Cotswold RAW is a hands-on, rural company with a passion for pet food. The business was launched back in 2015, after co-founders Mark Lewis and Chris Brierley found they shared a deep-rooted interest in dog nutrition.
Chris’ 18-month-old cocker spaniel, Nellie, had been in a bad way. Everyday foods were disagreeing with her. He says: “I really struggled to find a food that wouldn’t pass straight through her. Then, I had a long car journey with Mark, who is now our MD. He’s had Ridgebacks for many years and said I really needed to think about a raw diet.”
After switching Nellie to raw food, Chris saw rapid improvements. “She had better skin, brighter eyes, healthier teeth and gums and – without wanting to delve into this! – her stools were significantly smaller and firmer. For Nellie, it’s an essential diet for her ongoing wellbeing.”
Mark and Chris decided to use their shared insight in pet food as the basis of a Cotswold-based business. Both knew they wanted to produce high-quality Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) for dogs and began to carry out diligent background research.
Chris says: “We didn’t rush in half-cocked: we visited countless local country shows, talked to in-the-know breeders, raw championing peers, gamekeepers, trusted pet nutritionists, vets and independent pet shop owners – we didn’t simply want to replicate existing BARF diets but take RAW forwards.”
Creating the brand
Mark knew the brand needed to reflect their connection to the Cotswolds and champion the very best the local farming community has to offer. Mark says: “It’s a great place for people who want traceability and quality assurance in their diet and we felt that the same sort of transparency was being called for in the pet sector. Today more people want to know what they’re feeding their dogs. Branding-wise we were always associated with an area of natural beauty and we began by sourcing all of our produce at a very local level.”
Mark created a tight-knit team. In the two years since its launch, the company has grown to ten employees and counting. During this rapid expansion, Mark and Chris have upheld their commitment to British produce.
Mark explains: “We started out buying the meat and bone from our local abattoir. In those days, we were producing hundreds of kilos of premium meals every week. Now we’re on a much larger scale and creating meals in tonnes, so we use reliable, high specification regional abattoirs that we know can guarantee consistent quality produce in the volumes we need.
“We use Shropshire beef and get our chicken largely from the Severn Valley. It’s certainly all British. We know our abattoirs very well as quality is crucial. We don’t want to scour the market for different batches, we need reliable transport and production. Our vegetables come from the Vale of Evesham. We make all of the products inhouse, so have full control over the assembly line.”
Sausages in the limelight
Since the company was founded, the number of Cotswold RAW products has expanded from four core lines to 17+. The company’s portfolio of mince and sausages offers complete and balanced meals in a convenient format. Each meal proposition draws on fresh, seasonal ingredients and “countryside common sense”.
Wild – the latest launch – is a complete diet, featuring rabbit and venison specifically formulated for active working dogs. Other ranges include puppy, senior, active, less active and bones and treats. Herbal supplements are also available for those wishing to supplement an alternative diet.
The company offers sausages as well as mince to provide a no-hassle stepping stone for dog owners moving into raw feeding who want an instantly gettable and portion control format. The convenience of sausages also eases the transition to mince and a significant point of difference for independent retailers looking to add a real point of difference to their store offer.
Ingredients for all of Cotswold RAW’s products are chosen to suit the various target markets. The complete Adult active ranges follow the 80:20 rule – 80 percent raw, meat and bones and 20 percent fresh, seasonal fruit and veg, plus herbs. The recipe for all breeds has a slightly lower protein and fat content (70:30).
The fresh foods are presented in such a way that handling is minimised and, wherever possible, waste is eliminated. This reduces contamination for the customer of bowls, feeding areas, kitchen surfaces or bins and unwanted smells. The containers can be neatly stored in a domestic fridge or freezer. The sausages can be kept in a freezer for up to nine months.
In terms of hygiene, Mark says: “Handling raw pet food no different to the way we’ve always been taught to handle raw meat in the human diet. You must use separate utensils for handling raw meat and wash them, your hands and surfaces thoroughly after use but there’s no difference between the chicken we’re using here and the chicken you eat.”
Just three years ago, Mark and Chris were creating their recipes using the approved cutting room and manufacturing base of their local farm shop. In response to blossoming demand, they launched their own high tech facility.
Their premises have continued to expand. Earlier this year, a successful funding campaign provided the investment needed for further significant growth. The additional revenue supported a series of advancements and an increase of their production capabilities. Their DEFRA approved on-site production has expanded significantly with the arrival of state-of-the-art equipment for packing and mincing. The team now has the capacity to produce 20 tonnes of pet food a week.
Cotswold RAW is determined to work closely with the UK’s independent retailers. The company currently supports its stockists with branded refrigeration, point-of sale and loyalty programmes. Its packaging is designed to help products stand out with transparent packaging that are heat sealed in the same way as food for human consumption.
Mark has been pleased by the support the company has received in the independent sector, saying: “Independent retailers add so much value to the consumer.
“In the last couple of years, they’ve been quicker to react to the growing raw sector than many of the multiples who are slower to adapt to the market. Our sausage offer has been welcomed by retailers as it allows greater impact whilst bringing new recruits to to raw food.”
In return, Cotswold RAW raises its brand’s profile and directs consumers towards stockists. “We also advertise whenever feasible, be that in the pet press, the countryside press and increasingly with authoritative online voices. We also advocate regular social media pushes, championing our preferred retailer base.”
Cotswold RAW plans to make the most of its new cutting edge manufacturing facility. With all of the tools they need now in place, the team plans to push ahead with production.
Their immediate priorities revolve around creating a nationwide distribution network.
Retailers interested in working with Cotswold RAW should telephone 01386 426 335 or go to www.cotswoldraw.com.