10 Questions with…Lara McCullough, Director, Karnlea Bone Broth
1. Tell us a little about your background in the pet trade?
I’ve been in the pet trade for 16 years. Like many people I started very small and through a genuine interest in pet nutrition. I had a very sickly rescue dog and so my first pet company was born.
Our first product was an all-natural, baked dog treat, but we quickly moved into supplements. Last year, we were approached by a large German company who wanted to acquire our company, Healthy Hounds. I felt that the time was right to sell, as I wanted a new challenge. I’d already had the idea for Karnlea Bone Broth at this point, so was excited to move forward with this new project.
2. Are you a pet owner yourself?
Yes, absolutely, and I have had pets all my life. We currently own – or are owned by – two rescue pointers, Morris and Charles. The boys are elderly now, and it’s not the right time for us to bring any other animals into our home. If I had my way though, the house would be absolutely full! I’ve only ever had pets from rescue centres and would highly encourage anyone thinking about getting a pet to strongly consider this route.
3. Where did you get the idea for Karnlea Bone Broth?
I’d always been aware of the huge benefits of bone broth and tried to make it every time we had a roast. I also knew how time consuming that was, how the smell would hang around my kitchen, how I had to then find fridge and freezer space for what I’d made.
I wanted to always have it on hand but found that the only products that I could buy were either frozen or a powdered bone broth supplement and I realised that a shelf-friendly product was something that retailers also would appreciate. This is when the idea for Karnlea was born.
4. What do you see as the key benefits of the product for pets and their owners?
Bone broth really is a superfood. It’s packed with collagen, minerals and protein. Because of the super high collagen content, it’s great for bones and joints, skin and coat, and gut health amongst other things. It’s extremely nutrient rich and a perfect addition to any diet, and is an excellent product to have in the cupboard for those times when pets aren’t well or recovering. It’s also an excellent hydrator, so perfect for those with working or sporting dogs, going to shows, or just on a day out with their pet.
5. And what are the benefits for retailers who stock the product?
Our product is packed from fresh, and it’s suitable for dogs and cats of all ages, sizes and breeds. Retailers also have the benefit that they can keep this product on shelf rather than taking up valuable freezer space, which is at a premium these days with the growth in raw food. This also makes it easier for those retailers who ship products from their websites. It’s an ideal size, always has a long shelf life and is easy to pack.
6. How is the product produced, packaged and distributed?
The product is produced in small batches using only human grade ingredients from cooperative farms and produced to human grade standards. It’s slowly simmered over a long period – up to 24 hours, in specially designed ‘kettles’ which enable all of the goodness to be drawn from the bones. It’s 100% natural and contains only three ingredients, bones, apple cider vinegar and water.
The broth is then packed straight from the kettles into our aseptic packaging which means that the product is shelf stable until the end customer opens it, after which the pack should be refrigerated for up to five days or frozen into cubes in a silicone tray.
7. How much focus do you put on the packaging materials and design?
We put a huge amount of thought and care into our packaging as it’s recyclable, made from sustainable materials, and plastic free, with any polymers used derived from sugar cane. This was extremely important to us. The shape of the pack is also very stackable meaning a lower carbon footprint by way of transportation.
We very much wanted our product to stand out on the shelf and be noticed, so we’ve used bold colours and a bold statement of what it is – ‘bone broth’.
Our lamb flavour will launch in July followed by chicken towards the end of the year, which will all complement each other in design.
8. What do you see as the key trends in the pet food market?
I’m absolutely delighted to see the pet sector drive more and more toward healthy, natural products – I definitely believe this is more than a trend and is here to stay. Shoppers are very savvy nowadays and often research caring for their pet. There’s a wealth of information out there for them and some amazing books that they can read. Therefore, they’re looking for natural, healthy, and beneficial products but also convenience where possible.
9. What challenges do you see affecting suppliers in the pet trade in the future?
I think that we’re all still trying to work our way around some of the difficulties that have arisen after Brexit but I really feel that we’re getting there now.
Other issues that we’re seeing currently are shortage of some supplies and massive price increases of raw materials and packaging. Of course, this isn’t just in pet supplies, but is pretty much across the board. People are struggling financially and having to reassess how they spend their money.
10. What excites you about the future of the pet care business?
It excites me enormously to see the growth across the whole sector. People are truly trying to do their best for their pets and we’re seeing lots of growth in new areas. Lots of superb ethical, sustainable, and innovative brands are entering the market and, more than ever, we can improve the health of our pets. Wonderful independent businesses are popping up on High Streets, and educating customers, and it’s all supporting improved health and longevity for our pets which is what we all strive for.