Interview on Tuggs

October 18, 2023

Tuggs 2023: Insect Protein-Packed Dog Food ( 
Harry Bremner, the founder of Tuggs, delved into the dog food industry during his Masters and uncovered startling facts, including the industry's significant carbon emissions contribution. Disturbed by the poor health outcomes linked to commercial dog food, such as obesity and cancer, he set out to create fresh, sustainable, and healthy dog food. Harry recognized the potential of insects as a protein source similar to beef, and after extensive research and development, Tuggs emerged. His mission is to enable dogs to thrive while reducing the environmental impact, with Tuggs serving tens of thousands of meals to UK dogs monthly as of June 2023. The Tuggs Manifesto underscores their commitment to simplicity, truth, taste, nutrition, and environmental responsibility. DeliveryRank finds out more.

Tuggs offers a unique approach to pet nutrition by incorporating insects into its recipes. Can you tell us more about the benefits of using insects as a protein source and how it contributes to lowering the carbon pawprint?

So, insects were legalized for use in animal feed in the EU back in 2017, specifically on November 6th. My initial idea was to create sustainable fish feed for Scottish salmon farms, given my Scottish background. I opted to utilize insects as a more eco-friendly alternative, considering that salmon farming is notorious for its environmental impact. However, I later shifted my focus towards transforming these insects into dog food. 

The key benefit lies in the nutritional profile of the insects, particularly the black soldier fly. They closely resemble beef in terms of essential amino acids, making them suitable for a complete dog diet. Moreover, they're incredibly nutrient-dense, rich in vitamins like calcium, zinc, and magnesium, all while requiring significantly less water, land, and generating only a fraction of the carbon emissions compared to beef production. Another remarkable aspect is their feed conversion ratio, which is about 1:1 for insects. 

In simpler terms, you can feed them items like banana peels, coffee granules, or waste from a coffee dispenser, and they'll efficiently convert these into edible protein. In essence, these insects offer both nutritional and environmental advantages.

The pet food market is quite competitive. What inspired you to start Tuggs, and what sets your fresh, insect-based food apart from traditional kibble?

The inspiration behind entering the dog food industry stemmed from a few critical factors. Firstly, I learned that the pet food industry contributes to nearly 30% of carbon emissions associated with food production. 

Initially, my focus was on creating sustainable salmon feed, but this alarming statistic shifted my perspective. In the UK alone, there are approximately 25 to 30 million cats and dogs, and in the US, there are around 160 million dogs. This large pet population necessitates significant livestock production to sustain carnivorous diets, prompting me to explore the pet food sector.

Additionally, I came across the troubling statistic that over half of the dogs in the UK are obese, and that approximately 47%, succumb to cancer. Research indicates that dogs fed fresh, home-cooked meals tend to live 32 months longer than those fed processed kibble. This discovery presented an opportunity to develop a highly nutritious, fresh dog diet that incorporates insects for sustainability.

One may wonder why dogs and not cats, and it is simply because dogs have always been a part of my life, and I feel a natural affinity towards them. While the market potential for both cats and dogs is substantial, my personal connection with dogs played a significant role in this decision, rather than an economic one.

Tuggs emphasizes personalization in its meal plans for dogs. Could you explain how your algorithm tailors each dog's meal plan and why this approach is essential for their well-being?

Our algorithm is designed to consider a wide range of metrics to ensure the utmost personalization for each dog's dietary needs. We take into account factors such as the dog's age, breed, weight, neutered status, and activity level. Additionally, we assess whether the dog is perceived to be overweight or underweight. The level of physical activity is another crucial aspect we evaluate.

Traditionally, dog owners have relied on generic feeding guidelines found on food labels, which often lack precision. These vague recommendations have contributed to the concerning issue of obesity in dogs, with over half of them being obese in the UK. Obesity in dogs can lead to shorter lifespans.

Our algorithm eliminates the guesswork for dog owners by providing precise dietary recommendations. For example, it can determine that a dog needs precisely 639 calories per day based on the selected recipes. Moreover, the algorithm factors in the age at which each breed of dog matures, as this varies significantly. Some breeds remain puppies until eight to 15 months old, requiring more calories than adult dogs. 

Additionally, different breeds exhibit varying metabolic rates, with labradors, for instance, having faster metabolisms. Our goal is to empower customers by taking the decision-making process out of their hands and delivering tailor-made nutrition for their pets.

Sustainability is one of your core values. Can you share some insights into your commitment to making pet food production more environmentally friendly and how your ingredients align with this goal?

Our primary focus is on incorporating insects into our recipes, which constitutes 20% of the total ingredients. This insect inclusion plays a pivotal role in reducing carbon emissions, making it an essential aspect of our mission. When compared to alternative recipes composed entirely of beef or similar meats, our approach results in a significant 20% reduction in carbon emissions.

We are constantly exploring alternative protein sources as ingredients, although availability in the market can sometimes limit our options. However, our commitment extends beyond just the ingredients. 

We also pay close attention to the packaging we use, ensuring it is environmentally responsible. For instance, to maintain the freshness of our food, we have to ship it frozen. To do this sustainably, we utilize sheep's wool as insulation. We've implemented a scheme that allows customers to return the wool, contributing to our sustainable packaging efforts.

As the founder of Tuggs, what's your vision for the future of pet nutrition, and how do you see your company contributing to the well-being of dogs and the planet as a whole?

Looking ahead, with a significant and continuously growing population of cats and dogs in our country, the demand for pet food will surge. It's worth noting that a UN report suggests we will need to produce more food in the next 50 years than throughout the entire history of human civilization. 

In light of this, I see the future of pet nutrition relying on sourcing alternative proteins. While insects are currently the most viable option, I anticipate that in the next 10 to 20 years, we might transition to using lab-grown proteins or proteins derived from microbial fermentation, potentially even from various algae sources. The key focus will remain on diversifying ingredients and ensuring the nutritional value of the foods. We are actively working towards phasing out conventional dry processed dog foods that have caused health issues in dogs for decades. Tuggs is at the forefront of pioneering this positive change, which is our current mission.


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