Mars Petcare to acquire Nom Nom fresh, delivered pet food

Personalized pet food formulations also attempt to meet animals’ specific health needs. Home delivery pet food companies offer customized feeding options, such as quantity and frequency, and preference options, including specific ingredients to use or avoid.

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(Kovbasniuk | BigStock.com)
(Kovbasniuk | BigStock.com)

Nom Nom, a direct-to-consumer fresh pet food company, will become part of Mars PetCare. Nom Nom, formerly NomNomNow, sells refrigerated dog and cat foods made with minimally processed ingredients. No other details were disclosed.

"We are pleased to welcome a new member to our Royal Canin division: NomNomNow (“Nom Nom’), a fast-growing, U.S.-based D2C fresh pet food company," Mars Petcare told Petfood Industry in a statement. "Nom Nom is a 'science forward' technology company improving the lives of pets through fresh food for cats and dogs. We are positive that this acquisition will bring synergies to keep supporting Nom Nom’s success in the fresh category while complementing our existing Mars Petcare portfolio. Nom Nom will be an independent brand within the Royal Canin division, like ROYAL CANIN and EUKANUBA, with their own brand positioning and strategies."

According to Petfood Industry’s Top Companies Current Data, Mars Petcare includes nearly 50 pet food brands. The company is increasingly looking to diversify its revenue streams. Mars Petcare also owns the BluePearl chain of emergency and specialty veterinary care clinics Banfield and VCA animal hospitals. Annual revenue for Mars Petcare stood at US$18,085,000,000 in 2020.

Nom Nom pet food research

Scientists with Nom Nom have published several studies in recent years, reviewed here.

Bacteria, viruses, yeast and other microbes inhabit pets from muzzle to tail. These organisms make up pets’ microbiomes. These microscopic communities influence a wide range of health conditions, from the digestive issues to obesity, cancer and mood. Scientists have examined the effects of the microbiome on pets with health problems, as well as the influence of probiotic and prebiotic supplementation to treat issues. However, the effects of supplementation on apparently healthy dogs hadn’t been examined as thoroughly, Ryan Honaker, Ph.D., director of microbiology with Nom Nom said. Honaker and his colleagues conducted an experiment by adding prebiotics and probiotics to the diets of healthy dogs. The journal Animal Microbiome published their results.

“In this study we saw that while all dogs were receiving exactly the same supplement, some of them had a greater shift in their microbiome than others,” Honaker said. “We investigated further and found that baseline microbial composition may be a determinant of how much response and benefit a dog could gain from the supplement. Individual responses dependent on baseline composition is an increasingly reported phenomenon in the literature, and we were excited to observe the same effect in our study.”

Considering how each dog responded to the supplementation points to ways pet product makers can develop new products that consider pet’s individual microbiomes, genes, age, lifestyle and other aspects. Animals’ baseline conditions influence how they respond to specific dietary treatments, Honaker said. In personalized or precision nutrition these existing factors become key.

The varieties of dog, cat and other pet food available have diversified from conventional kibble to a range of options, including frozen or refrigerated fresh pet foods. This diversification of pet food options may have implications for calculations used to estimate a particular formulation’s energy and nutrient content.

“There are many ways that we can estimate the calories of a dog food,” Jirayu Tanprasertsuk, Ph.D., scientist with pet food company Nom Nom said. “The one that is commonly used, because it's pretty easy to do, is the modified Atwater calculation. That takes into account mostly the macronutrient composition. But we know that the digestibility of calories or macronutrients are not influenced by only the macronutrient composition. They are influenced by a lot of factors like food processing, the fiber content, etc.”

Tanprasertsuk was part of a group of Nom Nom and University of Florida researchers who conducted an experiment to observe differences in digestibility and available calories among several varieties of dog food. The researchers observed differences not only among the actual foods, but in the estimates provided by calculations of digestibility. The journal Translational Animal Science published the results.

Nom Nom also conducts consumer data research. Collecting this information through traditional channels tends to be either costly and time consuming, as with surveys, or imprecise, like retail sales records. To meet consumer demands for personalized pet foods, brands can use data from profiles created by pet owners themselves on those brands’ websites and apps, Justin Shmalberg, DVM, chief nutrition officer with Nom Nom, said in his presentation at Petfood Forum CONNECT. Using profile data works especially well for pet food companies that sell direct to consumers.

“Taking the broad overview of personalization, I think everyone recognizes in industry or in a nutrition more broadly, that we have a fundamental problem that dogs and cats often have individualized responses to nutritional products,” he said. “For me, personalization is a product-recommendation experience that optimizes the individual [pets’] response to diet or dietary supplements using scientific data. It's a way to try to predict those individualized responses and really prophylactically provide some information.”

Pet food companies offer customized feeding options, such as quantity and frequency, and preference options, including specific ingredients to use or avoid. Personalized pet food formulations also attempt to meet animals’ specific health needs.

“Personalization is the mechanism we should be thinking about how to reduce product failure with the recognition that no diet is ever perfect for all pets,” he said. “Certainly if we get personalization right, and our recommendations are strong, we can reduce customer churn and increase satisfaction and brand loyalty.”

However, Shmalberg said cracking the code to personalization requires a scientific piece.

“Certainly a lot of guidelines that are out there to veterinarians or to animal owners are stressing the influence of scientific formulation of products. and by extension, I think if we have personalized, personalized recommendations, we should think about science as well,” he said. “At the end of the day, the only way to really understand individualized responses to diet and nutritional products is going to be a scientific effort. I think everyone can accept that very intuitively.”

That scientific approach requires information about a specific dog, cat or other pet. To acquire an individual dog’s demographics and health record, pet food brands may need their customers as sources of that data.

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