What sparked your interest in natural pet nutrition?
I’d always had cats and not thought too much about what was in their food as long as they ate it! I went for big brands as I trusted them to do the best for my cats. Then I had my children and my nurturing instinct kicked in! I made sure that the food we ate as a family was unprocessed, locally sourced where possible, and fresh. So when we welcomed our first dog – Rudi Doodle – into the family, I saw no reason not to source his food in the same way.
The problem was that proper, natural, species-appropriate food didn’t really exist for pets back then. I certainly didn’t want to support mass commercial farming that put the welfare of farm animals at the bottom of any consideration list via the pet food I bought. So I read books and worked out my own recipes with a little help from a vet friend.
That was 11 years ago, and Rudi has been raw fed since he was about 6 months old.
What did you do before you started Hug?
I was instrumental in setting up one of the first raw dog food companies in the UK, back in 2009. When I moved on from there, I knew I had more to offer, and I wanted to make amends to those dogs and cats who simply didn’t want to eat a raw diet but had little choice of a natural alternative.
Have you always been an animal lover?
Completely and utterly… My husband despaired when I insisted on nursing a robin chick on my bedside table (in an ice cream tub nest!), so I could do night feeds the minute it demanded it as I couldn’t get it to a wildlife hospital that evening.
Do you have any dogs or cats of your own?
We have two dogs in our family: Rudi Doodle, who is nearly 12, and Fletcher Doodle, who came to us as a rehome and is now 7 years old.
Have their lives changed as a result of being fed a natural diet?
They have always been fed a natural diet and on the occasion when I might just run out (yes, despite working ‘in dog food’ I do forget to place my orders!) I’ve resorted to the standard pet food in the supermarket. But we’ve always regretted that when, a few hours later, we’re sitting in the kitchen with the windows open while the dogs laze in the lounge pretending not to notice the smell emanating from their back ends….
Fletcher is a fusspot too, and I have been known to feed him from a teaspoon on my knees, just desperate for him to eat the raw food I’ve lovingly prepared!
What inspired you to start Hug?
My fussy Fletcher wasn’t overly keen on the best raw natural food I could source – he would often prefer a cuddle and a bit of my dinner. I felt I was letting him down while his brother chomped through the best fresh free range chicken.
For those dogs and cats that either didn’t like raw, couldn’t tolerate bone, or whose owners could not handle the bacteria or storage side of things, there were very few alternatives that used the best quality ingredients and a choice of ways to serve. There wasn’t anything that suited everyone.
What makes Hug different from other pet food brands?
We are not a one size fits all. Every dog and cat is different with different needs, so why shouldn’t there be a range of food that is consistently superior in quality but offers a choice in terms of serving raw, cooked or cold pressed?
What are the values that guide Hug?
Number one is honesty. I have been around the pet food sector for over 10 years and what upsets me is that there is so much spin and confusion. I believe we can support our customers better by offering a range that includes the best of the best of each option in terms of ingredients and sourcing. We’ve done the worrying and the legwork.
Our knowledge – this isn’t just a business; this is a mission to support all pet parents and enable them to feed a food that works for their dog and their lifestyle. We can help with poorly pets too, and make sure their diet supports any health condition they are struggling with.
Our environmental stance – we are wholly committed to following practices that protect our planet, rather than turning a blind eye to the waste mountain. For example, there is absolutely no excuse for using polystyrene packaging these days! All of our packaging has been carefully selected with recyclability and sustainability in mind. We’ve taken the time to source ingredient and product suppliers who also share our values.
To our surprise, that journey took us as far as Norway for some of Hug’s most special ingredients, including our Krill. You’ll see the eco-harvesting logo on our packaging which ensures the Krill catch is limited to 1% of the stock biomass, leaving 99% for natural predators. Our supplier is the only fishery to receive an ‘A’ ranking from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. This is in addition to working alongside WWF Norway and supporting the Antarctic Wildlife Research Fund.
Our ethics – we have Ethical Company status, and are now focused on passing the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. We are also working towards being recognised as a B Corp business.
With all of this in mind, Hug literally stands for honest, uncompromised goodness.
What do you want to achieve with Hug?
To offer a genuine choice, and perhaps challenge other brands to up their game and behave a bit better. But ultimately, all we really want to do is live up to our pets’ expectations, learn from their approach to life, and be worthy of their companionship.