News Industry Profile Cotswold Raw



Industry Profile: Cotswold RAW
12th December 2017

By Sandra Pearce

Cotswold RAW is a raw pet food manufacturer based in the Cotswolds on a mission to introduce more dogs to the concept of raw and making it easier for retailers and owners to give it a go

For some retailers, venturing into raw can seem a bit overwhelming, requiring too much of a commitment and outlay. But Cotswold RAW has the solution, letting retailers ‘try before they buy’.

Mark (left) introduced Chris to the concept of raw feeding

Managing director Mark Lewis explained: “There are a lot of people out there, especially the smaller independents, who are not sure about raw. We suggest they try an 80cm freezer for three months. We had one customer who was really not sure but he eventually agreed to give it a go. It’s now his best-selling line.”

To help retailers further, the company does not make any profit on its freezers, selling at cost. And to encourage dog owners to try raw, Cotswold RAW has a trial pack comprising a kilogram of mince and a kilogram of sausages. It also offers a loyalty scheme in which customers who buy 2kg can get a pack of treats for free, or buy a dozen sausages and get the 13th free, a butcher’s dozen!
“It’s a little incentive to help people who do not have deep pockets or do not know raw but are willing to give it a try,” he added. It’s about making things a little bit easier for both retailer and pet owner.

That Eureka! moment
Every manufacturer who sells raw will sell mince, and feeding dry kibble is extremely convenient, so how on earth do you create that point of difference – and, more importantly, how can you make feeding raw more convenient, especially in an age where convenience dictates so many purchasing decisions? “If you’re dashing out to work in the morning, have two kids to get ready, the last thing you want to be doing is doling out sloppy, wet mince,” said Mark. “And then you also have vegetarians who realise dogs need BARF but do not like handling raw meat.”

Distinctive livery on vans help spread the word

It was then he had that Eureka! moment and thought ‘Sausages!’ “I went to the supermarket and bought a whole bunch of sausages to study how they were packaged, and we said ‘This is our usp’.”

Not only are sausages easier to feed, the meat is packaged in its own sterile case (the skin) and so the product can last longer in the fridge. Producing a raw meat product for dogs in sausage format transfers a deli vibe to customers, added director Chris Brierley, and also lends itself to greater portion control.

Costswold RAW mascot is called Arthur, in case you were wondering

So apart from selling ‘a lot of mince’, Cotswold RAW offers bangers in 1kg packets and chipolatas in 500g packs. If a dog eats 400g of food a day, that translates to two 100g bangers in the morning and two in the evening. Simple. And no mess. Mark added: “Dogs also like to chew things, and we have some owners who feed the sausages slightly chilled so their dogs can enjoy chewing them.”

Feeding sausages becomes a natural stepping stone in the flow of raw feeding, said Chris, where many customers start with sausages, then move on to mince and then bones.

Packaging is heat-sealed, ensuring the plastic tubs are both air-tight and leak-proof

It was Mark who introduced Chris to the concept of raw feeding when Chris’s dog was seriously ill. Chris’s dog made a full recovery and Chris became a complete convert – Cotswold RAW is the result of that.
“We are not raw feeding fascists,” added Mark. “There has to be a balance. Some people are time poor, others are money poor; we forget there are people who say they cannot afford to feed raw all the time and so for them, raw becomes a treat. We suggest they feed raw at weekends, so long as they feed their dog a kibble without grain.”

Expanding product base
Based in Evesham in the Cotswolds, the name ‘Cotswold RAW’ was chosen because that is exactly who they are, where they are and what they do, said Chris. “Transparency is a word we use a lot and is what we want. We source locally – all our vegetables generally come from within five miles – and we want our customers and clients to come here and see what we do.”

Preparing orders to be sent out

When they started, production stood at a couple of tonnes or so every week using what Mark describes as ‘entry-level machinery’. Apart from pet shops, they also supplied farm shops and boutique hotels.
The business partners have already had to upgrade everything to ‘more serious equipment’, he said, giving them the capacity now to produce 20 tonnes of mince and sausages a week.

Every aspect of the production process is subject to stringent controls and checks to ensure consistent, optimum quality. An onsite blast freezer and chiller each occupy approximately 9,000sq ft, and in July, they had to hire in an additional external freezer to store its raw ingredients. Complete meals comprising meat, vegetables and herbs are put through the mincer twice so ingredients are thoroughly and evenly mixed, and packaging is heat-sealed, ensuring the plastic tubs are both air-tight and leak-proof in accordance with DEFRA regulations.

Factory has room for expansion

Cotswold RAW now offers 22 complete meals in mince and sausage format for adult dogs, pups and seniors, and recently brought out a Wild recipe with rabbit and venison, which took centrestage at the BBC Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace in August. It also offers bones and treats.

“Our marrowbones are very popular,” said Mark. “We tell our customers that once the inside is gone, fill it with mince as dogs love this and it gives them something to do. They’re only doing what they would do naturally in the wild, and raw marrowbones do not splinter. Most retailers order 100 at a time.”
Its air-dried treats are sourced from Europe but packaged in its factory, and it also offers seasonal lines of other raw meat and bones depending on availability. “We print off seasonal lines ourselves,” he said. “The abattoir might say, we have shin bones available, so we’ll take them and print the labels here. We are very quick and flexible like that.”

Finished products are kept in a row of freezers, waiting to be packed up and sent out

Cotswold RAW also offers its own blend of herbs,  Butcher’s Blend, containing organic sea kelp, cayenne pepper, dandelion, alfalfa, nettle leaf, turmeric, spirulina, rosemary and thyme in 250g, 500g and 1kg pots. “All these herbs are already in our products, but sometimes owners may want to add a bit more, for example if a dog is recovering from an illness or as a preventative measure,” said Mark.

Also available in the same sizes is Diaturm, a mix of diatomaceous earth and organic turmeric for the natural control of intestinal hygiene and to help support the digestive system.

Another day, another delivery…

At PATS, it launched Shepherd’s Mix (with Omega 3, cold-milled flax seeds and sea kelp to aid skin and coat) and Cotswold Joint (to improve mobility). 

The company is seeing rapid expansion and a growing customer base, but there is no greater satisfaction than receiving feedback concerning a dog that has had its health transformed. Chris said: “We had one customer who had a dog that was very poorly, it was very thin, had severe diarrhoea, and the owners were at the point of putting it down. We sent out a trial pack, and raw saved the dog. We get comments all the time about how a dog is doing much better now that it’s on raw.”

Wild mince with rabbit and venison joins the Cotswold RAW stable

With business growing so fast, Cotswold RAW needed to secure additional funding and so earlier this year, launched a bid on a crowdfunding platform to seek additional investors. This generated a lot of interest and a ‘reasonable amount of money’, but crucially secured substantial investment from private investors outside of the initiative.

Scaling new heights
Both Mark and Chris are now hoping to take Cotswold RAW into mainland Europe, and aim to launch into France in the next 18-24 months. It is now being distributed via BestPets and has ‘dropped significant stock into their wholesale hubs in Exeter, Newcastle, Glasgow, Luton, Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham’. It is also about to be listed with Eden Farm, a wholesaler and distributor of frozen food and ice cream with nine hubs across the UK.

“A big part of Eden Farm’s business is ice cream, which is seasonal, and they want something else to fill the gap,” said Mark. “We will continue to distribute with our vans within a specific radius, but if outside, it will go through Eden Farm.”

This is where it all happens…

Despite their plans, Mark and Chris remain committed to their rural Cotswold home. They also remain committed to consumer shows, which is the best place to spread the word about their products. “Dog shows are very important to us,” said Chris. “We go to lots of them…they’re great fun.”
Mark adds: “So many people do not know about raw, and we are the best people to talk about it, which is why we go to shows. It’s about spreading the word of who we are, what we are, and why raw is so good for your dog.”