28 Apr 2023
Discover the story behind FurrMeals and its founder and CEO, Ms. Sujata Bhattacharya, as she discusses with Sunil Dcosta founder of Petzcareindia the company's mission to provide high-quality fresh pet food, and the challenges.
1) What inspired you to start FurrMeals, and how has your approach to pet nutrition and well-being evolved over time?
The inspiration behind FurrMeals came in 2018 when I noticed that my dog, Buddy, was having consistent digestive issues even though he was on a diet of the best and most expensive kibble in the market. After consulting with his vet, I realized that food was the prime reason for his constant state of ill-health. I started researching for healthier alternatives for my dog but could not find what I was looking for in the market. So, I took it upon myself to make a better and healthier alternative for him. After experimenting with different ingredients and recipes, I finally found the ones that worked for him and his digestive system.
Within a short span of 3-4 weeks of changing his diet to fresh wholesome meals, I saw a marked improvement in his overall health and energy levels. As a pet parent, the sense of relief and gratitude that I felt on realizing that I was doing something right to help my baby flourish is something that I wanted to share with other pet parents, and this idea eventually became FurrMeals.
Our approach to pet nutrition has evolved a lot since the inception FurrMeals. We have learned so much in the past 4 years about how important it is to choose the right food for your pet and how significant are the finer nuances of nutrition. It is not just about the macro nutrients but micro nutrients are equally important for the overall quality of life of our pets.
When we first got into pet nutrition and wellness with our brand FurrMeals it was a simple idea: to make pet food that was as delicious as it was healthy. We believe very strongly in the importance of providing pets with balanced, nutritious and real food that is enjoyable to eat and nourishes their body from within. Therefore, our tag line – "Real Food Real Health".
Over the years with learning and interactions with the various stakeholders of the pet industry we have gathered insights into the problem areas that every pet parent goes through while raising their pet. We are constantly learning more about what our customers’ need in order to keep their pups happy and healthy. The products we design now are not only aimed towards right nutrition of pets, but also to bring products in the market that make pet parenting easy and convenient. Our products are easy on the pocket and help pet parents add more natural health in their pet’s bowl without completely revamping their pet’s current diet.
2) What are some of the biggest misconceptions about commercial dog food in India, and how does FurrMeals address these misconceptions?
Ms.Sujata: Commercial pet food is loosely regulated not just in India, but even Internationally. Unlike human food, pet food is not controlled by governing bodies. Certain guidelines are laid out by AAFCO to provide balanced nutrition in each bag but no regulatory body is actually checking what goes into these bags that make them so addictive for pets. No governing body is actually checking the quality of the ingredients and the digestibility or absorbability of each.
This basically means that you will have to put your trust on these commercial brands and hope that they have the best interest of your pooch in their mind while designing and manufacturing the products. Many commercial pet food brands use low quality ingredients and fillers and then top it up with colors and preservatives to make it appealing and to increase shelf life. With a generous spray of taste enhancers, they ensure that pets not only love the taste but eventually get addicted to this preservative laden food.
In addition to that, with huge investment on marketing over the years, commercial pet food brands have ensured that pet parents believe that kibble is the only way to feed their dogs and cats, even though nature planned it the other way. Dogs and cats in the wild eat fresh and natural food - rich in protein and low in carbohydrate but on the other hand most Commercial Pet Food is highly processed, heavy in carbohydrate and contains low quality protein.
Unfortunately, many pet parents are not aware of this and get swayed by their marketing gimmicks and end up feeding their pets low quality food for years. This results in chronic health conditions and poor quality of life of pets. What pets need is a species appropriate, natural and fresh food diet that is designed to give the best and longest life possible.
This is where FurrMeals Home Cooked Pet Food steps in. Our meals, gravies and treats are made with natural ingredients and free of preservatives. Designed by Canine Nutritionists, balanced to perfection and approved by Vets – FurrMeals products are the what every dog needs to have a happy, healthy and long life. Ready-to-Serve and easy to store, FurrMeals is there to make pet parenting journey easy and enjoyable.
3). Can you tell us more about the benefits of feeding natural, balanced, and preservative- free food to dogs, and how FurrMeals is helping pet owners achieve this?
Ms. Sujata: The benefits of feeding natural, balanced, and preservative-free food to dogs are many but one that we all should talk about overall health and longevity. The more processed the food is, the more likely it is to contain ingredients that don't agree with your pet's;digestive system. This can cause a host of problems ranging from mild discomfort to serious illness. In fact, it's estimated that 56.5% of dogs suffer from some or other form of digestive distress every single day.
More and more pet owners are realizing that their dogs need to eat healthy food that is free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. But giving the right diet every day is not easy and it usually involves a lot of trial and error.
With FurrMeals, we've made it easy to find the right food for their pup, with curating drool-worthy meals, in multiple flavors to suit every pallet. Our natural meals, treats, toppers and our hero product FurrMeals Chicken Bone Broth are especially designed to bring out the best in dogs by improving their overall health. Our meals require no cooking or refrigeration, so pet parents can just enjoy watching their dogs fall in love with our delicious homestyle meals without the hassle of cooking!
4) Can you talk about the variety of protein options available in FurrMeals, Natural wet dog food range?
Ms.Sujata: FurrMeals Ready-to-Eat Fresh Dog Food offers 5 Adult Dog Maintenance recipes in 3 protein sources – Chicken, Lamb and Cottage Cheese. We also have a delicious Puppy recipe – Chicken & Spinach for growing pups. All the recipes are balanced, species appropriate and gluten free, made with fresh ingredients with higher bio-availability, the recipes are rich in protein, natural vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
In addition to these standard recipes we also customise meals for dogs with unique dietary needs like weight management, renal issues, cardiovascular issues, pancreatitis etc. We have a team of veterinarians and canine nutritionists who work on each case individually to design recipes and dietary plans that work in conjecture with their existing treatment plan.
With our range of delicious Meal Toppers/Gravies – Chunky Chicken in Bone Broth with Lakadong Turmeric and Chicken Liver in Bone Broth with Lakadong Turmeric we are catering to the needs of pet parents who want to top up their dog’s existing diet with more protein and healthy superfoods. FurrMeals Meal Toppers/Gravies are an excellent way to entice fussy eaters.
FurrMeals Chicken Bone Broth is a category defining product. We are the pioneers in launching Ready-to-Serve Shelf Stable Bone Broth for Dogs & Cats in India. With excellent repeat purchase figures, this is one product that is a must have for all pet parents who want to improve the bone and joint health of their dogs. Bone Broth is highly recommended by veterinarian as a natural supplement for dogs suffering from arthritis, hip dysplasia, IVDD and also those recovering from any illness ort surgery. This natural supplement should be made apart of every dog’s daily diet.
5) What role does research and development play in the development of FurrMeals’ products, and how do you ensure that your products are nutritionally balanced?
Ms.Sujata: The development of FurrMeals products is a collaborative process. We have a team of pet nutritionists and veterinarians who we work together with to ensure that all of our products are nutritionally balanced and safe for pets to eat. Their expertise in the field of animal nutrition is very important to ensure that we are producing only the best food, treats and toppers for pets.
All our meals are completely balanced and comply to all the nutritional guidelines laid down by AAFCO. We not only test the quality and nutritional value of the final product but also of the ingredients. This is to ensure that we are sourcing only the best ingredients for our products.
6) Can you share some specific examples of how FurrMeals has improved the health and well-being of dogs in India?
Ms.Sujata : FurrMeals has made a huge positive impact on the life of many pets and their pet parents. Besides making it easier for pet parents to give a natural, balanced diet to their dogs every day, we have also helped dogs with special dietary needs like food allergies, kidney issues, dogs with weight issues and so on. We want every dog parent to be able to put a healthy meal in their pet’s bowl, no matter where they live in India.
We have numerous cases of pet parents thanking us for helping them get their dogs heathier and disease free. Right nutrition makes pet healthier which means lesser vet visits and reduced medical expenses. This is something that pet parents clearly notice once they shift to a FurrMeals diet.
One of the biggest examples of a positive impact of FurrMeals is my own dog, Buddy. From a sick 4 years old, he is now a thriving 9 year old beagle boy who jumps, runs and plays like a little puppy. The spring in his feet, sparkle in his eyes, vigorous tail wags and improved immunity levels is a living testimony of how good a FurrMeals diet is over any other commercial dog food.
7) How do you educate pet owners and pet parents in India? What are the challenges that you face in this regard?
Ms.Sujata :As the ill effects on the health of pets who are on a commercial diet is becoming evident to pet parents, they are gradually losing faith in kibble and prefer to make food at home for them because they want to give pets the kind of food they themselves eat. Being able to see what the meal is made of is a big relief to many pet parents.
But as the market is getting skewed towards homemade pet food, there is a problem of right nutrition. With the lack of awareness around nutrition for pets, pet parents go wrong when they try to prepare meals for their pets at home. It is important to understand the connection between health and nutrition. The food that we give to our furry goes a long way in deciding the length and quality of life they will lead. Besides being balanced, every food that we give our pet should be species appropriate. Unfortunately, many Pet Parents in India still believe that Milk and Roti is the right diet for their dog, when in fact it is nutritionally unbalanced.
We applaud all pet parents who are willing to invest the time and effort in making meals, especially for their furry. But even though you might have the best interest of your furry in mind, if you switch your dog to an unbalanced homemade diet, you will end up doing more damage to their health – something that you were trying to avoid in the first place.
Pet parents who are planning to give homemade food to their pet, must do it right too. Right diet means a diet that is balanced to provide the right amount of nutrition to your pet that is perfect as per his weight, age and activity level.
We tell pet parents that if you have made the commitment of feeding your pet healthy, fresh, homemade meals - then let the experts handle the work for you. FurrMeals Home Cooked Pet Food has the most balanced fresh food for dogs in India.
Our aim is not just to fill their tummies with natural ingredients, but also to make sure that every pet reaches their true potential in terms of health, energy levels, immunity and longevity
8) What do you see as the future of the pet food industry in the country, especially for a brand like FurrMeals?
Ms.Sujata: Indian pet food market is currently dominated by brands that focus on dry dog and cat food. However, with an increasing number of pet parents turning to fresh pet food brands, the demand for fresh pet food is increasing and there is a lot of room for growth for brands like us. In addition to the growing middle class in India, which has more disposable income and more time to spend with their pets, there is also a new trend toward holistic wellness for pets. This means that owners are more likely to feed their pets foods that are good for them, rather than just buying whatever is cheapest.
As people become more educated about pet nutrition and care, they want better quality food for their pets—and they are willing to pay for it. Demand for natural and preservative free pet food like FurrMeals is definitely on the rise. The fact that so many brands have entered the fresh pet food space in the recent years a testament to this growing segment.
The convenience of a Ready-to-Serve Natural and Fresh Pet Food over making food at home is also what busy pet parents seek nowadays. Our meals are super convenient because it requires no preparation or specific temperature storage before serving. This makes it easier for busy professionals who work long hours to feed their pets. The growing popularity of online shopping, ease of delivery and accessibility is another factor that is driving sales for fresh dog food brands like us.
However, to make our mark in the market we have to compete with the strong brand presence of commercial pet food brands who have been operating in the market for decades. As a new player in this space, we need to focus on building up our brand recognition among consumers to build trust in consumers mind to make them switch to these healthier alternatives from what theyhave been using for years. We also need to create stronger relationships with retailers so they know who we are and understand why they should carry our product in their stores.