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Nature’s Variety CEO Reed Howlett Explains What is Unique About Their Food

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Reed Howlett, the CEO of Nature's Variety, the manufacturer of Instinct and Prairie holistic pet diets, to learn more about the inspiration behind Nature's Variety and what pets--and pet parents--love about their products: PETCO: If you could only tell consumers one thing about your brands, what would it be? HOWLETT: "The one thing that I would tell them is that our brands are raw-inspired. As the leaders in the raw frozen category nationally, we believe pets are at their best when they are eating raw or our raw-inspired foods. Raw pet food is high in the animal protein that pets need and is minimally processed so the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals have not been cooked off. In short, raw mirrors the ancestral diet that dogs and cats ate in the wild for thousands of years." PETCO: Every product you offer is raw-inspired? HOWLETT: "Pet parents can feed our raw frozen diets, which are the purest form of pet nutrition available. However, if they prefer to feed dry or wet food, yes, these are formulated in a way that is raw-inspired. Specifically, we coat each dry kibble piece with freeze-dried raw coating which increases the nutritional value of our dry and makes it highly palatable, too. And, when it comes to wet, our Instinct canned food contains 95% animal protein, just like our raw food, so you can get that same high animal protein level in a convenient canned product." PETCO: As many of our customers may not know a lot about your brand and products, can you tell us a bit about your inspiration? HOWLETT: "First and foremost, we stand very directly behind our purpose: to empower people to transform the lives of their pets. And, for us, the way we do that is by making foods that truly make a difference in the overall health and wellness of the pets. "We believe that, beginning with Instinct raw and all the way through our entire line, we produce a food that transforms the lives of pets. There are many pet parents that may not be aware of the linkage between the food that they feed and their pet's overall health. We really try to impart the knowledge to people that when you feed your pet the right food, you are doing your pet an incredible favor; they will be happier and they will thrive. And we know that pets are such an important part of the household. When your pet is healthy and happy, that makes the home a better place. And we really believe that our food can help accomplish that." PETCO: Because you're offering a "raw" product, you have to do things a bit differently than other pet food providers. Are there safety processes and research behind every container? HOWLETT: "There are. From a food safety perspective, people might initially be concerned when they first hear about it. What's different about our Instinct raw frozen diet is that we apply a food safety step called High Pressure Processing, or HPP. "This process is patterned after the way life has evolved at deep sea levels at extreme pressure. At these extreme pressures, pathogenic bacteria are not able to survive. This is due to the fat that pathogenic bacteria are less hardy than other beneficial bacterial. Our HPP step mirrors these conditions and kills the pathogenic bacteria, without harming the beneficial bacteria, preserving all the nutritional value of the food while assuring its safety. "In reality, a dog or cat's stomach is able to process salmonella, listeria or e-coli in a way different than we can as humans. So the risk is very low even if we didn't take the step, but it's an extra assurance step we think is important." PETCO: Most of your products are grain- and gluten-free, correct? HOWLETT: "Our Instinct brand is grain-free and gluten-free. Our Prairie line is a holistic kibble line that is free of corn, wheat, soy and fillers, but does include hearty whole grains such as oatmeal and millet." PETCO: Can you tell us a bit about your rotational philosophy and how you believe it optimizes an animal's health? HOWLETT: "We believe that pets benefit when they are fed a variety of proteins. And each diet, each protein source, has different health benefits associated with it. And, we believe, consequently, that pets benefit nutritionally when they're fed a variety of proteins. You as an individual wouldn't want to eat chicken every day, and your health wouldn't be at its best if you did. Because the nutrients you would be receiving would be less than you would receive if you ate a more balanced diet across many different protein options and food categories. "Now, all of our foods are complete and balanced; if someone wants to feed chicken all of the time, they certainly can. But to get the best nutrition, it's best to eat a variety of proteins. So we encourage people to move among proteins periodically. It doesn't mean that you have to serve chicken one night and the next night feed beef, but it does mean that you might buy a bag of chicken and feed that and then the next time you can feed beef, salmon, lamb  or venison. We encourage pet parents to do that. "We also encourage pet parents to feel free to move among different forms. So , if you're a dry feeder and you want to feed our raw diet, it doesn't have to mean you do it all of the time; you can mix it in periodically. Or if you're a wet feeder, and you want to go ahead and serve it over our dry food, you can do that as well. "We formulate our foods so that you can move freely among proteins and forms without any fear of digestive upset and we encourage pet parents to do that." Learn more about Nature's Variety and its Instinct and Prairie lines, available in select Petco and Unleashed by Petco stores. Instinct raw frozen diets are currently available in select Petco stores.    
  • Tammy

    My dog loves it we just couldn’t afford to keep buying the fresh pet. We would like to try this but what is the price? I haven’t seen it in the store?

  • Spark Ratdog

    Personally, I don’t understand why humans waste so much time cooking.  But whatever… Just keep it comin’ and I’ll eat it.

  • Al

    I’ve been feeding Instinct to my 2 chihuahuas for years, I guess I was lucky there was a boutique pet store down the street from me that sold it. It’s not cheap, but it’s the best. And I haven’t shopped at Petco at all in all those years, because I realized all the food carried there is junk. Now that I’ve moved to Utah the nearest place that carries Instinct is 40 miles away. I was so excited to learn Petco is now carrying this brand, but alas, not in utah.