Nulo Pet Food: retailer, consumer engagement fuels growth

This superpremium pet food company has reached national distribution through relationship building and a commitment to putting innovative formulations on specialty pet store shelves.

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CEO Michael Landa, here with English Labrador Max, believes that pet owners will increasingly demand the same qualities in their pet’s food that they want in their own meals, such as more familiar ingredient panels, sourcing transparency and better overall nutrition. | Nulo Pet Food
CEO Michael Landa, here with English Labrador Max, believes that pet owners will increasingly demand the same qualities in their pet’s food that they want in their own meals, such as more familiar ingredient panels, sourcing transparency and better overall nutrition. | Nulo Pet Food

Nulo Pet Food is expecting to have a good 2017, to say the least. The company launched 26 new pet food and treat products at Global Pet Expo 2017 in four new categories: limited ingredient diets, freeze-dried raw, jerky treats and training treats. The new lines have recently begun shipping, and pre-order volume far exceeded the company’s expectations. According to the company, Nulo expects another year of doubling its sales growth, driven by the company’s programs being implemented at both retail and consumer levels.

Retailers: a vital component to Nulo’s success

“Retailer education and collaboration are core values of Nulo and one of our greatest drivers of growth,” says company Founder and CEO Michael Landa. “We work directly with our retailers through in-store educational programs, interactive tools and live-streaming events that not only focus on nutrition but also include an open dialogue about questions the retailer is hearing from consumers. These relationships and conversations give us insight to create tactics and new products that better serve our retailer partners. Our focus on retailer relationships was a large factor in reaching national distribution and will be increasingly helpful in the upcoming years with our innovation pipeline.”

These values have only grown with the company, according to Landa. “The biggest change I’ve seen in the company [in the past several years] is the shift in our mindset from ‘how do we get on shelves’ to ‘how do we influence broader change in the market through meaningful innovation and stronger retail partnerships,’” he says. “We’ve always had great nutrition on our side and products that customers and retailers favor. However, now we have the right team and resources in place to tackle the formidable feat of connecting with consumers outside of the store and driving them to pet specialty retail to purchase Nulo."

“Time and time again we hear from retailers that we’re one of the few brands driving new consumers through their doors,” says Landa. “Something that’s core to our mission and, we believe, essential to our mutual success in this highly competitive retail landscape.”

Millennials: Nulo’s biggest demographic opportunity

There are a few key demographics driving the pet food market these days. One of them, with a diverse set of wants and needs, is the millennial set. “Nulo’s biggest opportunity exists in our ability to directly resonate with what is now the largest demographic of pet food buyers — millennials,” says Landa. “Our brand’s mission, marketing activation strategy and our nutritional platform all speak to a growing health-conscious population, and specifically to millennials."


“My altruistic goal has always been to help as many dogs and cats as I can by ensuring they have a healthy decision that ends up in their bowl,” says Nulo Pet Food CEO Michael Landa. “They rely on us to get it right. The challenge lies not with the pet — they love our high-meat recipes — it’s with the pet parent, and overcoming the barrage of grocery and mass advertising of brands that appear on the surface to be healthy options for their dog or cat.” | Nulo Pet Food

“I want Nulo to be known as the pet food brand that inspired an entire generation of pet parents to live ‘Healthier Together’ (the company’s tagline) with their pets, to be active with them and to choose their pets’ nutrition as if they were choosing their own fuel,” says Landa. “Our focus on active lifestyle pet parents, sharing the stories of our elite and ever-growing athlete ambassador team and their pets, and producing nutrition that doesn’t sacrifice allows us to attend virtually any lifestyle event and be relevant and genuine. It’s these meaningful conversations that we’re having with pet parents in their local communities that keep Nulo top-of-mind in the hearts of our core consumer demographics.”

That communication, says Landa, must happen on more than one platform to be successful. “As millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest pet-owning population in the US, this shift is also changing how consumers purchase for their pets and is driving accelerated growth in online pet food sales,” he says. “Millennials are well-accustomed to using technology to research, compare and buy products, and they look for convenience when shopping. This is causing increased pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers to come up with their own business response to the e-commerce sales pressures.”

As a manufacturer, Nulo has taken deliberate steps to help maintain a level playing field between e-commerce retailers and its brick-and-mortar partners, says Landa. “We met with key retail thought leaders in the independent channel to help craft our MAP (minimum advertised price) policy pricing and guidelines, and we have been featured as one of a handful of brands working hard to support our brick-and-mortar partnerships as they navigate these waters.”

The future of Nulo Pet Food

Mindfulness in an industry already full of competition is what will help Nulo continue to succeed, according to Landa. “Nulo is extremely thoughtful about our approach to innovation and launching new premium products,” he says. “Our independent retailers don’t have the luxury of endless shelf space, so when we introduce a new product or enter a new category, we want to make sure it is nutritionally differentiated, optimized for the independent channel and has the right education behind it versus just another ‘me too’ line extension.”

That being said, Nulo definitely has its eyes on certain segments. “We see great opportunity in higher-engagement segments like the freeze-dried category and functional treats, and providing consumers with better nutritional options in these rapidly-growing categories,” says Landa. “Our product roadmap aligns with consumer desires for more ‘natural’ formulations, less processing and nutrient-dense, functional foods all supported by rigorous ingredient sourcing standards.

“As an independently owned, privately held company, my amazing leadership team of four and I are fortunate to be able to call our own shots and make the best and most-informed decisions for our retail partners and consumers,” he says. “This affords Nulo the ability to be nimble and innovative, and to protect our brand at all costs.” 



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