We talk to Alistair King the co-founder of New Zealand pet food brand NOOD who have just launched their premium product range exclusively at Tesco.
What do you currently do at NOOD?
I am the Co-Founder and Director of NOOD, a natural pet food brand making premium pet food accessible to everyone. We first had the idea for NOOD walking through the pet aisle in late 2017 while I was in my first year of university in New Zealand. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the world’s leading animal nutritionists to develop a range of all-natural recipes, which are now stocked in major retailers in 11 countries. We recently partnered with Tesco to launch NOOD across the UK.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
The inspiration for NOOD was born when I was walking through the pet aisle in the supermarket and couldn’t help but notice the lack of healthy, affordable options. We started reading the back of the products and were blown away by some of the included ingredients and how they were labelled. For example, products can legally be called ‘with Beef’ but actually be made up primarily of filler ingredients and only contain 4% beef. We quickly realised a need to create something cleaner, better and more affordable than the ‘$100 a bag’ premium brands, while also making it conveniently available where most people shop – supermarkets.
Who do you admire?
If I’m honest it’s not something I think about very much, but one of the things we pride ourselves on here at NOOD is thinking really big and trying to solve complex problems. We’re still small and finding our way, but take a lot of inspiration from people like Elon Musk who are able to bring people together to tackle big challenges. By no means are we trying to send rockets into space, but trying to make premium pet food wildly affordable and accessible has its own challenges!
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
There’s been hundreds of examples of scenarios where we could have made better decisions and saved a lot of time or money, but it’s something we try not to dwell on or think about. One of the things that I think we do well is being flexible, and the entire team have done an incredible job navigating what has been a challenging and unpredictable time over the past near-24 months.
What defines your way of doing business?
NOOD’s philosophy is that nutrition plays a critical role in helping pets live a vibrant, happy life, and that owners deserve to know what they are really feeding their pets. Therefor the more affordable and available premium products (like NOOD) become, the better the lives will be for so many pets around the world.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Be ready to go all in and do whatever it takes to make things work. We’ve had our fair share of setbacks, one of which was when our factory fired us four weeks before we were due to launch for the first time in Walmart Canada. We were due to begin production for about 120,000kg of product when I received a call from the factory saying it wasn’t able to proceed due to equipment issues. I had to jump on a plane, and 21 hours and three flights later arrived in Missouri. We didn’t really have a plan of how to fix it, so I essentially begged the factory to let us try to hand-pack the food instead, and they reluctantly agreed. Over the next four weeks, we spent about 16 hours each day hand-packing pet food in the factory, just managing to get everything packed before the deadline. I wish I could say that was the only close call, but we’ve definitely gained a lot of confidence from overcoming all the challenges and problems over the past 24-36 months.