri-food, business and beyond.


                     I'm Tom Martin for the Alltech Ag Future podcast series, here with Megan Wade, senior manager of research and development at Canidae Pet Food, to talk about sustainability in the pet food industry and pet food packaging. Thanks for joining us, Megan.


Megan:         Thank you so much for having me, Tom. I'm very excited to be here.


Tom:            Well, as senior manager of research and development at Canidae, you work with the company’s commercialization team to take new products to market. Do you go into discussions about a new product with a checklist of criteria that has to be met in order to make it to the marketplace?


Megan:         Absolutely. Depending on the type of innovation that we're exploring, there'll be unique considerations, but no matter what, there are two key boxes that need to be checked — the first being sustainability. So, this is incorporated into everything that we do and all of our future innovations, whether it be packaging, ingredients or operationally. And then the second thing being the benefit to the pet. At the end of the day, this is why we're in business in the first place. Canidae was started because our founders were not able to find a product on the market that just focused on simple, real ingredients, and so they made their own. Today, we're still aiming to provide the best nutrition possible with all of our products.


Tom:            You pointed out that there are nutritional solutions on the market that can contribute to your pet's wellness and Mother Nature's health at the same time. Tell us more about that.


Megan:         Sure. This is something really interesting that we've found as we've dug more and more into sustainable ingredients. We're finding that there's an added health benefit (to focusing on sustainability). If you take wild-caught salmon, for example, it's higher in vitamin D, among other nutrients, compared to farmed salmon. Then another big focus of our company is regeneratively farmed crops, and research is showing that these are often higher in certain nutrients, compared to traditionally farmed crops. And the practices being no-till, no use of synthetic pesticides, and utilizing cover crops; (utilizing those practices) helps to reduce the carbon footprint.


Tom:            Let's talk about that. The Canidae blog makes it very clear that the company's leadership is not only aware of the dangers of climate change but is willing to function in ways that recognize and address the imperative to reduce that carbon footprint. You even market dog food under the Sustain brand. Tell us more about the company.


Megan:         We're really aiming to set a new standard for the pet food industry in terms of sustainability, and it's ingrained in every aspect of our business. It's not just an afterthought, but it's the main priority. As I said before, we believe that benefiting the environment is just as important as providing the optimal nutrition for pets. We're also not afraid to think outside of the box or push the envelope. Our kibble refill station is really a great example of something that no one thought that was possible, but we invested in it and prioritized it and made it happen.


Tom:            How does the kibble refill station work in a store?


Megan:         Sure. It's a bulk kibble merchandiser, and it works just like a bulk coffee merchandiser, (or) any type of bulk food merchandiser, where customers can take a reusable bag, put it on a scale, fill it with the kibble of their choice and then bring it up to the register to pay by the pound. Our goal with this is to reduce or eliminate single-use plastics, which — most pet food bags, or kibble bags, anyways, are not curbside-recyclable, so this is a solution to that.


Tom:            I believe you've launched this, if I'm correct, at Petco stores in Southern California. Is that right? Or is it expanding across the country?


Megan:         Yep, that's correct. Right now, the program is in its pilot phase. We're in five Petco stores, and this summer, we'll be expanding to 100 stores.


Tom:            What other sorts of innovative products have you had a role in developing?


Megan:         One of our most innovative lines is called Sustain dog food, and that's our most sustainable product line yet. We have kibble, and then we've recently launched some wet food and treats within the same category, and all of it is focused on being as sustainable as we can. The kibble incorporates the regeneratively farmed crops, as well as responsibly sourced proteins, and we recently expanded into jerky treats made with responsibly sourced proteins, and then (we also offer) wet foods. We have pâtés and bone-broth toppers in Tetra Pak cartons. Those are little wet-food cartons that are made with fewer resources. And then the treats and the kibble are in PCR packaging — so post-consumer recycled materials.


Tom:            Are those distributed nationwide? Can we find that brand in most stores?


Megan:         Yes, it's nationwide.


Tom:            Let's talk about packaging. In developing packaging, are you mindful of the principles of sustainability? I know you've touched on that, but tell us more.


Megan:         Absolutely. Yeah, that's a huge area that we're focused on. As I mentioned, PCR packaging is a big thing that we're working on. We have several products in (that kind of packaging) already, and it is 40% post-consumer recycled materials in our kibble bags where we utilize that technology. And then, in other products, we have things like the Tetra Pak, as I mentioned. And then, (we’re) looking into recyclability as well — and then, of course, (we have) the kibble refill station, which eliminates that need altogether.


Tom:            What would you say is the most fun thing about your work?


Megan:         Yeah, there's a lot to choose from, but I would say the most fun thing is just the fact that we're constantly looking to do something new. So, every day is different. Every day poses new, interesting challenges and problems to solve. I think it just never gets boring, for sure.


Tom:            Megan Wade, senior manager of research and development at Canidae Pet Food. Thank you so much, Megan.


Megan:         Thank you, Tom.


Tom:            For the Alltech Ag Future podcast, I'm Tom Martin. Thank you for joining us. Be sure to subscribe to Ag Future wherever you listen to podcasts.