Meet the pet food entrepreneur putting the bite back into the pet food industry

Here’s what Canagan had to say

One To Watch:

1.       Canagan is the UK’s first grain-free cat and dog food. Grains are significantly less digestible and have limited nutritional value. Therefore, Canagan have created a meal that has high nutritional value and closely matches a natural diet.

2.       Canagan only sell the very best. Their high quality products are free from derivatives, by-products, chemicals, artificial flavourings or preservatives.

3.       The company has a unique business model whereby they only supply to independent pet speciality retailers, as they believe supporting local businesses is important for the success of communities up and down the UK.

VITAL STATISTICS

  • Company:  Canagan
  • What it does, in a sentence:  The UK’s Finest Grain Free Cat and Dog Food
  • Founded: 2012, Chesham, Buckinghamshire
  • Founder/s:  Eddie Milbourne
  • Size of team: 22 full-time staff
  • Your name and role: Eddie Milbourne, Founder and Managing Director

THE NEED-TO-KNOW

What problem are you trying to solve?

Our driving motivation is to challenge multinational corporations and leading pet food companies who are producing pet food with little or no nutritional value. As passionate advocators of high quality, nutritionally balanced diets that are palatable for animals, we aim to tackle digestion problems, fur complaints, diabetes, tooth decay and behavioural problems one pet at a time.

How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?

The UK pet food market is a very lucrative industry, worth nearly £3bn a year. However, multinational corporations dominate large swathes of this market. At Canagan, we have designed a quality grain-free product that is high in nutritional value. Our products contain up to 80 per cent meat compared with as little as 4 per cent in other famous brands. We currently sell to over 35 countries, across four continents, so as long as we continue to see growth on this scale I don’t see any reason why we can’t increase our share of the premium pet food market.

How do you make money?

By selling the finest pet foods available.

Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this? 

At Canagan we have a very dedicated team of 22 full time employees. Some of our staff have worked with us for more than 15 years with two members approaching 20 years of service.

My son, James, has also recently been appointed Director of Canagan, which should help us to secure our long-term goal of reaching 50 countries by 2021 with a turnover of £50,000,000.

Who’s bankrolling you?

No one! We are a family business through and through. This means that we are under no pressure from shareholders to cut corners on ingredient integrity to drive up profit margins meaning quality remains at the forefront of our business.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?

Assess your risks, as it is usually personal ones you have to take to invest everything you have into your business. If you have every faith your business will work, then go for it!

What do you believe the key to growing this business is? 

I think the success of the business can be attributed to 2 things; passion for our product and the dedication of time and energy into creating positive working relationships with our partners worldwide.

As a family, we are passionate about our product and about the pet industry. Without that extra level of enthusiasm we simply wouldn’t have been able to secure the big contracts or exporting deals to enable the business to grow.

Secondly, for Canagan, business is about more than a product or service; it is about creating long-standing relationships that make doing business easier, in good times and bad.

What metrics do you look at every day?

The sales figure, USD and Euro exchange rates with Sterling.

All of Canagan’s staff receive a bonus each time we have a record month…which is quite a few.

What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far? 

It’s not a dress rehearsal - whenever you get an opportunity to do something in life you should always do it, you might not get another chance. Many of our largest trading partnerships were formed through chance meetings at trade shows, restaurants or even kids’ birthday parties!

What’s been your biggest mistake so far? 

I have no regrets, but I definitely thought it would be easier to crack America than it has been. Launching in the US has been a long, challenging and costly process as the pet food market over there is highly competitive. However, as we learn how the land lies over there we hope to help the business grow and develop the business in the US even further.

What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead? 

We are seeing an ever increasing growing humanisation of pet foods with many other niche or boutique companies using human food names, so I think in 2017 we will see some even more weird and wonderful human meal adaptations spring up across the pet food market. We recently launched a Shephard’s Pie flavour!

Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?

BorrowMyDoggy! This is a fantastic service for people who can’t commit to a dog full time and for dog owners who need an extra pair of hands with their furry friends here and there. I think they’ve spotted a real gap in the market here and I’m all for the sharing economy! As a company we strive to produce happy, healthy and active dogs and are therefore supportive of any initiative that allows dogs to get the most out of their lives.

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