SmallBatch Pet FoodDec 27, 2012 01:14PM ● By Erin Lehn Floresca
SmallBatch is a small, family-owned company based in the Bay Area who set out to make a different kind of raw pet food. All of the company's ingredients are carefully selected: organic herbs and vegetables, hormone and antibiotic free meats, and only pure, honest supplements such as organic kelp and bee pollen.
Brothers David Vogel and Michael Vogel might not have set out to become artisan raw pet food connoisseurs, but they’ve certainly settled into their roles very well. One might call it kismet. According to Michael, “We got into the raw pet food business kind of by accident. Back in 2001, I was working in Europe when I came back to San Francisco to visit my aunt. She told me about this gentleman who was formulating these amazing diets for dogs and cats and how it did wonders for her dog, JoJo.” Michael instantly saw the effect the food had on JoJo, and ended up connecting with the formulator, Jeffrey Dodson. “It made sense immediately,” says Michael. “Dogs don’t cook food in the wild, so why do we feed them cooked foods in their diets?”
“My brother David and his wife, Diana, were getting involved in the ‘Slow Food Movement’ and both had an amazing attention to detail but had no idea at the time they were about to get into the raw pet food business,” recalls Michael, “David began working with Jeffrey, who became David’s mentor. After a short time, David became fascinated with formulating pet foods and studying the positive effect nutrition had on the animals.” However, in 2004 their mentor’s health deteriorated and he passed away. “David had learned so much from him in the brief time working together that he wanted to make Jeffrey proud of us,” says Michael. David began working on several formulas that combined what he learned from Jeffery with principles of the Slow Food Movement, and that would soon be swiped up by local dog breeders and trainers.
David remembers the first time a store wanted to carry their product in San Francisco. He immediately called Michael to share the news. “There’s a store that wants to carry our food, but we have to buy a freezer!” laughs Michael. “SmallBatch came from very humble beginnings.” The brothers formed a partnership after that first freezer. David became the official formulator while Michael handled sales and new business development.
The brothers steadily worked on their business and watched it grow at a reasonable pace. However, when Michael went down to San Diego in 2008, things really started to take off. “I visited various local pet food stores that specialized in raw diets for dogs and cats, and nine out of ten of the stores agreed to take our product.” While it was affirming to know that they were doing the right thing, the sudden increase in demand created new challenges. “Our vision evolved and suddenly we were buying a refrigerated truck,” says Michael. “My brother would source and purchase local ingredients, prepare the formulas and drive them down to me in Orange County for delivery every two weeks.”
Even though the demand for their pet food has increased, it’s still basically the two brothers running the company. Michael explains, “From the beginning my brother did things a little bit different, a little bit harder, but the final result is what mattered the most and it’s obvious it has worked in our sector.” Their customers notice the quality of SmallBatch Pet Foods, and they come back for more. “And not only that, they tell their friends,” says Michael. “We love to hear that they have noticed such an improvement in their pet’s health that they want to help us spread the word.”
Michael says they owe much of their success to pet store owners that help educate their customers about the benefits of raw food diets. “It’s stores like Pupologie in Encinitas that really help us find our customers,” says Michael. That, and the obvious “above and beyond” effort the brothers put into their business. “I truly really enjoy being able to work alongside my brother and seeing how many dogs and cats benefit and thrive off of his work,” shares Michael. “The wonderful product he has created has made my job very easy.”
SmallBatch recently re-launched a new 99 percent raw, non-grain formula for cats. “Besides being finicky little creatures, they are obligate carnivores,” says Michael.” So David did what he had to do. “He went back to the drawing board, stripped the cat food formulas of all of the vegetables, and instead simply added what cats would graze on naturally,” explains Michael, “like dandelion greens.”
SmallBatch is currently expanding into to the Pacific Northwest. Even though they are expanding, they are keeping with their original model: Grown locally—prepared locally. “Our goal is, and has always been, to try and source from and produce in the region where we are distributing our product,” says Michael. “This Slow Pet Food approach has not only made us unique, but also helps in creating the nutritious formulas we are best known for.”
SmallBatch pet foods are available locally at many pet food stores, including Pupologie, located at 123 N. El Camino Real, Suite G in Encinitas. For more information on SmallBatch products visit SmallBatchPets.com.