Nulo Dog Food
From Pet Food Upstart To National Success, Nulo Keeps Dogs Healthy
It’s a long way from being a biomedical engineer to being the CEO of one of the fastest-growing pet food business in the U.S. but it seems to work for Michael Landa.
Landa is the founder and CEO of Nulo, grain free recipes for dogs and cats. After a successful career as a corporate development executive for some well-known companies, Landa started a pet sitting business in southern California in 2001 that grew to be one of the largest and most successful pet care companies in the nation. That’s when he started noticing just how many pets – both cats and dogs – required their pet sitters to administer medication, especially insulin for diabetes. He says that the engineer in him began wondering what was causing the problem and how it could be solved. And that’s how he got involved with pet food.
According to Landa, he thought that the diabetes and the obesity seen in so many pets were connected to their diets. Pet foods that were high in carbohydrates, high glycemic, and low in meat were leading to health problems for cats and dogs. After connecting with a scientist, Landa began researching pet foods, nutrition, and the pet food industry, learning all he could about ingredients and pet food formulation.
“I was shocked at the high amount of carbohydrates, high glycemic ingredients, the lack of meat in some of these products for these little carnivores,” he said. “Before I knew it, my scientist and I were formulating a nutritional platform high in animal-based proteins and low glycemic ingredients, all combined with a patented probiotic to help manage digestive health.”
Nulo was founded in Austin, Texas in 2009-10 with the first food distributed in 2010. Landa moved to Austin in 2010 to be closer to the facilities where the foods are produced. According to Landa, Nulo’s kibbles are manufactured by CJ Foods with facilities in Nebraska and Kansas. Nulo’s canned foods are made by Simmons Pet Foods. Both of these companies are well-known with good reputations for making foods for some of the top pet foods in the U.S.
Nulo currently has two product lines for dogs which are both grain free: their MedalSeries and Freestyle. The MedalSeries features six kibble recipes and five canned formulas. The kibbles include Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe, Adult Dog Lamb & Lentils Recipe, Adult Dog Chicken & Peas Recipe, Adult Dog Salmon & Sweet Potatoes Recipe, Large Breed Dog Turkey & Peas Recipe, and Senior Dog Chicken & Lentils Recipe. The MedalSeries canned formulas are also grain free. They include Lamb & Lentils Recipe, Salmon & Chickpeas Recipe, Chicken, Carrots & Peas Recipe, Beef, Peas & Carrots Recipe, and Turkey & Sweet Potatoes Recipe.
All of the MedalSeries foods – both kibbles and canned foods – are high in animal-based protein, with low carbohydrates. They are also low glycemic. Landa is emphatic about the importance of using carbohydrates that do not increase the glycemic load of the food. There are no potatoes used in Nulo foods, for example. Instead, Nulo uses sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and other lower glycemic sources of carbohydrates.
Landa also emphasizes the high amount of animal-based protein used in Nulo foods. The protein in the foods range from 80-85 percent animal-based protein from meat and fish, making their percentage one of the highest in the pet food industry, if not the highest. Landa also says that Nulo makes sure that their foods contain a blend of amino acids so your dog is getting a balanced amino acid profile that is good for his health.
If we take one of the MedalSeries foods as an example, such as the Salmon & Sweet Potato Adult Dog Recipe, 82 percent of the protein in the food comes from animal-based protein sources. The first five ingredients in this food are: Deboned Salmon, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Whole Peas, and Sweet Potato. The food has 32 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 5 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. The food is AAFCO-approved as a maintenance dog food.
If you’re wondering about the ash content in this food (and other MedalSeries foods), Nulo graciously supplied us with the information (as-fed basis):
Dry Dog Formulas
MedalSeries Puppy Chicken & Sweet Potato: 7.47%
MedalSeries Adult Chicken & Peas: 7.47%
MedalSeries Adult Lamb & Lentils: 8.02%
MedalSeries Adult Salmon & Sweet Potato: 7.53%
MedalSeries Large Breed Adult Turkey & Peas: 8.45%
MedalSeries Senior Chicken & Lentils: 8.90%
With this in mind, we figured the DMB (dry matter basis) values for the MedalSeries Salmon & Sweet Potato Adult Dog Food Recipe to be: 35.6 percent protein, 18.9 percent fat, 5.6 percent fiber, and 31.6 percent carbohydrates. That carb percentage is quite low compared to many dog foods today which can have carbohydrate percentages as high as 45-50 percent or more. Even many grain free foods often have very high carbohydrate percentages.
Nulo’s MedalSeries dog foods are available exclusively at Petsmart.
Nulo also makes the Freestyle line of foods which are available from independent pet food retailers and online from sites such as Chewy.com. Freestyle includes six kibble formulas and five canned recipes. The Freestyle foods are also grain free.
Freestyle kibbles include: Puppy Salmon & Peas Recipe, Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe, Adult Dog Salmon & Peas Recipe, Adult Dog Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe, Adult Trim Cod & Lentils Recipe (low fat formula), and Senior Dog Trout & Sweet Potato Recipe. Freestyle canned recipes are also grain free. They include: Lamb & Lentils Recipe, Salmon & Chickpeas Recipe, Chicken, Carrots & Peas Recipe, Beef, Peas & Carrots Recipe, and Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe.
With the exception of Adult Trim kibble, which has 74 percent animal-based proteins, these foods also have the same high protein percentages as the MedalSeries recipes. We can use Freestyle Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe as an example. The first five ingredients in the food are: Lamb, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Yellow Peas, and Chickpeas. According to Nulo, 81 percent of the protein in the food comes from real meat like lamb, turkey and salmon. The food has 31 percent crude protein, 17 percent crude fat, 4.5 percent crude fiber, and 10 percent moisture. This food is AAFCO-approved for maintenance.
Freestyle kibbles ash content (as-fed):
Dry Dog Formulas
Freestyle Adult Dog Turkey & Sweet Potato Recipe: 7.75%
Freestyle Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe: 8.97%
Freestyle Adult Dog Salmon & Peas Recipe: 8.51%
Freestyle Adult Trim Cod & Lentils Recipe: 7.68%
We figured the dry matter basis (DMB) for the Freestyle Adult Dog Lamb & Chickpeas Recipe using the ash figure supplied. The food has 34.4 percent protein, 18.9 percent fat, 5 percent fiber, and 31.7 percent carbohydrates.
In addition to these basic facts about the MedalSeries and Freestyle foods, Nulo has some other admirable features. Their foods have no potatoes, tapioca, corn, wheat, soy, potatoes, glutens or GMOs, and no poultry or meat by-products, no artificial colors, preservatives, or flavoring. They do not use any ingredients from China. Most of their ingredients are sourced here in the U.S. Their lamb comes from New Zealand and some of their duck comes from western Canada. Their taurine comes from Japan and their vitamin C comes from Scotland. (Michael Landa told us that they are working on providing a source listing for every ingredient they use so keep checking the Nulo web site.)
Nulo also uses Ganeden BC30 probiotics for digestive and immune health. We know – lots of companies claim they use special probiotics but most of the probiotics added to pet foods don’t survive the manufacturing process. The patented BC30 probiotic survives the extrusion and cooking process – and can back up the claim with research – AFB International Research & Development Study. This means that your pet actually gets the live beneficial bacteria for better digestion and health. BC30 is a spore-based probiotic which is protected until it reaches the proper pH level found in the dog’s lower intestine where it starts to do its work.
Along with being made in the U.S., Nulo foods, both dry and canned, have intensive quality control programs in place to ensure the safety of the products from beginning to end.
According to Heather Acuff, M.S., Customer Care & Product Development Manager at Nulo:
All ingredient suppliers must first be approved through a rigorous vendor approval program, which includes a risk-based assessment of the processing and handling of the raw ingredients. All incoming ingredients are then required to come with a COA (Certificate of Analysis) that documents strict nutrient and safety specifications are met prior to being used in our products. Our dry and canned kitchens have also consistently received the highest quality and safety ratings by third-party certifiers (American Institute of Baking and British Retail Consortium Global Standard For Food Safety, respectively), which verify that HACCP programs are being carried out effectively to eliminate hazards at critical control points during the manufacturing process. Finished products must also pass nutrient and microbiological analysis, as well as a thorough physical review (kibble size, shape, and density) to ensure that the products are meeting our exacting standards prior to distribution.
Nulo has quickly grown from being a regional brand available at some Whole Food Markets in Texas to a national brand carried by Petsmart and online retailers. Today Nulo is a favorite with many Olympic athletes and their pets who have experienced good health and energy from feeding these foods.
In addition to pet nutrition for dogs, Nulo also makes healthy foods for cats. According to Michael Landa, retailers say that customers often choose between Nulo and Orijen. We definitely think that Nulo is a food you should consider for your dog. Check them out on Facebook or visit the Nulo web site.