University helps get low carbon pet food brand to market
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A sustainable pet brand that is behind the production of a low carbon pet food has secured contracts with retailers in the UK and globally just six months after getting its product to the market thanks to help from Coventry University.
Percuro Primal Pet Food — which has its headquarters in Henley-in-Aden in Warwickshire — secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Innovate EDGE UK ‘Proof-of-Concept’ programme which is delivered by Coventry University.
The innovation and growth programme supports SMEs in Coventry, Warwickshire, Greater Birmingham and Solihull in the early-stage development of a new product through access to funding, tailored one-to-one innovation support, and workshops.
The funding that Percuro was able to access through the university was key to it being able to carry out a full feasibility study that helped to establish market demand for the product through extensive consumer research among pet owners in the UK and Germany.
As a result, it is now selling direct to consumers in Europe via its own website, and has secured supply contracts with big name UK brands such as Pets at Home, Waitrose, Ocado and Amazon, as well as others overseas in Italy, Singapore and South Korea.
The company was founded by Denise Saber, who has a background in investment management, working with family and institutional investors around their sustainability agenda, and chief executive Brett Vye, who has a background in the pet and brewing industries. They are part of a five-person executive team.
Saber said: “We came away from the ‘Proof-of-Concept’ research that the team at Coventry University helped us to fund with a clear market that was commercially viable and one that also helped us come up with a narrative. The university’s support really got us going and was an important part of our process to get to where we are now.
“We were confident we had something special but we needed to test it. We ranked each of the ingredients against peer groups, comparing the effect on pets’ health and wellness (low inflammation) and how the effect the sourcing of each ingredient would have on the planet. We then conducted an independent five-day palatability and digestibility two bowl test with 20 dogs and benchmarked against our UK leading competitor 9 out of 10 dogs preferring Percuro.
“We also knew anecdotally that sustainability would be important to consumers, but we needed something to really help get us to understand if we were on the right track with something that consumers would actually buy.
“We believe that this is innovation at its best because of the positive impact it can have on animal health and life expectancy, and also climate change. Through having 100 per cent sustainable insect protein and plant-based ingredients that are traceable, and 100 per cent livestock-free, this is a business that can scale up and become a leading brand globally.”
Percuro is the Latin word for ‘heal completely’ and key to the company’s sustainability credentials is the use of black soldier fly larvae as its protein source for its products.
Dogs and cats alone consume 20 per cent of the world’s animal-based sources of protein such as meat and fish, but as the edible insect protein in Percuro’s pet food uses only a fraction of the land, water and energy, it is a climate change positive regime for feeding pets.
All of its plant-based ingredients are 100 per cent sustainable with no hidden animal fats or derivatives, and 95 per cent are sourced within a close proximity to its manufacturing site in mainland Europe, which further limits its carbon footprint.
The research funded through Coventry University found quality of ingredients was the most important factor when choosing food product for their pet. Through many respondents were not aware of products that used insects as a source of protein, they were willing to at least try the product after reading the concept.
Others showed a positive response towards pet food having limited impact on eco-systems and said they would prefer a brand having a proactive stance towards the environment and would spend more to do so.
Martin Lucy, operations and development manager at Innovate UK EDGE at Coventry University, said: “Percuro are developing a novel environmentally aware product and accessing the ‘Proof of Concept’ ERDF funded grant enabled them to undertake the research aspect of the project to better understand the size of the commercial opportunity and the best way forward, reducing the financial risk of their project.”