Rob our Pack Leader, was recently invited to tour the new Natures Menu factory in Norwich. Here are his findings from a really interesting trip.
In 2018 the global pet food market was worth $55 billion dollars and expected to rise to $65 billion by 2023. With the United States having a large 45% proportion of that, it’s no surprise large pet food companies want to get into that mega market. That said the UK is the second largest market worldwide and £2.7 billion pounds is spent on pet food in the UK annually. A 13.2% increase in the last 5 years making it one of the fastest growing areas in UK business generally.
So it’s no wonder than that Natures Menu have just taken an impressive bold move to open a large plant in Snetterton Norfolk, at a mere rumoured cost of £25 million. They plan to make 500 tonnes of raw pet food a week to keep happy their huge customer base. This is the largest raw food plant in the world. They currently have an estimated 70% market share of the UK raw food market, impressive given there’s nearly 100 registered raw food suppliers now compared to a small handful just 10 years ago.
At the end of last week, they invited just 96 independent pet stores from all over the UK to – I’m happy to say we were one of them!
On approach to the new site its vast size is that of a football stadium. It sits on 6 acres of land with an option to buy 4 more acres in the near future. The team at Natures Menu are warm and welcoming and very transparent. They let us spend the day with them and we viewed production, storage and even the meat and vegetables that were going into the machines. We met the whole team including now MD Craig Taylor who’s Dad started the company back in 1981.
It’s an impressive set up – their huge storage freezer is the biggest you will ever see, taking 4 pallets high and 20 long in 8 rows, it’s eye opening (and very cold at -18!), in total they can hold around 200 tonnes of food across their frozen and ambient ranges. There’s even small ‘hatches’ with conveyor belts that see your orders go literally from the freezer to the delivery vans, a nice touch. Even today they are still the only raw food company that offer delivery in their ‘green vans’ that are temperature controlled ensuring items always stay frozen throughout the picking, packing and delivery stage. Every batch is recorded at various points so all meats and vegetables are traced back to local or national farms.
Transparency is quite a big deal to us generally with buying pet food, but especially to us raw feeders, and Natures Menu are already going above and beyond what is required and have a strict quality control policy regularly checking temperatures at all stages of production. Every batch of meat sourced can be traced back to a particular farm and the journey can be tracked right up to where it arrives frozen to Natures Menu. The vegetables used are all sourced as local as possible and they quite often have ‘wonky’ carrots that the big superstores reject and the swede they use are the large oversized swede that again the supermarkets just will not accept. Nice to know.
Natures Menu, or Anglian as they started in 1981, were the staple raw food company of that era and the first to be doing raw food commercially. As a company they have and still plan to evolve for the changing markets we are experiencing.
Freeze drying pet foods is huge in the United States so its no wonder, given we are around 3 years behind, that Natures Menu have also invested £1.2 million on a freeze drying machine with space for 2 more. Freeze drying looks like it could become a large part of the pet food market in the next 5 years so expect to see more on the shelf soon. The best part of raw but shelf stable, excellent for going away and cant take frozen or as part of the dog or cat’s diet every day.
Personally speaking it enhanced my thoughts on Natures Menu. They are a forward-thinking company aspiring to be the best, whether you feed their food or not there’s no denying what they are doing is extremely impressive.